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1/11/2013 6:01:00 AM
Mohave County panel upholds firing of Sides
Jerry Sides
Jerry Sides

Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter


KINGMAN - After a day and a half of witness testimony, former county employee Jerry Sides didn't bother to call his own witnesses or wait for a verdict from the Mohave County Employee Merit Commission, which upheld the county's decision to fire Sides.

Sides said he hasn't decided if he will appeal the commission's ruling to the Mohave County Superior Court.

"Everything I tried to present was shot down," said Steven Robinson, Sides' representative before the commission. "It was if they were deliberately trying to shut me down."

Sides was fired from his job in the county public works department last year after two county employees accused him of campaigning while on the job. At the time he was a candidate for the District 1 Supervisor seat.

Robinson said the numerous objections made by the county's attorney, Kate Baker, and actions by Commissioner Charlotte Wells undermined Sides' case. It was no use calling any of his witnesses because the commission had already made its decision, he claimed.

Baker did make numerous objections during the hearings, such as when Robinson tried to bring in evidence that had been excluded from the hearings. She called some of Robinson's questions to witnesses leading and she complained about his lack of organization.

At one point, Robinson tried to interject the fact that the county's investigator, Keith Sobraske,was sued by three Maricopa County deputies who lost their jobs because of allegations of misconduct filed against them. Sobraske was the private investigator hired to help the Pinal County Sheriff's Office investigate the claims and the deputies claim Sobraske's report was one-sided.

Wells also voiced concerns about Robinson's lack of organization during the hearings. She tried to help Robinson by making suggestions and actually pausing testimony on the first day of the hearings in order to allow him to get his bearings and find a document he needed.

She also showed frustration at Robinson's attempts to use evidence that had been excluded from the hearings to impeach witnesses. She stopped Robinson more than once, after Baker had objected to his line of questioning, to ask her two fellow commissioners if the information Robinson was trying to get at was of any use to them. When the other commissioners said no, Wells asked Robinson to move on to other questions.

An "Oh, boy this is good," under-the-breath comment by Robinson after one of Baker's objections caused both Wells and Baker to lash out at him Thursday morning.

"His lack of skills is forcing me to object to his questions and then he's making these snarky comments," Baker said.

She claimed that Robinson wanted to use the transcript of the hearing to make Baker and the commission look bad for beating up on him with objections.

"I've tried to impress on you how important this hearing is," Wells said to Robinson. "You don't know what documents you want to use to question witnesses and when you don't get the answers you want, you argue with the witness. You're damaging your case."

The testimony from the witnesses who were called in the case also didn't help Sides.

Sobraske testified that he felt that Sides lied to him during the investigation. He pointed to transcripts of his interviews with Sides and the two employees, Bruno Biasi and Alvin Johnson, who made the accusation against Sides.

Sides told him that he had arranged for the Biasi and Johnson to drive him around the Arizona Strip in northern Mohave County on their day off.

Biasi and Johnson testified that their supervisor, Manuel Esquibel, had called them and told them to change their workdays so they could take a day off and drive Sides around.

Sobraske said that Sides also lied to him about who had made four phone calls and left a voicemail message on county public works employee Robert Long's phone the day Sobraske was supposed to interview Long.

Sobraske said Sides first denied knowledge of the calls, then said he knew who made the calls but refused to tell Sobraske who made them. Then Sides said his wife made the calls and when Sobraske stated the voice on the message was male, Sides claimed his brother in Tucson made the calls.

Biasi testified that he was taken aback by and felt very uncomfortable with Esquibel's request that he and Johnson show Sides around. He also said he felt he was being used for his position in the Arizona Strip community.

"If (Sides) really cared about the community, then why didn't he take the time and call someone in the community?" Biasi said.

Mission Bank
Related Stories:
• Technicalities mar start of Sides' hearing
• Sides: Silence of witnesses sabotages case
• Sides' case ripped apart at appeals reading


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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013
Article comment by: Narcissism at Work?

Jerry Sides caused this himself. In my opinion, I don't discount how this was used against him to get him out. But it appears he did things which were not on the straight and narrow. So it gave the powers that be (who aren't here anymore) a perfect reason to get rid of him.

In all of this, did Mr. Sides even consider the well-being of his family? Or did he have BOS stars in his eyes? Previous elections should have told him he should have hung up his ego and NOT run for BOS. The public didn't want him before, why would they now?

Now his family has to suffer the consequences. They are the real victims in this, not Mr. Sides.

Mr. Sides knows the real story to his actions while on the job. He must lie to himself so he believes it. He just needs to remember he was observed for many years. The management above him refused to address the issues. Sadly this is common in the county. Many (not all) of those working 20+ years have entitlement attitudes and feel they need to perform less because of their tenure. Let them lose their jobs and see where they are. Their tenure won't get them a new job.

Justice has been served in my humble opinion.


Posted: Saturday, January 12, 2013
Article comment by: For a Better Kingman

This is just a good example of why good lawyers are worth their weight in gold. Sides actually had a chance of winning this case if it had been competently presented.

Posted: Saturday, January 12, 2013
Article comment by: to tell u the truth to tell the truth

Im so glad this is over. The only dirty politics that were being done in this debacle was Mr. Sides. He broke the rules and have since his employment with the county. And the statement about it being five months before being reported is NOT TRUE. That includ the investivation. If Sides had any evidence they would have never walked out.

Posted: Saturday, January 12, 2013
Article comment by: David Gaither

@Choo- Choo

I used Microsoft Word on your comment and also got 335 count.


Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Agree with a Happy Camper

I just want to say one more thing Get a life Sides! Maybe move away from Kingman and try that your a pain!

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Frederick Williams

Something here bothers me. If the two witnesses are the ones who drove Sides around on their day off from work and that is when Sides talked to them, how could he be accused of talking to them on County Time? Just my thoughts.

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Choo- Choo

KDM or WA: My word count is repeatedly 295. What is yours?

[335. We use wordcounter.net. I'm posting your original comment below. -- WA]

***

Ms. Baker might have lacked organization and felt extremely frustrated herself, had the Merit Commission ARBITRARILY shot down nearly everything she tried to present as they did to Mr. Robinson. Yes, the transcript of the hearing would likely make Baker and the commission look bad for beating up on him with objections. It would be like holding up a mirror to get a true reflection of oneself.

It stands to reason that an employer (like Mohave County) who repeatedly employs or contracts with a contractor (like an investigator) etc, is likely going to get favorable results, so the contractor can continue to get work from the employer.

It's sad when the two co-commmissioners allowed Chairwoman Wells to lead them to their opinion that Robinson's information was not useful, when if given sufficient time to expand the direction of his questioning, Robinson might have shed more light on the true events leading up to this hearing.

"Sobraske testified that he felt that Sides lied to him during the investigation"... .Perhaps Sides simply responded to Sobraske's question in a general way, like we all do? For a loose example, ''I made a deposit at the bank today'', when you actually went to the bank with your deposit slip and funds, but it was physically the bank that made the deposit for you. Perhaps Sides eventually claiming that his wife made the calls was an attempt to figure out just who did make the calls, and he really did not know, but could only speculate? After all, he had to be told that the voice on the message was male, before he offered another guess. Sobraske is only speculating, as well. It doesn't read here that Sobraske could prove it either way.

Further, if the ''witnesses'' were so uncomfortable with being requested to show Sides around, why did they wait nearly 5 months to complain about it? This long a time delay makes me question motive. All-in-all, I would say the caption of this hearing should be "RAILROAD".


Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Jim Consolato

Excellent reporting by Suzanne Adams. This reporter never stops impressing me. She has got her act together.

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Jim Consolato

Agreed there a lot of angles to consider in this little slice of drama that just played itself in life. So for some the issue may be Robinson, for others it might be the tip of the iceberg on internal dirty politics in County management or at least former management. I tend to see the human side of the issue and having witnessed all but the last few hours of the case personally, It was kind of cruel to see what some may call a shark feeding frenzy on a smaller fish. I feel for the family and perhaps the smartest move for Sides was to do just as he did. He spared them any further suffering from witnessing the drama. Good luck to the Sides family.

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Choo- Choo

[Comment deleted for excessive length]

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Choo- Choo

[Comment deleted for excessive length]

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: jist me a walkin down town

who in the world is this Robinson character?? he sort of sounds like he was also running for a county sup job and nobody noticed and now he is trying to use this forum for his tantrum ???? dont know though

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Guess Who

Another example of why a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: concerned citizen

There it is. It was foretold that in the end it would be all about Robinson. How many times does this guy get to stand up in public and get away with the hype he puts forth and yes snarky come backs, This guy has just been showed the door and his usefulness to this community. Unfortunately his ego will get in the way and not allow him to see himself.

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: A Happy Camper

Thank goodness that is done! Nothing like beating a dead horse to death. Happy to not having to keep seeing his picture in the paper anymore.



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