Garcia absolved of wrongdoing in Arpaio Piñata flap
By Linda Bentley | September 17, 2008
County administrator says Garcia ‘is truly remorseful’.
TUCSON – Following a July protest against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio outside a Tucson Barnes and Noble bookstore organized by Pima County Legal Defender Isabel Garcia, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry became inundated with complaints.
Garcia’s participation included passing out flyers and parading around with the head of a decapitated piñata effigy of Arpaio.
After initiating a review, Huckleberry issued a report last week, in which he concluded Garcia was acting as a private citizen on her own time, had nothing to do with the Arpaio piñata being brought to the event, did not encourage student protesters to strike the piñata, did not advocate any actual physical threats against Arpaio and, therefore, did not violate any county policies.
Although Huckleberry’s review focused on this single incident, Pima County citizens have complained for over a decade that Garcia’s conduct is unbefitting a public employee.
In his report, Huckleberry stated, “In my conversation with Isabel Garcia … she is truly remorseful regarding this matter. I had previously instructed her to not respond to media inquiries relating to this incident. She has complied. I asked her to fully document her recollection of the incident. She has complied. I asked for her apology regarding the difficulty incurred by Pima County regarding this incident. She has complied … My expectations regarding this matter as it may relate to future activity have been clearly conveyed to Ms. Garcia.”
During numerous protests, Garcia denounces the “brutal emphasis on enforcement,” claiming it “denies the humanity of undocumented workers” and “disregards the economic conditions that compel them to seek jobs in the United States.”
Garcia’s speeches and flyers are punctuated with name-calling, branding those who support immigration law enforcement, hateful, racist and xenophobic.
During a July 2007 event, in which her organization Derechos Humanos teamed up with the May 1st Coalition, Garcia stated, “We have to say ‘No’ to enforcement,” adding, “Abolish the Border Patrol!”
Tucson resident Jim Nixon sent an e-mail to Huckleberry after reading newspaper accounts about Garcia being absolved of any wrongdoing.
Nixon wrote, “I’d like to know how you explain the fact that Isabel Garcia was at the Nicholas Corbett trial every day. The Corbett case was a Cochise County case moved to Tucson. It had absolutely nothing to do with Pima County, Garcia or her office,” and asked, “Was she using vacation time?”
Huckleberry responded, “My complete report on this matter is posted on the county web page at www.pima.gov. On the right hand side, under ‘Current’ you will find the report in its entirety, including reference to her use of vacation time.”
In his 140-page report, Huckleberry addresses Garcia’s use of county resources and off-duty protest activities on a general level, stating he has “discussed this matter previously with Ms. Garcia, as the issue has arisen previous to the Barnes and Noble event. Ms. Garcia has diligently taken vacation time, even when county rules and policies may not have required it, in order to avoid a claim of improperly using county resources to promote a private activity. In reviewing her time and attendance forms, she has taken appropriate leave hours during particular events that may have appeared to be during normal business hours.”
Garcia’s time off could have been better explained by including her “time and attendance forms” in his report, allowing citizens to match up Garcia’s political activism with documented “leave hours.”
Instead, Huckleberry included 71 pages summarizing the e-mails received both for and against Garcia, indicating 775 supported Garcia while 229 opposed.
However, of the 775 e-mails responding favorably, 656 e-mails were sent from a single e-mail address: Julio885@cox.net and appeared to be an alphabetic listing of names from someone’s address book, while another 21 were sent from: alto.a.las.redadas @gmail.com.
Garcia, recounting the details of the event in her memo to Huckleberry, wrote, “Upon my arrival, I along with others began to hand out flyers, with the intent of educating those that may not know what Mr. Arpaio has done in the Phoenix area. There is no expression of hatred, racism or any type of bigotry in the flyer.”
She included a copy of the Derechos Humanos flyer, headlined: “Protest Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio’s hateful agenda!”
It states, “Sheriff Arpaio has arrested hundreds of workers, and … has charged mothers and fathers, survivors of U.S. and global economic policies with being co-conspirators to their own smuggling, resulting in hundreds of felony convictions …”
The flyer then claims, “Sheriff Arpaio has created private posses, where he has permitted Minutemen to join his sheriff deputies in wholesale racial profiling and repression …”
It concludes, “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is not welcome in the city of Tucson, where many of us continue to work for a community that is diverse, respectful and appreciative of each other’s differences. We will not permit hatred and xenophobia in our community of Tucson.”
Neither taking responsibility nor expressing remorse, Garcia’s memo to Huckleberry states, “I am very sorry that the piñata breaking, and my participation, has been so misunderstood … and I sincerely apologize for all the problems that have resulted.”
Pima County Personnel Policies – Rules of Conduct 7-119 (M) and (S) state all employees must “establish and maintain effective working relationships with others … not take part in harmful and/or malicious gossip,” and “treat all co-workers and general public in a courteous manner.”
As a taxpayer-funded Pima County employee, sworn to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and Arizona along with federal and state laws, Garcia worked for the Mexican government from 2003 through 2005.
While busy denouncing U.S. immigration laws on U.S. soil, Garcia served on the Instituto de Los Mexicanos en el Exterior’s (Institute for Mexicans Living Abroad) Comisión de Asuntos Fronterizos (Commission on Border Issues), whose mission is making life better for Mexico’s citizens living legally and illegally in the United States.
Nixon says Huckleberry needs to explain, between working for the Mexican government, organizing protests, rallies and marches, what it is Garcia does as the Pima County Legal Defender.
Photo: Isabel Garcia