Pinal County Sheriff-elect Paul Babeu has yet to meet with current Sheriff Chris Vasquez to discuss several county issues, an offer that Vasquez says he extended to his successor following his election win.
Babeu, however, said Vasquez has missed meeting opportunities. He said Vasquez did not attend two recent transition sessions in the sheriff's station and that his attempts to meet with the sheriff have gone unfulfilled.
"I didn't want to interrupt what they were doing," Vasquez said of the meetings. "I felt that was for him and his staff."
The pair faced off in a contentious election earlier this year that saw Babeu defeat the incumbent. Babeu takes office Jan. 1.
Vasquez remains concerned about the county's future and said he hopes Babeu will accept his invitation to talk about a possible budget crisis and other upcoming events that may affect the county's public safety department. He said the talks - which would include the viewing of several sensitive documents and discussing how to avoid trusting the "wrong people" - could take several days to complete.
"I think for the first six months, he's going to go, 'Whoa! This isn't what I thought,'" Vasquez said. "I had to change my mind-set because things that work in the city don't work in the county."
The department has prepared an emergency plan - in case of a mass layoff in the department - that Vasquez hopes to share as well as discussing projects including a complicated Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy the county must follow to the letter. Losing the contract could mean loss of federal ICE funding and cutting 45 positions, resulting in an overall "catastrophic" effect on the county, Vasquez said.
Babeu said he has already discussed the ICE policy at length with Vasquez's current team and that the sheriff did not attend the meeting.
For now, Vasquez said the public safety budget is on target and major portions of the sheriff's office have not been affected by the 180-day hiring freeze and the more than $2 million General Fund shortfall in Pinal County. But that could all change in the new year if the state announces budget changes for public safety programs, he said.
"I've been doing this for 30 years," Vasquez said. "I know what I'm doing. I could give him insight for his success."
At this point, Babeu plans to meet with Vasquez before he leaves the position but said he will learn the most from Vasquez's team.
"I don't believe (Vasquez has) been a good manager," Babeu said. "I don't necessarily hold his opinion in high regard."
In a letter sent to Babeu, the current sheriff asked that all transition meeting and planning would end on Dec. 19, "to have the remaining two weeks of my term without any distractions." The letter also said Babeu would not be allowed to contact any of his campaign supporters who work for the department on or off-duty until the end of the year.
He also asks that Babeu and his supporters "not make any negative comments about me, my administration or any of those who supported me in our election." This portion of the letter reflects a similar "protection" e-mail Vasquez sent to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in August asking him not to speak negatively about him or his department.
Despite the differences, Babeu said all of his other requests to the sheriff's office have been fulfilled - from receiving documents to meeting with deputies and other personnel. But meeting with the sheriff has not been a part of his "laser-beam" focus on transition efforts, he said.
"He's gone into hibernation," Babeu said of Vasquez's current efforts as sheriff. "He's misrepresenting what's really happening."