Pima County Constable Oscar Vasquez suspended for remainder of his term

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to suspend Constable Oscar Vasquez without pay for the remainder of his term, which concludes at the end of the year.

Vasquez, who is serving his second term as an elected constable representing Justice Precinct 4 on the West Side, said he was disappointed in the board’s decision.

“It isn’t fair because they didn’t hear the whole story,” said Vasquez.

Vasquez had asked the supervisors to delay the decision until a future meeting so he could gather the necessary records to defend himself from charges that he had failed to work between April and September of last year following being injured in car accident.

Related: Pima County Constable Oscar Vasquez faces removal from office

Asked if he was healthy enough to do the job, Vasquez said he was “slowly recovering. I have more surgeries planned for later this year.”

Vasquez said he was targeted by other constables over politics in the Constable’s Office and a fight over the position of presiding constable.

Constables are tasked with delivering legal paperwork, such as eviction notices and orders of protection.

The dangers of the job were illustrated in 2022, when Constable Deborah Martinez-Garibay was killed while delivering an eviction notice.

The board’s decision to suspend Vasquez came after the state’s Constable Ethics, Standards & Training Board had informed the county board in a December letter that Vasquez had not shown up for work between April and September 2023.

Vasquez, 65, told the ethics board in December 2023 that he has been suffering “considerable pain and distress” since a “seemingly minor accident” and the resulting complications and a need for surgery made it impossible for him to work. He said he had tried to return to the job after being pressured by Presiding Constable Eric Krznarich, only to “find myself needing further surgery.”

“These injuries have compelled me to reduce my mobility, affecting my ability to enter and exit vehicles, navigate stairs, uneven terrain, and refrain from working in hazardous nocturnal environments,” Vasquez wrote. “Given my compromised physical condition, I am unable to defend myself adequately if the situation demands it.”

Although Vasquez told the Constable Ethics Standards & Training Board that he “remained focused on fulfilling the urgent requirements of my position in an effort to support the department as the issue in manpower worsens,” the board had urged Vasquez to resign in a December letter at the conclusion of its investigation into his failure to perform his duties.

That issue in manpower was at the root of a September 2023 ethics complaint filed by Krznarich, who noted that Vasquez’s case load “is being distributed to other constables which is increasing their already high case loads.”

Krznarich said Vasquez had refused to provide documentation for his medical issues, but Vasquez said he didn’t provide those sooner because he didn’t think it was necessary.

Vasquez had been the subject of numerous complaints that had been investigated by the Constable Ethics, Standards & Training Board since he was first elected in 2016.

In 2023, he was admonished for sending “unwanted and inappropriate images” to a woman via Facebook Messenger.

The board also urged him to resign in 2021 for failing to evict apartment residents “despite the complainant’s plea to the constable that the defendants were causing problems for the complex.” The Pima County Board of Supervisors suspended Vasquez for six months without pay in the wake of that incident.

He had previously been admonished for publicly urinating on a constituent’s trailer while delivering a legal notice, driving county cars at excessive speeds and smashing them up, and a failure to take required anger-management classes after a clash with a driver following a traffic incident.

In the wake of those incidents, the county supervisors voted in September 2020 to suspend Vasquez for the remainder of his first term of office, but he won a second term without opposition later that year.

While he has been suspended through the end of the year, Vasquez could return to the office if he wins reelection this year. He has filed a statement of interest in the race and nominating petitions are due April 1, but he told the Sentinel he isn’t sure if he will run.

“We’ll look at the options,” Vasquez said.

Democrat Tracy Ethridge-Nielsen, who rose to the title of chief of police during her 28-year career with the Pascua Yaqui Police Department, is also running for the seat. She said she was encouraged to run by law enforcement officers who were unhappy with Vasquez’s performance.

“In my opinion, he needs to go,” Ethridge-Nielsen said. “He’s really taking down the whole profession of law enforcement and constables.”