Tags Articles tagged with "Pinal County"

Pinal County

Photo by Bruce McLaughlin

This week’s damage caused by flash flooding in Hidden Valley, specifically through Vekol Wash, is still being determined. Flowing water blocked some roads and destroyed others. Land, homes and outbuildings were damaged. Ralston Road, Amarillo Valley Road and Louis Johnson Road all had sections washed out. Pinal County estimates 20 affected homes. The rushing water moved north and flooded Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Course with “catastrophic” results, causing more damage and forcing the course’s closure until at least next week. Bruce McLaughlin of McLaughlin Air shared photos of what he witnessed, including Greg McLaughlin rescuing his 4-year-old Arabian colt from the corner of Warren and Papago roads, where the Vekol crested and flowed into homes.

Photo by Bruce McLaughlin
Photo by Bruce McLaughlin
Photo courtesy Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Photo by Bruce McLaughlin
Photo by Bruce McLaughlin
Photo by Bruce McLaughlin
Photo by Bruce McLaughlin
Photo by Bruce McLaughlin
Photo by Bruce McLaughlin

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Stephen F. McCarville, presiding judge of the Superior Court in Pinal County, has appointed two Superior Court Commissioners to fill vacancies created by the gubernatorial appointments of Robert Carter Olson and Patrick Gard to the Pinal County Superior Court bench.

Barbara A. Hazel, a former hospital administrator who currently works as a principal attorney for the Pinal County Public Defender’s Office, was selected for one of the two vacancies left by Olson and Gard earlier this week.

Karen F. Palmer, who currently works for the Pinal County Attorney’s Office as deputy county attorney prosecuting major crimes, was selected to fill the other vacancy.

McCarville thanked McDermott, Kelly Neal and Megan Weagant, who were included in the five candidates identified by the Superior Court’s Judicial Selection Committee to move forward for the judge’s consideration.

Hazel and Palmer are expected to begin their new roles as commissioners Oct. 22.

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Former county officials Lando Voyles and Paul Babeu maintain the RICO funds were not misspent.

Former Pinal County officials are at the center of a report from the Arizona Auditor General that found their offices allegedly misused anti-racketeering funds and violated conflict-of-interest policies.

The report, published Aug. 20, focused on $2.4 million managed by the offices of former Sheriff Paul Babeu and former Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles from January 2013 to December 2016.

Auditor General Lindsey Perry forwarded the report to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office for further review.

RICO Funds

Anti-racketeering monies are forfeited to law enforcement agencies and include cash and proceeds from auctioning forfeited properties.

Those funds are supposed to be awarded to nonprofit community organizations to support substance abuse prevention, education, and gang prevention efforts.

The report found Voyles allegedly did not always follow procedures to ensure the money was spent appropriately.

Expenditures not monitored

Of the 82 awards given to 225 community organizations during the time period, 77 did not provide a memorandum of understanding with the county attorney.

“Accordingly, the uses of the awarded monies could not be determined,” the report stated.

Additionally, half of all the awards did not have applications or written proposals from the beneficiaries and those that did, included incomplete or missing documentation. The County allegedly could not provide documents to show the Community Outreach Fund Committee evaluated the awards as procedure requires.

In a majority of those awards reviewed by the state, the county attorney allegedly did not monitor the organizations’ expenditures.

“For example, monies were spent on unauthorized purposes such as appreciation events for county sheriff employees and their families and construction for a church dance studio,” according to the report.

Current Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer said in a response included with the report that his administration took action to account for and document all requests for anti-racketeering money when he took office in January 2017.

PCAO now requires those requests be accompanied by applications. Applicants must submit a letter explaining the intended uses and goals of expenditures.

Voyles previously threatened Volkmer with legal action in 2016 when Volkmer spoke out about the previous administration’s handling of RICO funds.

Former sheriff’s staff did not disclose conflicts of interest

The report also alleges Babeu and his staff allegedly violated conflict of interest policies and often did not abstain from involvement in anti-racketeering award decisions.

The Arizona Public Safety Foundation received the largest number of awards out of any organization, equaling a total of $683,406.

County sheriff employees held officer positions on the foundation’s Board, performed accounting functions, approved transactions, held foundation credit cards in their names and allegedly initiated some of those funds on the foundation’s behalf.

In all, the report states the former sheriff and county attorney dispersed $151,645 of community outreach award monies for unauthorized purposes that benefited their own programs, such as Babeu’s morale, welfare and recreation programs.

“These included events such as golf outings, holiday banquets, a Diamondbacks baseball game and movie nights,” the report stated.

More than $60,000 was used to produce public service announcements for both offices, unrelated to substance abuse prevention, education and gang prevention.

Current Sheriff Mark Lamb said PCSO has separated from the Public Safety Foundation and instituted a new process for the review of anti-racketeering fund requests. A new committee was formed to review those requests, along with other policy changes.

Former county officials say report found no wrongdoing

Babeu and Voyles maintained RICO funds were not misspent, according to a written statement sent to InMaricopa Thursday.

“The violations noted are not laws or statutes of Arizona or federal government,” Babeu wrote. “They are policies and procedures put in place by the former County Attorney Lando Voyles, as guidelines.”

Voyles said he welcomed the audit and it proved his office and Babeu’s were compliant with state and federal laws.

“I knew the audit would prove what every independent audit said, that we’ve vastly improved policies procedures and reporting,” Voyles said.

In 2017, those policies turned to law, according to Volkmer.

House Bill 2477 amended state law and required authorized purposes for county anti-racketeering funds. The law also now requires documentation and information to request and award those funds.

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Pinal County Recorder Virginia Ross is reminding voters and potential voters that the midterm election will be soon upon us.

“Time is running out to register to vote,” Ross stated. “It’s important that if you have any questions about if you are registered or not, to give our Citizen Contact Center a call at (520) 509-3555 or by cell at 3-1-1.” Or check the status of your registration at Voter View https://voter.azsos.gov/VoterView/RegistrantSearch.do

If you would like to register to vote, you can find a voter registration form at most city, county and state offices or libraries. The Recorder’s Office will mail you a form if you call and request it at 520-509-3555. You can also go online to the EZ Voter Registration page https://servicearizona.com/webapp/evoter to complete a form electronically.

If you would like to be on the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL), you can go to: http://www.pinalcountyaz.gov/Recorder/Pages/PermanentEarlyVotingRegistration.aspx and download a request. You can also fill one out at the Pinal County Voter Registration Office in Florence or at either Pinal County Recorder’s Office satellite locations in Casa Grande and Apache Junction.

Important dates for Upcoming Elections

Primary Election
July 14, Military & Overseas Registered Voters ballots are mailed
July 30, Last Day to Register to Vote
Aug. 1, Early ballots are mailed to the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) & absentee voters; early in-person voting begins at the three Recorder’s Office locations
Aug. 28, Primary Election

General Election
Sept. 22, Military & Overseas Registered Voters ballots are mailed
Oct. 9, Last Day to Register to Vote
Oct. 10, Early ballots are mailed to the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) & absentee voters; early in-person voting begins at the three Recorder’s Office locations
Nov. 6, Primary Election

Offices on the ballot for the Primary Election
Voters will receive a ballot according to political party affiliation (Republican, Democrat, Green or Libertarian), Independents choose which ballot and may select “Nonpartisan” which will have only city/town contests.
• Federal offices: U.S. Senate and U.S. Representative for Congressional Districts 1, 3, and 4
• Statewide offices: Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Mine Inspector, Corporation Commissioner
• Legislative offices: State Senate (one seat) and House (two seats) for Legislative Districts 4, 7, 8, 11, 12, and 16
• County offices: Clerk of the Superior Court, Justices of the Peace, Constables, Precinct Committee Persons (partisan only)
• Cities/Towns: Primary election for city/town council members and mayor. Runoff in November, only if necessary.
• Special Taxing Districts: There may be some that participate in the primary, but most will be on the November ballot.

Offices on the ballot for the General Election
All voters will receive the same ballot for a given precinct part – all candidates from all parties that won in the primary are listed.
Same offices as discussed for the primary, except cities/towns may not be included if they don’t need runoff elections.
Additional contests:
• County, city/town, school district, special taxing district ballot measures
• School district and special taxing district governing board candidates
• Retention of judges (Arizona Supreme Court, Arizona Court of Appeals and Superior Court)
• Statewide ballot measures

If you are interested in who has qualified for the Primary Election, you can click on the following link: http://www.pinalcountyaz.gov/elections/Documents/UpcomingElections/PrimaryCandidates.pdf


Gov. Doug Ducey, running for re-election, addresses the Pinal Partnership. Photo by Michelle Chance

Gov. Doug Ducey highlighted a major project in Maricopa during a Friday morning networking event in Casa Grande.

The discussion happened at The Property Conference Center June 1. The event was hosted by Pinal Partnership.

Ducey said he wants to bring “commitment for resources” toward infrastructure projects in the region like Maricopa’s future State Route 347 overpass.

“State Route 347 (overpass) is going to be traveled every morning and every evening,” Ducey said. “It can use some investment.”

The $55 million project was partially funded from the city, the Arizona Department of Transportation and a $15 million TIGER grant. The grade-separation is projected to transport motorists over the Union Pacific Railroad by 2019.

Ducey’s half-hour long speech touted legislative actions at the state level. On the top of the list were tax cuts and 160,000 new private sector jobs in Arizona since 2015, according to the governor.

“The last time unemployment was this low, you were renting your movies at Blockbuster,” Ducey said.

Education spending was also considered a victory.

Ducey approved funding for a 20 percent salary increase for teachers last month. One percent of that figure was dispersed to districts last school year.

“We just finished one of the most significant Legislative sessions in our state’s history. These are teachers that have earned this pay increase and they deserve it because Arizona children are improving faster in math and reading than any other kids in the country,” Ducey said.

Arizona is working to combat its challenges, according to its highest elected official.

Ducey outlined the state’s plan to combat the opioid addiction crisis that has stricken most of the country.

Tackling Arizona’s portion of the nation’s border security is an issue Ducey said requires a careful balance.

While combating human trafficking, drug cartels and illegal immigration at the Mexico border, Ducey said keeping a positive relationship with Arizona’s No. 1 trade partner is also priority.

“I don’t want to see us build a wall around the economy,” he said.

A low-cost rabies clinic and dog licensing event is this weekend.


Dog owners can purchase licensing and vaccinations for man’s best friend in Maricopa this weekend.

The Pinal County Animal Care and Control will hold the clinic May 26 at City Hall from 9-11 a.m. City Hall is located at 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza.

Saturday’s event will be the only clinic hosted in Maricopa this year. See others…

License Fees:
Unaltered Dog: $30 (Annual fee)
Altered Dog: $15 (Annual fee)
Three-year Altered Dog License: $35
Senior-Citizen Altered Dog: (Proof of age required)

  • 1-year license: $6
  • 3-year license: $15

Altered Dog late fee: $2 per month
Unaltered Dog late fee: $4 per month

Vaccination Fee:
Rabies: $9

Call 520-509-3555.

Supervisor Anthony Smith talks about a recovering economy in his State of the County address. Photo by Michelle Chance

The Maricopa Chamber of Commerce hosted its first State of the County address Thursday evening.

Former city Mayor and current Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith led the conversation May 18 inside Elements Event Center.

Smith touted Pinal’s progress since the economic downturn at the beginning of the last decade.

“We are the first county to recover all the jobs that were lost during the recession,” Smith said.

Pinal’s unemployment rate as the recession peaked was higher than 11 percent. It’s now 4.6 percent, according to Smith.

“That basically means everybody who wants a job, has a job,” Smith said.

Pinal tops the state in growth at 14.49 percent. Maricopa County is second. However, the rapid development brings to the county a fair share of challenges.

Smith said the county has included goals in its strategic plan to lessen tax burdens on residents.

By 2021, the goal is to have the property tax rate reduced to 3.75 percent. Smith said property valuations and state tax revenues are growing.

The biggest slice in the county’s budget, 62 percent of the pie, goes to law enforcement, the adult detention center and the judicial system.

Pinal County Sherriff Mark Lamb said since being elected in 2016, the county jail population has decreased by nearly 200 prisoners.

“It’s not because we’re not arresting people,” Lamb said. “We are protecting these communities, but we’ve been working well with the County Attorney’s Office and we’re reducing your cost for you, the taxpayer.”

Smith talked about problems the county plans to address in the Maricopa area, including State Route 347.

The solution in Smith’s eyes was, of course, last year’s two, successful RTA ballot initiatives that are meant to improve roadways across the county.

Smith often called upon the county’s “brain trust” to speak to the work county employees are doing to increase its job prospects, tourism and big business.

Those appearances featured presentations from County Public Works Director Louis Anderson, County Manager Greg Stanley, Economic Development Program Manager Tim Kanavel and Joel Millman, Workforce Development Program Management for Arizona@Work Pinal County.

A glimpse into Pinal’s ideal future included road improvements, solving chronic flooding issues, reversing the exodus of workers outside the county and local job creation.

Arizona House Rep. Vince Leach (R-District 11), Mayor Christian Price, Maricopa Justice of the Peace Lyle Riggs, Constable Bret Roberts and city council members also attended the event.

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County Supervisor Anthony Smith (District 4) in his Maricopa office. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


In what will be a first for Maricopa, a State of the County Address is scheduled for May 17, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.

What: State of the County
When: May 17, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Elements Event Center at Ak-Chin Circle
Who: Supervisor Anthony Smith
How much: Individuals $35; table of eight $280
RSVP: MaricopaChamber.org

District 4 Supervisor Anthony Smith of Maricopa will talk about what’s happened in the past year and what’s ahead for Pinal County. Smith said outgoing chamber executive Terri Crain approached him about providing the update as a chamber fundraiser.

Though Maricopa is the second-largest municipality in Pinal County, Smith acknowledged many of its residents know more about what is happening in Maricopa County.

“We’re going to identify what kind of services we bring here, where the county offices are at the library/health department/HUD,” Smith said. There is a fair county presence in Maricopa, but we’ll eventually need more. It’s just a matter of growth.”

Smith is bringing with him several elected and appointed county officials, from County Manager Greg Stanley to Sheriff Mark Lamb. In fact, he’s set aside two tables for county personnel.

“I’m going to emphasize teamwork between the county and the city,” Smith said.

Atop that list is the successful campaign for the regional transportation authority. Though it is still in court on a lawsuit from the Goldwater Institute (and probably will be for the summer, Smith predicted), it saw a variety of Maricopa entities and individuals come together in support.

The teamwork of the county and local flood control districts and the Army Corps of Engineers, he said, will be crucial to Maricopa’s ability to grow.

He will also talk about the growing job market, predicting Maricopa will provide 25 percent of the labor for new projects in the county. Maricopa, he said, has a well-educated work force, “and that’s an advantage when recruiting for jobs.”

Smith said Pinal was the first county to manage its way out of the recession and continues the highest rate of growth (14.5 percent compared to Maricopa County’s 12.5 percent).

In his forays into District 4, Smith also fields concerns and complaints the county needs to address. Those include emergency-response time in rural areas, illegal dumping and code compliance.

Overall, however, he thinks Pinal County is on strong footing.

“Our finances are very solid,” Smith said. “We have a decent reserve. We balance our budgets.”

This story appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Sales tax set to be implemented April 1

The RTA plans are aimed at widening State Route 347 and establishing an east-west corridor.

Pinal County and the Regional Transportation Authority filed a legal response Monday to an injunction request filed by the Goldwater Institute over a transportation sales tax.

The tax and the transportation infrastructure improvements it is meant to fund (Props 416/417) were approved by county voters in November. The Goldwater Institute, a conservative thinktank based in Phoenix, filed suit in December against the county, the RTA and the Arizona Department of Revenue. Plaintiffs are listed as Arizona Restaurant Association, county resident Harold Vangilder and On Sight Shooting owner Dan Neidig.

The suit [read it here] challenges the legality of the tax and also claims it exceeds the county’s authority “by creating a new tax classification.”

“The problem is the tax is so complicated and confusing that nobody really knows what is taxed and how,” Timothy Sandefur, Goldwater vice president, said at the time.

After the defendants filed a response in January, the plaintiffs asked the court for a preliminary injunction, hoping to stop the implementation of the tax on April 1. They said collecting the tax while the suit is still being decided would cause irreparable injury and hardship. [Read the motion here.]

The case is in Maricopa County Superior Court in front of Judge Chris Whitten.

In responding to Goldwater’s motion, the defendants called the claims of voter confusion “apparitional.” The response [read it here] also stated the plaintiffs failed to meet the requirements for injunction.

“This lawsuit is nothing more than a post-election attack by those who failed to convince voters to oppose the transportation tax at the election,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Todd House stated. “The voters spoke clearly about the need for improved transportation infrastructure in the Pinal region last November while also expressing their willingness to pay an additional sales tax that amounts to about $7.33 per month per household.”

There is continuing uncertainty over the legal ramifications if the court does not grant the preliminary injunction to halt the start of tax collection on April 1 but Whitten later rules against the RTA. The county cannot proceed with RTA plans until the case is settled.

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'Dancing this dance of sensitivity'


A joint-litigation attorney for Pinal County Regional Transportation Authority wrote a letter to the Department of Revenue on Wednesday asking when and how the voter-approved half-cent sales tax will be implemented.

The sales tax is the funding mechanism for countywide road improvements, including the widening of State Route 347. RTA-related propositions 416 and 417 were approved in November.

PRTA General Manager Andy Smith told board members Wednesday a response from ADOR is expected by Feb. 5.

A sticking point in the progress of RTA planning is a lawsuit filed by the Goldwater Institute in December challenging the validity of the half-cent sales tax. Goldwater’s attorneys claim Prop 417 exceeds the county authority by taxing only items below $10,000, “creating a new tax classification instead of a variable rate and violates the Equal Protection Clause by taxing transactions below an arbitrary threshold amount but not above that amount.”

The Goldwater Institute is suing Pinal County, PRTA and the Department of Revenue on behalf of two county residents and the Arizona Restaurant Association.

Smith said the respective attorneys “have been having conversations” to create briefs and establish “stipulated facts.”

The PRTA board has hopes for an April 1 implementation of the tax.

Maricopa Mayor Christian Price, a member of the board, explained the challenges of SR 347, both geographically and politically. The main agencies involved in adding lanes to the highway are PRTA, Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Gila River Indian Community and Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG).

“It’s an incredibly complex road,” Price said. “It’s on Gila River land, it crosses county lines, it’s a state-owned road, it’s the city of Maricopa pushing for it.”

To prevent bottle-neck at the county line, “we need help on the Maricopa County side,” Price said. Maricopa leaders have been in discussions with MAG and Gila River for years. MAG specifically has discussed solutions for problems at interchanges at Riggs Road and old Maricopa Highway (Wild Horse Pass) and the possibility of using MC Prop 400 funds for improvements.

In the ongoing discussions, the sour relationship between Gila River and ADOT is “throwing things out of whack,” Price said. Gila River sued the state in 2015 over the South Mountain Freeway construction.

“MAG is conducting the scoping study, and we’ll kind of leave it in their hands because of the sensitivities,” Price said.

“Obviously, to come up with a fix for you all in Maricopa, that’s going to take Maricopa County to get involved,” county Supervisor Pete Rios said. He warned that often Native American communities are planning “seven generations down the road. We do need to be sensitive to where some of these tribes are coming from.”

Price said he has been working with Gila River Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis for two years. “We’re really trying to dance this dance of sensitivity,” he said.

The RTA plan is to provide $28.8 million over the next five years to fund additional lanes for nine miles of SR 347.

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Maricopa City Council: (seated, from left) Vice Mayor Marvin Brown, Mayor Christian Price, Councilmember Peggy Chapados; (standing) Councilmembers Nancy Smith, Henry Wade, Julia Gusse and Vincent Manfredi (City of Maricopa photo)

City of Maricopa
39700 W. Civic Center Plaza


Christian Price

City Council
Vice Mayor Peggy Chapados

Councilmember Marvin L. Brown

Councilmember Julia Gusse

Councilmember Vincent Manfredi

Councilmember Nancy Smith

Councilmember Henry Wade


Maricopa Unified School District
44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.

Governing Board
President AnnaMarie Knorr

Vice President Gary Miller

Member Torri Anderson

Member Patti Coutré

Member Joshua Judd


Maricopa Flood Control District

Board of Directors
President Dan Frank
Secretary Brad Hinton
Member Scott Kelly


Pinal County

Mark Lamb
971 Jason Lopez Circle, Building C, Florence

County Attorney
Kent Volkmer
30 N. Florence St, Building D, Florence

Justice of the Peace – Precinct 8 (Maricopa/Stanfield)
Lyle Riggs
19955 N. Wilson Ave.

Constable – Precinct 8 (Maricopa/Stanfield)
Bret Roberts
19955 N. Wilson Ave.

Douglas Wolf
31 N. Pinal St, Building E, Florence

Virginia Ross
31 N. Pinal St, Building E, Florence

Board of Supervisors
135 N. Pinal St, Building A, Florence

Supervisor Anthony Smith [District 4, Maricopa]
41600 W. Smith-Enke Road, Suite 128

Supervisor Pete Rios [District 1]

Supervisor Mike Goodman [District 2]

Supervisor Stephen Miller [District 3]

Supervisor Todd House [District 5]


Central Arizona College (Pinal County Community College District) Governing Board
8470 N. Overfield Road, Coolidge

Member Dan Miller [District 4 – Maricopa]

President Gladys Christensen [District 1]

Member Debra Banks [District 2]

Member Rick Gibson [District 3]

Member Jack Yarrington


State of Arizona

Doug Ducey
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix

State Legislators
Steve Smith – State Senator – District 11 (Maricopa)
1700 W. Washington St, Room 33, Phoenix

Mark Finchem – State Representative – District 11 (Maricopa)
1700 W. Washington St, Room 129, Phoenix

Vince Leach – State Representative – District 11 (Maricopa)
1700 W. Washington St, Room 226, Phoenix

Secretary of State
Michelle Reagan
1700 W. Washington St., 7th Floor, Phoenix

Attorney General
Mark Brnovich
1275 W. Washington St., Phoenix

State Treasurer
Jeff Dewit
1700 W. Washington St, 1st Floor, Phoenix

State Mine Inspector
Joe Hart
1700 W. Washington St, 4th Floor, Phoenix

State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Diane Douglas
1535 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix

Corporation Commission
1200 W. Washington St, Commissioners Wing, 2nd Floor, Phoenix

Chairman Tom Forese

Commissioner Bob Burns

Commissioner Doug Little

Commissioner Andy Tobin

Commissioner Boyd W. Dunn


U.S. Congress

Tom O’Halleran –  U.S. Representative – U.S. House District 1
126 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
211 N. Florence St, Suite 1, Casa Grande
3037 W. Ina Road, Suite 101, Tucson

John McCain – U.S. Senator
218 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.
2201 E. Camelback Road, Suite 115, Phoenix
407 W. Congress St, Suite 103, Tucson

Jeff Flake – U.S. Senator
Senate Russell Office Building 413, Washington, D.C.
2200 E. Camelback Road, Suite 120, Phoenix
6840 N. Oracle Road, Suite 150, Tucson


President of the United States
Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
Phone (White House Switchboard): 202-456-1111
Phone (Comments): 202-456-1414
Phone (TTY/TTD): 202-456-6213
Phone (Visitors Office): 202-456-2121

2018 is an election year. For updated elected official information, visit http://www.inmaricopa.com/newresidentguide/

In the past five months, Pinal County has experienced an over-twofold elevation in the number of gonorrhea infections, compared to the prior five-year average.

Sexually transmitted infections are on the rise across the country, according to new data published by Pinal County Health Services. The city of Maricopa and its surrounding communities are no exception.

In a Dec.13 presentation to the Pinal County Board of Supervisors, Director of Pinal County Public Health Services District Dr. Shauna McIsaac said, despite certain sexually transmitted diseases reaching their lowest historical rate in the late 20th century, certain STIs have been on the rise in recent years.

“Although 20 years ago, gonorrhea rates were at historic lows, and syphilis was close to elimination, rates of sexually transmitted infections in the U.S. have now increased three years in a row,” McIsaac said.

Pinal County Public Health Services District


In 2017 alone, from January through September, Pinal County has seen an average of more than three new cases of syphilis per month, whereas the previous five years saw an average of less than one new case of syphilis per month.

Likewise, on average, 20-30 Pinal County patients tested positive for gonorrhea in the previous five years. In 2017 that average has jumped to nearly 40 patients testing positive per month.

The cause of this influx is difficult to precisely determine, Infectious Disease and Epidemiology Section Manager Graham Briggs said. However, he added, what is clear is the demographic where these spikes are being seen – young people and men who have sex with other men, also known as MSM.

People in those demographics tend to be those individuals engaged in riskier sexual behavior, Briggs said. This has little or nothing to do with their sexuality, he said, and instead had more to do with their reported behavior, such as repeated unprotected sex with multiple partners.

“In Pinal County, while we’re seeing an increase, we don’t know if it’s just because of an increase in MSM. We’re looking at the heterosexual couple being exposed,” Briggs said.

Pinal County has also seen a recent case of syphilis in a pregnant female, Briggs said, which can pose a danger to the child, as the STI can be passed congenitally.

At any rate, according to the Center for Disease Control, Americans ages 15-24, while only accounting for 27 percent of the sexually active population, account for 50 percent of known sexually transmitted infections.

Aside from unprotected sex with multiple partners, the CDC says this increased rate in that demographic is likely caused by any combination of factors, including biology, confidentiality concerns, insufficient screenings and lack of access to healthcare.

Biologically speaking, the CDC says young women are simply more susceptible to certain health issues, including most STIs. Additionally, young people don’t often receive CDC recommended screenings for STIs like chlamydia, nor do they disclose “risk behaviors” to their physicians.

The CDC also expresses concern that most young people either lack insurance or the transportation to access preventive services provided by local health departments and Planned Parenthood.

Factors such as these increase the degree of danger associated with the less-forgiving STIs such as syphilis, which, Briggs said, can cause irreversible harm if not treated during the initial stages of infection.

“We are really good at killing syphilis bacteria,” Briggs said. “What we’re not so good at is identifying infections early in people that don’t seek medical care.”

One telltale sign of syphilis infection sometimes over looked, Briggs said, is palmar-plantar rash – reddish, swollen spots that occur in the palms and bottoms of the feet.

When caught early, syphilis and gonorrhea are easily treated with penicillin and antibiotics, respectively.

The appearance of a new antibiotic-resistant form of gonorrhea, however, also has Briggs and other officials concerned.

The CDC says there are nearly 820,000 new gonorrhea infections a year in the United States, making the prospect of a drug-resistant form of the STI all the more disheartening.

To combat STIs, the CDC suggests, multiple courses of action.

First, officials suggest abstaining from sexual activity. Second, those who engage in sexual activity, are encouraged to use protection, especially condoms, and keep their number of sexual partners to a minimum. Third, the CDC recommends biannual medical exams, which include STI screenings, and communication with sexual partners to encourage them to also receive regular screenings.

Maricopa residents can obtain low- or no-cost screening and prevention at the Maricopa office of Pinal County Health Services, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road, Suite 15, near the Maricopa Public Library.

For a full list of Pinal County Health Department location, visit their website.


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More than a decade of rush-hour congestion on SR 347 caused many Maricopa residents to vote in favor of the county's RTA this week.

With all ballots in, Propositions 416 and 417 appear to have succeeded with Pinal County voters.

The unofficial results from Tuesday’s election show Prop 416, the county’s Regional Transportation Authority, receiving 57 percent approval. It was a tougher battle for Prop 417, which was the funding mechanism for Prop 416. The Yes votes currently lead 50.97 percent to 49.03 percent, a difference of 901 votes.

“What has impressed me is that the City of Maricopa precincts and those in San Tan Valley are pretty much carrying the county,” Supervisor Anthony Smith said.

For Prop 417, the Maricopa Fiesta precinct was most typical of the incorporated community. Those voters approved the half-cent sales tax by 59 percent.

The RTA includes road improvements and new road construction all over the county. Phase 1 includes the planned widening of State Route 347 from four lanes to six lanes up to the county line as well as an east-west corridor.

Smith called it the election “one of the most important votes that Pinal County will have for several years or maybe generations.”

Pinal County reported voter turnout of 24 percent for the mail-in election.

Attesa is a proposed motorsports facility west of Casa Grande.

Pinal County approved an addition to the county zoning code Aug. 2, allowing a proposed motorsports complex to move forward with a facility near Casa Grande.

The county Board of Supervisors approved the creation of a multi-purpose community master plan (MP-CMP) zoning district, which will ultimately allow contractors to begin the process of zoning applications for a proposed 2,500-acre recreational motorsports complex called Attesa.

“This does not approve [the Attesa project],” Pinal County Planning Manager Steve Abraham said.  “The actual zoning process is the one that actually approves the development standards.”

This “text amendment,” Abraham said, specifically creates a “new zoning category to address developments that are over 2,000 acres in size” and feature a central recreational component (such as a racetrack) and complimentary elements such as residential, commercial, industrial and public facilities.

“We’re talking ultra-large developments that really have a degree of gravity to them,” Abraham Said.

Though this amendment was a citizen initiative filed by law firm Snell and Wilmer on behalf of DRE Development – Attesa, the change will take effect across the county and would address similar proposals.

“At the end of the day we can use this for other projects like the Pinal Airpark (and) the amusement park that was thinking about going on in Casa Grande [sic],” Abraham said.

Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith of Maricopa expressed concern with the future approval process, asking if there was sufficient opportunity for public input and feedback.

“If this is a large, mega project, they certainly have communities either adjacent or bordering that area and may want to weigh in, but I don’t see an element of a public process,” Smith said.

Abraham clarified it would follow typical zoning processes, in terms of public notice and neighborhood meeting requirements.

Smith, though satisfied with the stated opportunity for public input, raised further concern with certain wordage within the amendment, in particular the use of the term “rural” as it pertains to certain designations within the new zoning district.

Smith motioned to move the decision to the Aug. 23 meeting to allow for further reconsideration of the amendment and its wordage. The motion was not seconded.

A motion to approve the amendment was made by Supervisor Todd House and seconded by supervisor Rios.

The Board approved the amendment with a 4 to 1 vote, Smith voting against the measure.

DRE Development hopes to build two 2.8-mile road courses at the facility along with a hotel, convention center and 6000-foot private airstrip. Estimated construction costs are currently around $310 million.


Americans may have celebrated their independence a few weeks ago, but over 300 animals at a local shelter are still longing for their freedom.

The Pinal County Animal Care and Control is offering its “Celebrate Freedom” pricing for cats and dogs until the end of July, according to a Pinal County press release last week.

The reduced pricing is an effort by the county facility “to keep on track to be a no-kill shelter” as the number of homeless animals housed there swells to capacity.

“We do our best to keep dogs here as long as they can and sometimes that may not be the best for them since it can cause kennel craze and they are at risk of getting sick from the constant flow of new animals,” said shelter Acting Director Marybeth McCormack in the release.

Dogs known as “long timers” who have lived at the shelter for more than 90 days, come free of charge.

The most recent numbers provided by the release show the shelter is housing 57 cats and 261 dogs at 1150 S. Eleven Mile Corner Road in Casa Grande.

After adoption, all unaltered pets will be neutered or spayed, according to the press release.

Dog Pricing Unaltered Dogs (6-months-old and over): $50

Altered Dogs: $25

Long timers: Free

Puppies (under 6-months-old): $140

Cat Pricing

Unaltered cats and kittens: $25

Altered adult cats: $10

For more information please call the shelter at (520) 509-3555 or 3-1-1 if you are in the county.

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Nancy Smith. Photo by Mason Callejas

As Maricopa continues to grow, local leaders must grapple with the multifaceted and often erratic march of economic development.

To achieve economic sustainability, local governments, businesses and community leaders have developed a roundtable of sorts – the Pinal Partnership – where ideas can be discussed and projects can be developed to better serve all of Pinal County.

Recently, Maricopa City Councilmember Nancy Smith was appointed a seat on the Board of Directors at the Pinal Partnership, a position she hopes will help create prosperity for both the city and the county.

“Since there is no one from Maricopa on the list of board members, we need somebody,” Smith said. “So, I couldn’t turn it down, because we’re such a big part of Pinal County.”

The partnership, Smith said, will help the city attack some of its largest obstacles including transportation issues such as the widening of SR 347 and the redrawing of the floodplain.

Per its website, “Pinal Partnership was formed to bring together all the people and ideas that will ultimately lead Pinal County to its full potential.”

Smith said she appreciates the retail and food industries that thrive in Maricopa. However, she hopes to see healthcare support services and professional services also come to town, regardless of the transportation or floodplain issues.

Smith, who has served on the city council since 2014, works as a program manager for General Dynamics. She is in charge of making sure projects meet budgetary requirements, an aptitude she feels carries over to her political career as well.

“At General Dynamics, I’m responsible for making sure a program comes in on budget or under budget,” Smith said. For the city, she added, “that’s [also] my purpose.”

When Smith and her husband, former Maricopa Mayor and current Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith, first moved to Maricopa 13 years ago they didn’t immediately get involved in politics. Instead, they focused on their faith and working to promote their church – Community of Hope.

After the city gained its incorporation, the Smiths began focusing their political scope, closely following Maricopa’s first mayor and city council. Soon thereafter they became entranced with local politics and while her husband was mayor, Smith sat back and learned all she could about local governance.

In 2014 a two-year seat opened up on council, so Smith took the opportunity to get try out her political legs a bit.

“I thought, ‘that’ll just give me a taste of what it’s like, and I’ll be helping the community and serving the community as well,’” Smith said. “And, I fell in love with it.”

When offered the position at Pinal Partnership, Smith already knew Maricopa lacked representation in the partnership, thus making it an easy decision.

Other members of the board include Pinal County Supervisors Todd House and Steve Miller, Global Water President Ron Fleming, Apache Junction Councilmember Robin Barker, and the board’s chairman Jordan Rose of Rose Law Group.

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Economist Elliott Pollack is bullish on the local economy for 2017.

Arizona economist Elliott Pollack presented his annual forecast for the 10th year for Pinal Partnership at its Dec. 9 breakfast meeting at Rawhide. His predictions include:

■ 2017 will see exciting economic growth.

■ Donald Trump’s tax plan will not pass.

■ Expect faster growth and higher interest rates.

■ Expect higher inflation and higher after-tax profits.

■ A mild recession is likely in the next four years.

■ Pinal County is seeing the growth it needs with pending Lucid Motors, Attessa Motorsports and PhoenixMart.

■ Expect more announcements of businesses moving to Arizona.

■ International trade is one of the biggest issues facing the United States in 2017. “The last thing we need is a trade war.”

■ Arizona needs to closely watch its important trade with Mexico under the new president.

■ Up to 80 percent of existing businesses will comprise most of the job growth in Arizona.

■ Student debt is the top reason people under 35 don’t buy a home.

■ Baby boomers are prepared to sell their homes and live off equity, creating a large market for apartments.

■ 60.5 percent of American adults own their homes.

■ The largest group of homeowners is between 65 and 84 years old.

This article appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

Tina Morse

Tina Morse signed a plea agreement that will put her in prison for two years for events that led to the death of her 3-year-old daughter.

Tiana Rosalie Capps died of repeated blunt-force trauma Nov. 19, 2015, while in the care of Shawn Main, who was charged with murder. Main is still awaiting trial, and the Pinal County Attorney’s Office filed notice it intended to seek the death penalty.

Morse and another woman, Maria Tiglao, were charged with child abuse.

Tiana was one of four children belonging to Morse but being cared for by Main and Tiglao. All apparently lived in the same house on Ralston Road. Morse allegedly told Pinal County Sheriff’s Office investigators she had little to do with the care of her children.

Dec. 12, Judge Kevin White accepted her plea of guilty to two counts of child abuse. The prison sentence was attached to the first count, which specified Morse knowingly put Tiana in circumstances that would cause her to be injured or damage her health. Specifically, the plea stated, Morse permitted “the victim to be placed in a situation where she suffered severe diaper rash or burn and/or fail[ed] to seek prompt medical care for such condition.”

The two-year sentence takes into account time served.

The second count of her plea dealt with the abuse of her then-5-year-old son by “failing to protect him from physical injuries caused by Shawn Main.” For that violation of the law, Morse will be placed on lifetime supervised probation. She also is not allowed contact with her three sons. The two youngest boys were 4 years old and 5 months old at the time of their sister’s death.

Tiglao is no longer in jail but faces five counts of child abuse. Meanwhile, Main has a status hearing Jan. 30 for murder and abuse charges.

Pinal County picked up nearly 1,000 jobs in November, dropping its unemployment rate to 4.9 percent. That is its lowest rate of 2016.

A year ago, that number was 6 percent.

According to numbers released Thursday by the Office of Economic Opportunity, the county went from being slightly above the state’s jobless rate in October to being slightly below it. The state rate is 5 percent, down from 5.9 a year ago.

The national unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.

Maricopa County has the lowest unemployment rate in Arizona at 4.1 percent. Yuma County has the highest at 16.7 percent.

Pinal County residents gained 500 jobs in private service-providing fields, 325 in trade, transportation and utilities (TTU), 150 in leisure and hospitality, 100 in government, 50 in educational and health services, 25 in information and 25 in unspecified other services.

Doug Walls, research administrator, said the state’s gain of 16,800 nonfarm jobs during the month was less than post-recession average. From 2010 to 2015 that monthly average has been over 28,000 jobs. It’s also below the 10-year average of 21,500 jobs.

Statewide, TTU was the sector with the biggest job growth during the month with 9,800 jobs.

Walls also pointed out the estimate of 28,000 jobs gained in October has since been revised down to 24,700.

Year-to-year, Arizona has seen 1.1 percent growth in jobs. The biggest growth has been in educational and health services.

Arizona’s total labor force in November was 3.25 million people in the job market, up from 3.16 million in November 2015.

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Todd House is chairman of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors will be looking at a long-term debt proposal to finance a project in Pinal County.

The long-term debt will be used to acquire land (or interests in land) for economic development purposes, which would be utilized for future industrial, manufacturing, distribution or similar activities and projects. In accordance with Section 11-254.04, Arizona Revised Statutes, the county could then provide assistance or undertakings, improvements, leasing or future conveyance to spur industrial growth by attracting business and corporate development, expansion or relocation to enhance the economic welfare and job growth for the County’s inhabitants.

The total estimated financing cost will be $73,428,125, not to exceed $31,800,000 principal amount and total estimated interest of $41,628,125.

A public hearing is scheduled to take place during the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Jan. 4 at 9:30 a.m.  The hearing will be part of the regularly scheduled meeting.

The public is invited to comment on this issue at the public hearing or by emailing:  newprojectscomments@pinalcountyaz.gov or mailing comments to:

Pinal County Board of Supervisors
c/o Sheri Cluff, Clerk of the Board
P.O. Box 827
Florence AZ 85132

The complete text of the required public notice is shown below:



For purposes of Section 11-391, Arizona Revised Statutes, the Board of Supervisors (the “Board”) of Pinal County, Arizona (the “County”), will hold a public hearing on January 4, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors’ Hearing Room, Administrative Complex, 135 North Pinal Street, Florence, Arizona, regarding a purchase agreement (the “Agreement”) to be secured by a pledge of amounts of certain general excise taxes which the County now or hereafter imposes, except for any taxes hereafter imposed for an inconsistent purpose; excise taxes and transaction privilege (sales) taxes imposed and collected by the State of Arizona, or any agency thereof, and returned, allocated or apportioned to the County, except the County’s share of any such taxes which by State law, rule or regulation must be expended for other purposes and vehicle license taxes distributed or deposited to the County’s general fund, except the County’s share of any such tax which by State law, rule or regulation must be expended for other purposes, to acquire land (or interests in land) for economic development purposes which would be utilized for future industrial, manufacturing, distribution or similar activities and projects so that, in accordance with Section 11-254.04, Arizona Revised Statutes, the County can provide assistance or undertakings, improvements, leasing or future conveyance of the same to spur industrial growth by attracting business and corporate development, expansion or relocation to enhance the economic welfare and job growth for the County’s inhabitants.  (More detail about the foregoing will be provided in analysis provided to the Board at the hereinafter described hearing.)  The Agreement is estimated to be in the principal amount of not to exceed $31,800,000 and, with total estimated interest of $41,628,125, to have a total estimated financing cost of $73,428,125.

The Board will receive oral comments at the hearing and will receive written comments at any time before adopting the resolution of intention with respect to the Agreement which will be considered no earlier than January 19, 2017 (the “Resolution”).  The Board’s mailing address is Pinal County Board of Supervisors, c/o Sheri Cluff, Clerk of the Board, P.O. Box 827, Florence, Arizona 85132.  The notice of such hearing posted on the website of the County includes an electronic link for submitting electronic comments at any time before adoption of the Resolution.

Dated:  December 15, 2016

/s/ Sheri Cluff


Clerk, Board of Supervisors

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Maricopa voters casting mail-in ballots are beginning to worry about the legitimacy of the voting process.

Maricopan Joyce Larson, 73, was attempting to request her mail-in ballot this year when she was told by the Pinal County Recorder that she was no longer registered in the state. After some digging, it was determined that she had somehow been re-registered in her home state of South Dakota. The Pinal County Recorder’s Office could not offer Larson an explanation, only saying that they did not have the power to register people in other states.

Larson was able to get re-registered in Pinal County and send an early ballot, but her story does not end there.

Around same time she received her mail-in ballot, she also received a mail-in ballot for her husband Keith Larson. Keith has been deceased since 2014.

Pinal County Recorder Virginia Ross said the system of reconciling the deceased with voter registration rolls is sometimes slow and the recorder’s office, by law, cannot remove someone from the rolls unless they have missed at least two federal elections.

“If he is on the permanent early voting list, and we’re not aware [of his death], then he would get a ballot,” Ross said. “Obviously if someone were to vote his ballot and sign his name, we would know and we would not count that.”

Ross went on to say the recorder’s office is “trained in signature verification by forensic experts,” and their computers are trustworthy.

Joyce Larson understood there may be some clerical shortcomings that may have caused her to receive her deceased husband’s ballot, but nonetheless was still at a loss as to how she was registered in another state. Now, she admits her faith in the democratic system is shaken but it wasn’t that strong prior to the mishap.

“I just don’t trust it [voting],” Larson said. “It was questionable before, now I just don’t know.”

Another Maricopa resident, Jessica Flores, informed InMaricopa she was having trouble confirming through the state website that her ballot had been counted. She then called the Pinal County Recorder’s Office to dig deeper. According to Flores, they again were unable to confirm her ballot had been counted.

“I called 877-843-8683 (Arizona Secretary of State) and they could not find any information, so then I called 520-866-6830 (Pinal County Recorder), lo and behold they [too] have not received it or have counted it,” Flores stated in an email to In Maricopa. “So, they told me to vote at my polling station tomorrow and whichever ballot they receive first will be the one they count.”

Ross said she is so far not aware of any misplaced absentee ballots and all of the inquires she has dealt with concerning lost ballots were settled and confirmed counted. Ross admitted they do indeed recommend to provisional voters who believe their ballots were overlooked to also vote in person if possible, but it must be done at their registered polling place.

“If they are concerned that their ballot has not arrived they can cast a provisional ballot,” Ross said.

As of Monday, Nov. 7, Pinal County has tallied more than 58,000 early voting ballots.

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Jacqueline Minto is challenging Douglas Wolf for his job as Pinal County assessor.

Republican Doug Wolf is the incumbent assessor in Pinal County. This fall he is facing a challenge from Democrat Jacqueline Minto in the General Election Nov. 8. The candidates share their background and some insights into the challenges at the Assessor’s Office.

Also see them debate by clicking here

Jacqueline Minto    
Political party: Democrat
Age: 55
Residence: San Tan Valley
Years in Pinal County: 10
Education: MRes; BA (Hons) Psychology, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland; Level I & II Appraisal Certification, Arizona Department of Revenue; Certified Real Estate Salesperson, Arizona Department of Real Estate
Professional background: From December 2006 until January 2015 I was employed by the Pinal County Assessor’s Office. The positions I held include chief deputy assessor, Research & Equalization manager and Personal Property manager. From December 2015 until May 2016 I was employed as appraisal manager for the Coconino County Assessor’s Office.
Family: I have been married to Andrew for 27 years. I have three grown sons, John, Kevin and Connor, and I two grandchildren
Organizations/Affiliations: International Association of Assessing Officers 2007 – 2016; AZIAAO 2007-2006; National & Arizona Associations of Realtors 2014 -2016.
Greatest political inspiration: I am inspired by courageous leaders that promote justice and equality, leaders that engage in economic development and trade diplomatically, without promoting war. I believe that some of our most inspiring politicians include: Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama.

Why do you want to be Pinal County assessor? I hope to bring honestly and integrity back to the Assessor’s Office. My goal is to use my education, knowledge and experience to protect the rights of property owners in Pinal County.

What makes you more qualified than your opponent to be assessor? My education, background in research, assessment experience and dedication to public service make me more qualified than my opponent to be assessor.

What would you most like to see change in the Assessor’s Office during the next four years? I would like to work with the other Arizona Assessors to implement a single-year valuation cycle. The two-year cycle, intended to help Assessor’s cope with the volume of petitions they received prior to the passing of Prop. 115, is no longer necessary.

What is the biggest challenge you foresee the Assessor’s Office facing in the near future and how will you prepare for it? I see future growth as the biggest challenge facing the Assessor’s office. Low morale has resulted in the resignation of several key personnel. The danger is that there will not be enough staff to meet demand as new homes and businesses are constructed. I plan to fill the vacancies. I also plan to introduce Pictometry to the Assessor’s Office. Pictometry is an aerial imagery platform that can be used by appraisers to locate and assess property from their desktop. It reduces the number of appraisers required to face demand while saving on transportation. Maricopa and Coconino Counties are using Pictometry with great success.

Douglas Wolf
Political party: Republican
Age: 60
Residence: San Tan Valley
Years in Pinal County: Six
Education: BS in Business Administration and minor in Mass Communications
Professional background: 35 years as a private sector business owner, focusing on two industries, real estate and computer technology
Family: Married to Gloria for 34 years. Two adult children
Organizations/Affiliations: YMCA Copper Basin board member. Avalon Charter school board member. Member of the San Tan Valley, Casa Grande, Florence and Apache Junction Chambers of Commerce. Poston Butte High School volunteer of the month.
Greatest political inspiration: Washington, who turned down the chance to be named the king after defeating the British, and Lincoln, who saved the union.

Why do you want to be Pinal County assessor? I am the incumbent and would like to continue serving the citizens of Pinal County.

What makes you more qualified than your opponent to be assessor? Leadership skills, my commitment to Pinal County and private sector experience. I have chosen excellent staff, like my chief deputy, who has nearly 40 years of working in the Assessor’s Office.

What would you most like to see change in the Assessor’s Office during the next four years? There are several software projects I would like to get funded by the Board of Supervisors. One is an online portal for easier filing of business personal property taxes and second, adding hi-resolution three-dimensional images to the appraisal process.

What is the biggest challenge you foresee the Assessor’s Office facing in the near future and how will you prepare for it? Using our limited resources to value property in Pinal County and stay under budget. You do this by making sure you have the right people in the right places with the training and support they need to do their best work.

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Unofficial numbers indicate Republican Mark Lamb and Democrat Kaye Dickson will face each other in the general election in the race to be Pinal County's next sheriff.

Republican Mark Lamb and Democrat Kaye Dickson dominated their respective primaries Tuesday and will face off in the General Election to determine Pinal County’s next sheriff, according to unofficial election results.

Lamb, a former Pinal County Sheriff’s Office deputy endorsed by the Pinal County Deputies Association, earned 62 percent (13,165) of the 21,275 votes counted as of midnight. He beat PCSO Chief Deputy Steve Henry (8,110 votes), who was trying to succeed his boss, Sheriff Paul Babeu, a candidate for U.S. Congress.

I couldn’t be more ecstatic,” Lamb said. “It makes me happy to see the people of Pinal County recognize the need for change.”

He credited “great volunteers” as the key to his success.

Dickson is a 30-year Pinal County law enforcement veteran whose jobs included PCSO deputy, sergeant and commander. She beat Maricopa resident Kevin Taylor, who also ran for sheriff in 2012 and justice of the peace in 2014, 62 percent (7,425 votes) to 38 percent (4,530).

“It feels great,” Dickson said, adding “The real challenge happens now.”

“I always ran this race with an eye on the finish line, which is Nov. 8,” Dickson said. “It’s never been about the party; it’s about the people.”

Despite being Lamb and Dickson being political newcomers – or maybe because of it – indications are Pinal County residents are in for a general election campaign rooted in respect and civility.

“I believe we have a lot of respect for each other,” Dickson said. “I anticipate it being a very clean campaign.”

Looking ahead to the next phase of the campaign, Lamb was quick to compliment his new opponent: “Kaye works hard … We’re going to have to work hard, too.”

Rich Vitiello

By Rich Vitiello

Since this will probably be my last campaign editorial before election day, please let me remind you of some of the differences between myself and the incumbent. Firstly, I haven’t lied, deceived or told any half-truths and don’t intend to, either. Any claims or statements that I’ve made in my campaign have been based on factual research. I’ve run an honest campaign.

Where folks wanted to get to know me and hear my views on a subject, they got it. I haven’t couched anything behind political double-talk, deception or evasion. I believe in transparent, open and honest government. Where I have presented issues, I based them on factual research, not something conjured up out of a rumor mill. I don’t base my opinions on speculation – I look for the facts and try to understand the issues as best I can. Where I have an opinion, it’s clearly that – my opinion.

I look forward to hearing others’ opinions, as well. Casting an opinion in stone before all the facts are in can be a dangerous proposition. I respect others for their opinions. I’m willing to hear what others have to say and look forward to learning more. It’s the right thing to do.

I’ve run my own campaign. Although campaign donations are nice (and I thank the folks who donated), I’ve funded the majority of my campaign out of my own pocket. I don’t owe anyone anything, especially out of county attorneys, their clients or developers. I’m in this race to represent the people who live here, not to do the bidding of out-of-area campaign donors. Once elected, I’m not going to tailor my vote to suit some campaign donor. My integrity means too much for me to sell out.

I am grateful for the endorsement and friendship I have developed with Sheriff Babeu. Contrary to what some others might say, he’s a great guy and a good friend to have. As he is running for a congressional seat, he won’t be our county’s sheriff next year, but my wish is that he succeeds in his election bid.

With this new board, and the folks I’ve come to get to know in the Sheriff’s Office and other Pinal County departments, I will work hard as part of a team. The loss of the ICE contract put the county budget in the hole by some $10 million; if we can get that contract back, it will help a long way to allowing our county to move forward with restaffing public safety positions that are open and doing the things our government needs to do.

I’m going to look for other ways to streamline our county government and stretch the taxpayer dollar. I don’t like fiscal waste and will do everything I can to make sure your tax money is used efficiently.

I don’t believe in grandstanding and taking credit for things that I don’t do. If an idea is brought to my attention that would make government run smoother or more efficiently, I will be happy to give credit where credit is due. People are one of our most valuable resources, and with everyone working together as a team, more can be accomplished. I want to see good things happen.

There are only so many hours in the day, and time is limited. I know that I will have to allocate my time according to priorities, but my priorities will always be what is best for the people in Pinal County, specifically District 4. Going to out-of-county meetings where the supervisor can mingle and strut around like a proud peacock is not an efficient use of time. I’ll look into attending certain events by video conference or other means as much as possible (after all, what’s the Internet for?). I’m looking forward to doing, being proactive in resolving issues, not just talking about them.

There are a lot of issues that have been raised during the campaign, including public safety, the flood zone, business development, marijuana and other things. I will do my best to distinguish myself by being true to my word. After all, provided I get elected, you will be my boss and you will judge my performance.

I will have an open door policy. My cell phone number is (480) 358-8051. I don’t intend on changing it. I plan on having regular website updates and hours at the Sheriff’s substations in Saddlebrooke and Arizona City. The office in Maricopa will also be open on a regular basis. Folks can come in, have a cup of coffee, and discuss what’s on their minds. If folks can’t make it during business hours, I’ll make arrangements to meet with them. It’s important that people connect, and the only way to do that is by both parties making an effort. I promise I’ll do my part.

I’ll say it again: I’m looking forward to a brighter future. I hope you are, too. I promise to work hard for you. Please vote for Rich Vitiello for Pinal County Supervisor. It’s time for a change.

Rich Vitiello is a candidate for Pinal County supervisor in District 4 and a Maricopa resident.

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The Primary Election is Aug. 30. Early ballots should be mailed by Thursday.

Pinal County Recorder Virginia Ross is reminding voters of some important dates coming up for this year’s Primary Election.

“If a person wants to vote early in person, they will have to cast their vote no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 26,” Ross said.  “We have three convenient locations in Pinal County where registered voters can place their ballot.”

Voter Registration Office – Florence
31 North Pinal Street
Mon – Fri, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Pinal County Recorder’s Office – Apache Junction
575 North Idaho Road, Suite #800
Mon – Fri, 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM

Pinal County Recorder’s Office – Casa Grande
820 E Cottonwood Lane, Suite A-2
Mon – Fri, 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM

“For those who have early ballots, you should mail them in no later than Thursday, Aug. 25,” Ross stated.  “If we received them by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30, they will be counted.  If you can’t mail them off by the 25th, any Pinal County voting location can take them and they will be counted.”

For more information on voting in Pinal County, visit: http://pinalcountyaz.gov/elections/Pages/home.aspx.


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A special session on Monday saw the Pinal County Board of Supervisors drop the primary property tax rate by 13 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

In the special session, the Supervisors adopted the rates for taxing districts in the county.  Unanimously approving all Pinal County taxing districts rates, the Board then addressed the current property tax rate set at $3.9999.  When adopting the Tentative Budget in June, the Supervisors had voted to drop it two cents to $3.9799.

At the time of the tentative budget hearing, the Supervisors were still unsure if the State of Arizona would further push to enact the One Percent Tax Cap Liability Shift passed by the legislature in 2015.

The One Percent Property Tax Cap Liability Shift was a method of limiting the state’s payment of an “Additional State Aid to Education” tax deduction when a property tax bill of a home goes over one percent of the cash value of that residence.  At one time, the state picked up that bill and sent the money to the local school districts.  Pinal County was due to pay nearly $1.7 million as ordered to by the Property Tax Oversight Commission.  Thanks to a lawsuit brought by Pima County, the state court reversed this cost shift and the state said it would not fight the ruling.

“The big question that faced the Board was the issue of the one percent tax cap liability shift,” said County Manager Greg Stanley.  “When the state said they wouldn’t fight the judge’s decision, the option for a larger tax cut was placed on the table.”

There were two options presented to the Board – a 10 cent cut to $3.8999 or a 13 cent cut to $3.8699.  The motion was made to cut the tax rate by 13 cents and unanimously adopted.

“When I signed on for the tax increase, I also stipulated that if we were able to get that money back then we would give that money back to the public,” stated Chairman Todd House.  “I’m glad we can give that money back to the people.”

District 1 Supervisor Pete Rios said he supports the 13 cent drop, but cautioned the Board: “One of the responsibilities of the Board, while trying to keep the tax rates as low as possible, is to be good stewards of the county.  I can’t think of too many departments in Pinal County that can’t use additional workers.  There are still a lot of needs out there in Pinal County.”

Vice-Chairman Anthony Smith said he understood Supervisor Rios’ concerns.

“I have appreciation of what we have done in the past few years as for as restoring the fiscal health back to the county,” the Vice-Chairman said.  “I recognize the 13 cent reduction as taxpayer dollars and giving back that money to them we put in a reserve fund in case we needed it.  Our leadership should be able to manage on a slim and adequate budget that is designed to provide services across the entire county.”

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World map from July shows countries of active transmission of the Zika virus.

Pinal County has been working for several weeks on Zika surveillance and response plans.  Given the recent spread of Zika in Florida, Director of Pinal County Public Health Tom Schryer is sharing surveillance and response information with the community.

Unlike West Nile Virus, in the case of Zika, the human is the carrier so once someone is identified as having Zika it is essential that they do all they can to avoid mosquito bites since a mosquito can spread the infection to another human.

“If we have a case of Zika in Pinal County, our plans include inspecting the property of the victim and surrounding properties within 150 meters for any signs of mosquito breeding and take aggressive actions to reduce the mosquito population so anyone who has Zika does not spread the virus to a mosquito that can then pass it on to other people,” Schryer said.

Additionally, Public Health will survey the health of those residents who live within 150 meters of the impacted residence to determine if there is any community transmission. If there is any evidence of transmission, then the boundary will be expanded based on certain criteria.

Pinal County routinely traps for mosquitoes.  These traps are brought to the public health lab, where each mosquito is examined and sorted by breed and tested to determine if there is a public health concern.

“So far we have seen extremely low numbers of the Aedes aegypti mosquitos, the mosquito known to transmit Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue Fever, which provides some comfort,” Schryer said. “However, we must remain diligent to reduce or eliminate mosquito breeding and ultimately mosquito bites.”

When discussing Zika risk for pregnant women Schryer emphasized, “It is extremely important for those planning on having a baby to avoid mosquito bites and be aware that Zika can be passed through unprotected sex if one of the partners has Zika. We recommend women planning a pregnancy work closely with their physician early on.”

To date Arizona has had 13 travel-related human cases of Zika virus and there has not been any known transmission within the state. Pinal County has no known Zika cases.

Public Health is working with local medical providers on surveillance for Zika and other arboviruses. Since pregnant women and their unborn children are the most vulnerable to Zika and have the only known long term health consequences, women should have access to enhanced monitoring while pregnant or planning a pregnancy. There is testing available for Zika when indicated, and it is important that health care providers report suspected cases to their local health departments to facilitate diagnosis and mitigate the risk for local transmission.

What are the symptoms of Zika?

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. About one in five people infected with Zika will get sick, and symptom onset is usually two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. For people who get sick, the illness is usually mild and lasts a week. It is important to note that Zika can be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy, and can result in a birth defect known as microcephaly.

How can you protect yourself from mosquitoes and stop the spread of Zika?

There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus infection so prevention is essential. You can protect yourself, your family and your community by reducing the sources of mosquito breeding near your home, and avoid getting mosquito bites by using air conditioning, window and door screens on your home, wearing long sleeves and pants, and using insect repellents when outdoors.  Women who are planning to become pregnant should avoid travel to areas of the world that are known to have active Zika transmission.

Aedes aegypti mosquitos, the mosquito that transmits Zika from human to human live near homes so it is essential that all residents are diligent in their efforts to reduce mosquito breeding.

To help prevent mosquito breeding and spreading Zika or other arboviruses, Pinal County Public Health recommends the following:

•    Get rid of any items outside the home that can collect water to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.
•    Repair leaks to prevent standing water.
•    Change water in flower vases, birdbaths, planters, troughs, and animal water dishes at least twice a week.
•    If you have a swimming pool, keep it operational by using chlorine and running the filter frequently.
•    Repair any damaged screens on both windows and doors.

To file a complaint regarding mosquitoes in Pinal County, please call the Environmental Health hotline at 1-866-287-0209 or visit www.pinalcountyaz.gov/ehs. For more information on Zika and pregnancy, please visit www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy.

Rich Vitiello

By Rich Vitiello

I’m not a politician and have no hidden agenda. I’m running for the office of county supervisor because I want to see a change for the better — for the short term and the long term. I believe I can bring positive change.

Government is responsible to the taxpayer, not the other way around. I don’t like wasteful spending and I make no apology for it. For the current supervisor to increase his office budget when other departments are forced to cut theirs is an unwarranted waste of taxpayer money. That’s not something I would do.

Being active in the local community, election time or not has been important to me. I’ve been a volunteer in our local police department, at the food bank, at our church and at fundraisers and other events for disabled and disadvantaged members of our community. I have almost three decades of international business experience under my belt. I’ve worked well with other people and look forward to continuing to do so.

The rift between our sheriff’s office and the board of supervisors needs to be resolved. I’ve spoken with numerous people about it. The capstone of that rift was when the Board of Supervisors terminated the ICE contract. Our county jail was built to house double the population it now has by using bonds that cost the taxpayer about $10 million a year. The ICE contract just about covered those payments. When the contract was lost, the revenue to pay for that bond didn’t come in any longer and had to be taken from other sources — meaning budget cuts to vital public services. We’ve got several more years to pay for it, so it’s not going away.

I don’t think it’s right that public safety people were put out of work and personnel can’t be hired because certain people didn’t want to negotiate with ICE. It hurts the public. That was short-sighted. There are people in the sheriff’s office who can work with our federal government to secure that contract, again if given the chance. Doing so would go a long way to solving more than budget issues. We need to bring that revenue source back. I want to see that happen.

I’ve made my positions on marijuana and support of public safety pretty clear. I’m against marijuana — any kind — and a big supporter of public safety, but not just law enforcement. There are other basic services that need to be provided by our county. I’ll work hard to do my part and make sure the taxpayer dollar is stretched.

The flood zone is a continuous and changing issue. Pinal County is over 5,300 square miles. It’s going to take a lot of cooperation of the various agencies with long term planning to resolve it. Flooding impacts our roads, building of homes and businesses, and where and how people can live. I’ve suggested the various flood control interests come together under one unified agency to evaluate and solve this issue. It’s easier said than done, but it needs to start somewhere.

I’m against tax increases — they hurt us all. When our residents are traveling out of the county to work, that means tax revenue goes with them. It also means they have to spend more time in traffic instead of being at home with their families. We need businesses to come and stay in Pinal County. Otherwise, not only do our residents leave the county for work, but tax revenue that could be generated by those businesses goes to other counties. That means the burden of funding government services is placed more and more on our homeowners.

We need to take a page or two out of our neighboring counties’ economic development playbooks. If we do it right, we’ll create a greater environment for businesses to come to Pinal County without increasing property taxes. It should be something our children are proud of.

I’m looking forward to a brighter future. I hope you are, too. I promise to work hard for you. It’s time for a change.

Rich Vitiello is a Maricopa resident and candidate for Pinal County supervisor in District 4.

Neighbors disagree over the future of BLM land west of Maricopa, land that has been marked for Palo Verde Regional Park. Photo by Ethan McSweeney

By Ethan McSweeney

Shirley Ann Hartman has lived in western Pinal County for 56 years, calling the rolling hills and desert washes in the area home.

To leave a comment on the four alternatives for the Palo Verde Regional Park, go to this link. The deadline for comments is July 15.

So, when Pinal County approved its open space plan that would include some of the land along the western edges of the county as a protected Palo Verde Regional Park, she joined in to do her part. She saw it as a way to preserve the land for future generations. As part of the Pinal Partnership Open Space and Trails Advisory Committee, Hartman worked with other citizens to help design the park.

Hartman and other supporters of the park didn’t expect that a vocal opposition would form among some residents in the area.

“I’ll be honest: I’m shocked,” Hartman said of the opposition. “I would think it would be, ‘Yes, let’s do this.’”

Led by Joe Witinski, a resident of Hidden Valley near where the Palo Verde Regional Park would be, residents have started petitions, packed public meetings and erected signs around the area in opposition to the county’s plan.

The residents opposing the park see the move as a “land grab” by the county that would burden taxpayers and charge people to go on land they already can use for free.

“All they would do is deny … regular users access to land they use all the time,” Witinski said.

In 2007, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved the Open Space and Trails Master Plan, which would designate areas around the county to be regional parks to be managed by Pinal County. Among those parks is the Palo Verde Regional Park.

More than 23,000 acres of land running along the western boundary of Pinal County from Interstate 8 to the south to State Route 238 to the north is designated for the park. That would include the Palo Verde Mountains, the Haley Hills and the Vekol Wash — land that’s currently owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

As part of the process for creating the park, public input is being sought on four proposed plans, called alternatives, for how the park could look when it opens. Each alternative has different degrees of infrastructure that could be developed in the park. The deadline for residents to submit comments on the county’s website is July 15.

The alternative that’s selected would then need to be approved by the Board of Supervisors. The approved proposal would be included in an application for management of the land to BLM, said Kent Taylor, director of Pinal County Open Space and Trails.

Taylor said he expects the plan could go before the Board in the fall.


Opposition among some residents

Photo by Ethan McSweeney
Photo by Ethan McSweeney

Witinski, who has lived in Hidden Valley since 2001, said when he heard about the plan to turn the land into a county park, he was confused. The land, as it’s managed now, is available for the public to use for free, and turning it into a regional park would only add costs to residents who want to use it and the county that wants to manage it, he said.

“I’m going to have to pay to use my backyard,” Witinski said. “There doesn’t seem to be an advantage to it. The excuse [supporters] give is that they’re trying to protect it from being leased out to a developer, or mining, or for solar and that’s clearly not what’s going out here.”

Witinski launched a Facebook page called Citizens Against Palo Verde Regional Park, which has garnered about 120 likes and posts updates about the progress of the park and perceived deceptions by county officials. He also circulated a petition against the park that he said has accumulated more than 560 signatures.

He and other opponents to the park have also attended public events and meetings to make their opposition known to county officials, including at the Palo Verde Regional Park Open House last month, where they held signs with phrases such as “We Don’t Want Any Park!”

Witinksi said he believes the county’s planning process for the park has also been carried out poorly.

“It’s been ill-conceived from the start and ill-executed,” he said. “I want to hold people accountable for this.”

Angela Villa, another Hidden Valley resident who opposes the park, said she believed the Palo Verde park would only lead to more costs for the county. “It’s not going to be a money-maker,” she said.

Villa suggested Pinal County could take over San Tan Mountain Regional Park, which lies within Pinal County but is managed by Maricopa County, to test out how well they can manage a large regional park.

Gina D’Abella, the chair of the Pinal County Open Space and Trails Advisory Commission, said the open space preservation efforts across the county are important to protecting natural resources because there is the possibility the land could be sold to developers as Pinal County’s population continues to grow.

“I’m a native Arizonan,” said D’Abella, who moved to the Maricopa area in 1989. “Urban encroachment happens on open spaces.”

“So, instead of people saying, ‘I want no park. I want nothing to happen here,’ it basically equates to ‘we don’t want to protect this for future generations. We don’t want to protect the passive and active recreation opportunities that we’ve been enjoying here for decades,’” she said.

D’Abella said the process for planning the park has been ongoing for years and has been open to the public for discussion.

She also pointed out one of the four options for designing the park, called Alternative A, would leave the land as it is now.

Hartman said residents who gave feedback years ago during the planning for the Open Space and Trails Master Plan for Pinal County all placed open space as a high priority for them.

“All the responses were ‘open space, open space, open space, please preserve our open space,’” she said. “Don’t let happen to us what happened to Maricopa County.”

Barbara Brady, another resident in the area and a supporter of the planned park, said, “We just want to save this for the future. We don’t want the area destroyed.”

For all the debate swirling around the park recently, it will take another decade or more before the land could actually become the Palo Verde Regional Park, Taylor said. That’s because, it could take another five to 10 years for the proposal submitted to BLM to be approved.

If BLM approves the proposal, then Pinal County would look to secure funding for the park. The amount of funding needed depends on which plan is ultimately approved by the county Board of Supervisors.

“It’s taken us 10 years to get to this point,” Taylor said. “So, it will probably take us another 10 years to get to the next point.”

D’Abella said because of this, much of the talk surrounding the park is in the context of current conditions in the county rather than how it will be in the future.

“It’s premature to talk about costs at this point,” D’Abella said. “We don’t know what it’s going to cost. We will have a better idea after the planning process is complete.”

The same thing goes for security at the park. “We have to look at what type of illegal activity may be occurring 10 to 20 years from now,” she said.


Supervisor race

Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith, whose district would encompass the planned Palo Verde Regional Park, said he could be open to halting the park process. At a debate in mid-June, the Maricopa Republican said he would support not moving forward with the planning for the park if it became clear that the residents in the area are opposed to it. Smith is up for re-election in the fall.

Smith said that based on his experience with annexation as the mayor of Maricopa, he knows that there needs to be a good majority of support in order for a plan like this to work. Even just a slight majority wouldn’t work well for the county. “That never makes for a good relationship,” he said.

Smith said he would gauge support for the park from the responses given on the comments for the park. He said he would want at least 60 percent support on the responses in order to continuing supporting the park.

His opponent in the Republican primary, Rich Vitiello, said his concerns for the park lie with the costs that the county could bear to manage it and the safety of potential visitors to the park. He said the county can’t afford the number of sheriff’s deputies needed to patrol its jurisdiction now, without the extra burden of patrolling a regional park in the future.

“Until I can get all those answers, I think we should slow this thing down,” Vitiello said. “We just need to figure out something that works for everybody without financially burdening the county.”

Despite the opposition, Hart and fellow supporters are still confident the rural desert west of Maricopa will become the Palo Verde Regional Park, even though that may be decades down the line.

“It’s a good thing, it’s a positive thing,” Hartman said about the park. “It’s for everyone.”

“It’s always the loudest people that you hear from when there are a bunch of people out there who don’t realize what’s going on,” she said.

Also see other previous stories:

Plan for regional park near Maricopa gets pushback

Palo Verde Park a ‘huge, ambitious project’

Anthony Smith

By Anthony Smith

The role of county supervisor requires a person to pay attention to details and be a good researcher of the facts. The policies and decisions you make depend on you having a full understanding of the issues. Unfortunately, unlike my previous campaigns, I’ve spent an unprecedented amount of time correcting my opponent’s statements. This editorial is in response to Mr. Vitiello’s latest inaccurate claims.

I stated in the recent candidate forum that in lieu of the sheriff spending RICO money for nonprofits, those dollars could be spent for overtime for deputies and investigators. I stand by that claim. In my opponent’s editorial he quotes the Arizona Revised Statues but ignores the “latter” portion of the statute. Quoting in part from ARS 13-2314.03, paragraph E, “OR for any purpose permitted by federal law relating to the disposition of any property that is transferred to a law enforcement agency.” The “OR” statement refers to the document from The U.S. Department of Justice titled “Guide to Equitable Sharing for State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies,” where on page 19 it clearly states, RICO money used for overtime of officers and investigators is a permissible exception.

Nonprofit giving is very important, but when people in certain rural areas are afraid to go out at night or don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods, I believe protecting these citizens by paying overtime for additional patrols is the higher priority.

Another claim made by my opponent is that solving the historical flooding problem in Maricopa is just talk and no action. As I stated during the forum, a plan to protect the City of Maricopa and the rest of Pinal County is very much in progress. The City of Maricopa and a host of other municipalities, Native American communities and other interested parties are all members in the Lower Santa Cruz River Alliance. The Alliance is an advocacy group that is working directly with the Corps of Engineers on the project. Later this year and as part of the Feasibility Study, the Corp of Engineers plans to introduce some conceptual designs to mitigate the 100-year flood for Maricopa and other parts of Pinal County.

By this time in the campaign, I believe a candidate should be able to correctly name the communities in the district in which he is campaigning. In Mr. Vitiello’s last editorial, he says he has been speaking to people throughout the district including Stanfield. Stanfield is not part of District 4.

Lastly, Mr. Vitiello’s reference to my supporters as “minions” is both unbecoming and unprofessional. After this election, we most likely will continue living in the same community and this type of behavior is divisive and separates people.

Anthony Smith is a resident of Maricopa and the incumbent county supervisor for District 4. He is running for re-election in the Republican primary against Rich Vitiello.