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Sheriff

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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.

Sheriff Mark Lamb is still stocking up his office. Photo by Mason Callejas

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb sits down with InMaricopa’s Mason Callejas to talk about his first days in office, his approach to enforcement, RICO funds, border issues and the budget, and what he sees for the future of the department. One of his primary goals is improving morale.

Lamb, a Republican, defeated Kaye Dickson in November’s General Election. Born in Hilo, Hawaii, he is married with five children. He is fluent in Spanish, and his first law enforcement job was with Gila River Indian Community.

He also points out PCSO is hiring. Go to https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/pinalcounty/jobs/1631101/deputy-sheriff?keywords=deputy%20sheriff&pagetype=jobOpportunitiesJob

Republican Mark Lamb has had a consistent margin over Democrat Kaye Dickson all night.

Mark Lamb has maintained a big lead over his Democratic rival in his campaign to become the next sheriff of Pinal County.

A Republican in a heavily Republican county, Lamb has 56 percent of the vote to Kaye Dickson’s 44 percent in the early vote count.

The current sheriff, Paul Babeu, is not having the same level of support in the District 1 Congressional race. With 73 percent of the statewide vote in, Democrat Tom O’Halleran of Sedona leads with 50 percent of the vote. Even in Pinal County, O’Halleran led during the early hours of the vote count, with Babeu only moving past him late in the night.

County voters have overwhelmingly gone for Donald Trump for president (56 percent) and John McCain as U.S. senator (55 percent).

Arizona Early Results (73% reporting)

President
Donald Trump 840,036 – 49.4%
Hillary Clinton 776,377 – 45.66%
Gary Johnson 64,326 – 3.78%
Jill Stein 19,569 – 1.15%

U.S. Senate
John McCain 892,734 – 53.10%
Ann Kirkpatrick 696,325– 43.41%
Gary Swing 92,313 – 5.49%

U.S. Congress District 1
Paul Babeu 74,332 – 44.18%
Tom O’Halleran 84,479 – 50.21%
Ray Parrish 9,449 – 5.62%

Prop 205 (legalized recreational marijuana)
Yes 804,725 – 47.76%
No 880,353 – 52.24%

Prop 206 (minimum wage)
Yes 994,303 – 59.38%
No 680,234 – 40.62%

State Senate District 11
Steve Smith 36,335 – 58.07%
Ralph Atchue 26,238 – 41.93%

State House District 11 (elect 2)
Mark Finchem 32,677 – 35.89%
Corin Hammond 27,588 – 30.30%
Vince Leach 30,780 – 33.81%

Pinal County Sheriff
Mark Lamb 33,333
Kaye Dickson 25,674

Pinal County Assessor
Douglas Wolf 33,721 – 59%
Jacqueline Minto 23,648 – 41%

Maricopa City Council (elect 2)
Julia Gusse 2,051
Marvin Brown 1,900
Dan Frank 1,690
Bridger Kimball 1,482

Prop 415 (Maricopa General Plan)
Yes 3,593 – 81%
No 848 – 19%

MUSD Override
Yes 2,276 – 49%
No 2,372 – 51%

Barry Goldman

By Barry R. Goldman

Law enforcement isn’t about politics – it’s about public service, taking risks and saving lives. It’s about getting bad people off the streets, out of our neighborhoods and protecting our citizens, no matter who they are or what they believe. It’s about helping people.

The election for sheriff should be about choosing the candidate with the right experience, education, ability and stamina to manage a very task-oriented agency and do the right thing for our residents.

Each voter might consider him/herself part of a candidate’s interview committee. We get to decide who gets hired by a majority vote based on our own criteria of the candidate’s strengths, weaknesses and leadership ability.

My own criteria for the job might read something like this:

“I’m looking to hire a candidate for the CEO of a law enforcement agency that pays well, has good benefits, and requires adherence to a set of structured policies and provisions. The candidate needs good moral character and good sense to lead an organization of 600 or so understaffed and overworked employees, some of whom direct and control up to 1,500 inmates, many of whom are dangerous characters. The candidate must understand and relate to the dangers faced by subordinates. The successful candidate has management skills to see that tasks are assigned and completed, that customer service is at it’s highest level, and promises made are promises delivered. The candidate must be educated, experienced and forthright enough not to make pie in the sky promises resulting in under-delivery or sloppy execution.  

“The candidate must have a vision and plan to make the organization increasingly successful.The candidate must be a straight shooter who can develop as well as execute such a plan taking responsibility for it, good results or otherwise.  Excuses for poor past performance, dependency on others to do tasks, and political connections to enable the candidate to squeak by are undesirable traits. 

“The candidate cannot be a fool or someone who can be manipulated by others with an agenda.  The candidate must be able to take charge, make revisions as necessary, and live within a given budget.  The most qualified candidate will have a truly positive, “can do” attitude and the least amount of baggage and questionable behavior in their past and present.  The candidate must have sufficient experience.  The candidate must operate under heavy criticism and have their answers and actions second guessed by the public, press and politicians on a regular basis.”  

Law enforcement is about serving the public. The office of sheriff should be occupied by a person who understands the complexity of the job.  It’s about officers or deputies taking a call and knowing that it may possibly be their last.  It’s about fellowship, working together and knowing whom to trust. It’s about good times and bad, trying to minimize the hurt and damage that others have caused innocents, remaining professional, while at the same time emphasizing with the victims. It’s about preventing casualties and getting those who cause havoc to places where they can do little or no harm. It’s about being part of and supporting our communities.

It’s not about a “D” or an “R”.


Barry R. Goldman is a resident of Maricopa.

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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.”

Candidates for Pinal County sheriff (from left) Mark Lamb, Steve Henry, Kaye Dickson and Kevin Taylor participated in a debate Saturday at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. Photo by William Lange

By Ethan McSweeney

Candidates for Pinal County Sheriff and Pinal County Attorney took part in a debate at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center on Saturday morning to address county issues and the current officeholders for those positions ahead of the August primary election.

Republicans Mark Lamb and Steve Henry took the stage alongside Democrats Kaye Dickson and Kevin Taylor at the debate that was sponsored by the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, the Maricopa Monitor, InMaricopa and the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. The Saturday morning debates also featured candidates for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District and Pinal County Board of Supervisors District 4.

For the County Attorney’s race, defense attorney Kent Volkmer was the only candidate to take part in the debate, with incumbent Attorney Lando Voyles not attending Saturday.

Pinal County Sheriff

In the Sheriff’s race, candidates discussed staffing issues and body cameras within the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. They also voiced some criticism for Paul Babeu, the county’s current Sheriff.

Babeu is not seeking re-election for the post, instead running for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District.

Lamb, a deputy in the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, said he believes the politics that exist in the Sheriff’s Office now have affected the morale of deputies.

“I want to restore that back to just focusing on law enforcement, protecting you as the people, doing what we can to foster a good environment for businesses and people to move in to the county,” Lamb said.

“I’m going to do everything I can do to remove that political side [of the Sheriff’s position],” he added.

When asked, Lamb later said in the debate he believed Pinal County is safer since Babeu took office, but that “we still have work to do.”

Henry, who serves as chief deputy in the Sheriff’s Office and is backed by Babeu, said he wasn’t concerned by the Pinal County Deputies Association not endorsing him. The association endorsed Lamb and Dickson for the primary race.

“We have mutual issues that we talk about and other issues that we disagree on,” Henry said. “It’s just a matter of the course of everyday business, and that doesn’t go away. It doesn’t matter if the endorsement is there or not.”

Henry said more staffing is the most significant need the Sheriff’s Office has right now. About half of the county’s population, located outside municipalities that have their own police departments, is policed by PCSO.

“We need people,” Henry said. “Right now in San Tan Valley, there are 95,000 people there and we police that with 40 cops.”

Dickson, who previously worked in PCSO for decades and as the director of Pinal County Animal Care and Control, said that as Sheriff she would cooperate with a staffing study from the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to see how to effectively use officers around the county. Babeu has not cooperated with supervisors over the staffing study.

“It’s not always just about putting officers where it’s the most populated areas,” she said.

Taylor, who runs a private detective agency, said there are too many deputies focused on Saddlebrooke and San Tan Valley, which he said don’t need as much attention as they currently have.

On the use of body cameras in PCSO, Henry said he supported the use of them in theory, but practically they cost too much to maintain.

“What people don’t understand … is that the cost is so prohibitive that with the current financial status we are in this county, we can’t do it,” he said.

Dickson suggested RICO funds, which law enforcement agencies generate as a result of asset forfeiture, could be used to fund body cameras.

“Those cameras create transparency and trust in government,” she said.

Taylor, who previously ran for sheriff in 2012, said the fact that, unlike the other candidates for the office, he doesn’t have a position in the Sheriff’s Office puts him at an advantage.

“I’m coming new with new ideas, with fresh ideas and right now I owe nobody in Pinal County any favors,” he said.

Dickson also said she would support working with the state’s Border Strike Force, which Gov. Doug Ducey created last year. Some border county sheriffs have come out in opposition to the new force.

“I believe that if the governor wants to step up to the plate and help protect our state, that that’s a good thing,” Dickson said. “We should take advantage of that.”

Pinal County Attorney

With incumbent Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles not in attendance, his Republican primary challenger Volkmer took his time on stage to criticize him on issues ranging from accountability to conviction rates.

Volkmer called into question the office’s accountability with Voyles campaigning together with Henry for county attorney and sheriff, respectively.

“If an officer is accused of committing a crime and you’re the victim,” Volkmer said, “are you going to believe that the county attorney who campaigned with the sheriff is going to give you a fair shake?”

The conviction rate from the Pinal County Attorney’s Office under Voyles is “abysmal,” Volkmer said. He argued that the office is only convicting 30 percent of cases that go to trial “for the most serious offenses.”

Volkmer said he supports pursing the death penalty in certain cases, but argued the rate at which Voyles is pursuing capital punishment is “too high,” which again costs county taxpayers.

“As a county attorney, you have to uphold the law, but you also have to be a steward of the county’s resources,” Volkmer said.

Volkmer also took aim at the length of time it takes for the Attorney’s Office to prosecute cases and turnover under Voyles.

No Democrats are running for the attorney position. The primary elections will be Aug. 30.

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Paul Babeu

By Paul Babeu

To the residents and business community of Pinal County:

Over the past few months, you may have seen news reports that the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the State of Arizona, including the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, regarding the use of criminal monies that have been legally seized under the “Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations” act of 1970 (RICO funds).

Now this week, the Goldwater Institute submitted a public records request to our office and sent out their written opinion to local news organizations asking for information explaining how the seized funds are used, the groups these funds are given to, and what the County receives in return for the funds.

Much of the criticism over our use of the RICO funds have been leveled at our donations to Pinal County youth programs, organizations that help disabled veterans, shelters that assist domestic violence victims and organizations that help prevent teen suicides. The Goldwater people said in their “news release,” they want to know what we get back from these non-profit organizations.

To the people of Pinal County, the return is very clear. These programs make for healthier communities, yes, and safer communities for our residents to live and raise their families. Pinal County is rural and we don’t have the same funding sources as many urban population centers in our state. These programs would not thrive and grow in our communities if they didn’t receive financial assistance like that given by our office.

The Goldwater attorneys say they want to ensure “taxpayer money isn’t being misused for personal gain or in violation of the Arizona constitution.” The RICO funding is not taxpayer money, but it is public money that we have legally seized from organized crime syndicates like the Mexican Drug Cartels. Our choice to spend this public money to support our communities’ youth is well within the rules of the Department of Justice and the state laws governing the use of RICO funds. Our use of RICO funds is not in any way supplanting funds for normal government expenses, as has been alleged by the Goldwater attorneys. It is a legal and recognized proper use of these funds.

The Department of Justice has stated that up to $25,000 of Federal RICO funds can be used to “support of community-based programs.” The State RICO statutes say, “at least 10 percent of the monies in the fund shall be provided to private, non-profit community based organizations and gang prevention and intervention programs.” We are clearly following the directives of these regulatory agencies.

Over the past seven years, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office has donated approximately $1.5 million of seized criminal money to support youth programs like the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, High School Graduation Night Lock-in events, youth sports programs, victim assistance programs and drug rehabilitation programs such as the “Home of Hope.

The primary job of law enforcement is to protect our citizens. We are doing just that by using money we have seized from drug dealers and other criminals and reinvesting the money into programs to improve the quality of life in Pinal County. As long as the bad guys keep trying to make a living through committing crimes, we will continue to fight them by seizing their illegal gains and use the money to support organizations that help victims and help keep our youth free from drugs, criminal activity and gangs.

Paul Babeu is the sheriff of Pinal County.