Employees of the state’s largest county have fewer rights to overturn their firing than those in Pima County.
The Arizona Supreme Court, in a recent ruling, said former Maricopa County detention officer Daniel Juarez was not entitled to get his job back after being terminated for striking someone who was restrained.
The justices said the county’s Employee Merit System Commission acted illegally in determining the decision by Sheriff Joe Arpaio to fire Juarez was too harsh.
But the justices, in a separate case decided the same day, ordered reinstatement of a Pima County deputy who also had struck an inmate.
The difference: Pima County supervisors gave broad authority to that county’s merit commission to alter a punishment they deemed too severe; Maricopa County supervisors did not.
Arpaio said the ruling ensures he has broad authority to fire employees "who abuse their positions of abuse or authority.’’
Juarez was not only a detention officer but worked for the sheriff’s office at a Phoenix swap meet, where two people were arrested and handcuffed on suspicion of criminal activity.
Court records show when one resisted getting into a transport van, Juarez pushed him in. The person kicked Juarez in the thigh and groin area and swore at him; Juarez then struck the person four or five times in the face with a closed fist.
Arpaio fired Juarez for violating policies which bar striking a restrained person. But the county’s merit commission said the firing was "shocking to one’s sense of fairness,’’ saying instead he should only be suspended for 15 days.
The high court, however, said the commission is entitled to overturn only decisions which are "arbitrary or taken without reasonable cause.’’