Gila County Sheriff Adam Shepherd has ended the employment of one of his closest advisers.

Chief Deputy Johnny Sanchez’s employment with the sheriff’s office ended on March 13 after 13 years.

“I decided to take the agency in a new direction that required a replacement in the chief deputy’s position going forward,” Shepherd said.

The chief deputy position is one that serves entirely at the will of the sheriff and therefore is not subject to normal disciplinary procedures.

“The chief position, like many higher-level positions in county government, serves ‘at the pleasure’ of the elected official or the county manager. When the decision is made to terminate, there (is) no process in policy or statute,” said Shelley McPherson, director of Gila County human resource/risk management.

Shepherd would not comment further on why he terminated Sanchez’s employment, who just a few years ago he recognized in the GCSO annual report.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize my illustrious staff, without whom I could not meet all of the challenges of this demanding position. From Chief Deputy Sanchez down to the latest employee hired I have noticed a sincere effort to continually improve on our mission to serve the public in an efficient and effective way,” Shepherd wrote in the 2014 report.

Sanchez was frequently spotted with Shepherd, including at county events where GCSO employees were recognized.

There were problems brewing behind the scenes, however, as stated in internal records. The Roundup requested Sanchez’s last employment review, which Shepherd conducted in late December last year.

Shepherd wrote that Sanchez excelled in the part of the job that required law enforcement knowledge and tactical skills, but lacked in other areas.

“The other important criteria is the ability to manage the HR functions within and without the office, which has suffered greatly during the past year,” he wrote. “For reasons I certainly do not fully understand, the relationships with county HR personnel as well as personnel within our own office have soured. I have asked Chief Sanchez to improve these relationships, and they don’t really seem to be improving. The future goal that will be required to correct this will be to work on improving these relationships, to what extent is possible, to the high functioning level they once were.”

Shepherd asked Sanchez to improve cooperation with these entities.

Overall, Shepherd gave Sanchez a 2.98 rating (out of five), which was below expectations.

Sanchez’s annual salary was $117,400.

The Roundup reached out to McPherson for comment from human resources. We had not heard back as of press time.

Shepherd said Mike Johnson, former undersheriff, is filling in as chief deputy temporarily.

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