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Ethics questions about AnnaMarie Knorr's relationship with state Rep. David L. Cook have led to accusations against Sheriff Mark Lamb, and the House Ethics Committee is bringing in outside attorneys to investigate the allegations.

By Raquel Hendrickson

Arizona’s House Ethics Committee has retained outside counsel to investigate complaints against Rep. David Cook (R-District 8), who has been accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a lobbyist.

That lobbyist from Western Growers Association is AnnaMarie Knorr, president of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board. Both Cook and Knorr have publicly denied a romantic or unethical relationship. The official complaints have also pulled Sheriff Mark Lamb into the fray. All involved are Republicans.

T.J. Shope, also a District 8 representative, earlier recused himself from the Ethics Committee.

The source of the complaint filed by Janell Alewyn of Coolidge were private letters allegedly from Cook to Knorr that suggested an intimate relationship. The letters were first given to Yellow Sheet Report, part of Arizona News Service, and could not be independently verified.

The complaint against Cook suggests the lawmaker was unduly influenced by his relationship with Knorr to support agricultural interests that benefited her employer. Knorr was placed on leave by WGA when the allegations arose.

“The public disclosure of this sordid correspondence underscores the unacceptable intermingling of apparent private, personal relationship with legislative business,” Alewyn wrote to the Ethics Committee.

Both Cook and Knorr have spouses and families. In her complaint, Alewyn called their relationship “disturbing,” “compromising” and “a clear conflict of interest.” She also stated Cook was vindictive toward Knorr’s father, Bas Aja, based on Aja’s claim in state media his agricultural organization was blocked from an ad hoc committee as retribution for allegedly interfering in the relationship.

The Ethics Committee retained Ballard Spahr LLP, led by attorney Mark Kokanovich, to investigate those allegations as well as another complaint from Kevin Cavanaugh, a former candidate for U.S. Congress, that alleges Cook promised campaign donations to Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb if he halted the seizure of Knorr property over a tax debt of $140,000, which occurred in 2018.

In an echo of emails sent anonymously to media last year, Cavanaugh claimed he has observed unspecified “criminal behaviors” by Lamb since before he was elected in 2016, though he said he worked hard to get Lamb elected. Alleging bribery via quid pro quo, Cavanaugh included political conspiracies and a Bible reference in his complaint, which mentions Lamb more than Cook.

The sheriff has denied wrongdoing.

According to campaign finance reports, Bas Aja gave Lamb’s campaign $250, and Knorr contributed $200. Knorr also gave $200 to Cook’s campaign, and Phyllis Aja gave $500.

Anyone who has information relevant to this investigation should contact the House Rules Attorney Office at tfleming@azleg.gov or 602-926-4615.


Maricopa is putting together its Complete Count plan for the 2020 U.S. Census.

Maricopa is gearing up for next year’s decennial U.S. Census.

Data from Census Bureau has become so important some cities, including Maricopa, funded special counts in off-years to try to prove their population. Population can help a company decide whether to invest in a community and it can decide if it’s time for a new congressional district.

There are changes to the way the census will be taken in 2020, and the City has formed a Complete Count Committee to educate the public and encourage them to participate. For instance, households will receive an “invitation” to complete the census survey online.

“Part of the encouragement,” said Dale Wiebusch, the City’s director of Intergovernmental Affairs, “is that the data is driven both by the monetary factor and political representation.”

Wiebusch heads the committee, which meets monthly to talk about strategy. He invited 50 participants, with up to 14, with a handful at any given meeting. The committee, he said, is comprised of people who can reach diverse groups, especially those who could be missed because of language barriers or lack of technology.

In the recent census campaigns, the city saw where portions of the population did not comply, including areas of the Heritage District. That is where committee members can step in to better explain the process and necessity of the census.

He said the census count would impact federal and state funding.

“There are 50 or more federal programs that rely on census data for disbursement of funds,” he said, adding that figure could be $3,000 per person.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 95 percent of households will receive census invitation by mail. Almost 5 percent will have their census invitation dropped off at their home. Less than 1 percent will be counted by a census taker.

“We do this in very remote areas like parts of northern Maine, remote Alaska and in select American Indian areas that ask to be counted in person,” the Bureau explained in unattributed documents. The department is based in Maryland and directed by Steven Dillingham.

Wiebusch said he would like to see the City have library computers dedicated to the census for those who do not have the Internet at home. The main census activity will take place in March and April, with reminders and other wrap-up activities into June.

Census invitations will begin going out in the mail in mid-March. If the household has not responded, a reminder letter will go out, and a reminder postcard, then a reminder letter and a paper questionnaire and then an in-person follow-up.

The project goes in stages, with Maricopa due to start its portion April 1.

“I find it hilarious we would do it on April Fool’s Day,” Wiebusch said.

Unlike a special census, the decennial census will count everyone who declares their main residence to be Maricopa, even if they live here only six months out of the year and even if they are not citizens.

Wiebusch emphasizes there is no “citizenship question” on the 2020 U.S. Census.

“I know a lot people think that’s about those without documentation,” he said, “but we have Canadians and we have a lot of other ‘snowbirds’ who live here a lot of the year.”

The City of Maricopa is working with Maricopa Association of Governments and Riester, a Phoenix-based advertising firm, to help with preparations for the census and outreach.

This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

State Treasurer Kimberly Yee. Photo by Kyle Norby

Kimberly Yee is in her first year as Arizona’s state treasurer after serving as a state lawmaker and speaking at the 2016 Republican National Convention. She sat down with InMaricopa to talk about a new Financial Literacy Task Force and the goals of her office to help Millennials and others understand their finances.

Greenway High School, Pepperdine University majoring in English and political science, ASU master’s in public administration
Husband and two children
Previous work:
Deputy cabinet secretary for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, policy analyst for Gov. Pete Wilson, executive team of Arizona State Treasurer Dean Martin, eight years as Arizona legislator in District 20, second woman (after Sandra Day O’Connor) to serve as Senate Majority Leader
Fun fact:
She is the first Asian-American elected to the Arizona Legislature. She is the fifth-straight generation of her family to own a small business in the United States.

Remind us of your background and how you came to the State Treasurer’s Office.
I was born and raised in Arizona, so I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and went to Greenway High School, Pepperdine University for my undergrad. Majored in English and political science and earned my master’s degree in public administration from Arizona State University. One of the things I did right after college was start working for public policymakers. I had the privilege of working for two governors in California. I specifically chose education-related policies, so early on I worked on childcare and development issues, later serving for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – I was his deputy cabinet secretary working on education-related issues. I came back to my home state to work for former state treasurer Dean Martin. He was our state treasurer for four years, back in 2007, ‘08, ‘09 and ‘10. It was a time where the state was going through a lot of financial-related issues, and the office was very helpful in trying to determine where our economic revenues were coming in and how they were being spent. We were able to use the Treasurer’s Office back then to warn the Legislature and the executive office that things were looking dim in the future, and from an economic forecast they needed to start spending down what they were previously spending on because the revenues were not coming in. Back then it was really the beginning of using the Treasurer’s Office for economic purposes in helping policymakers.

Were they listening?
Well, they did have our information available to them. Did they listen? No. Unfortunately, they didn’t. We asked them to spend $150 million less than they were spending, and then they created a budget that fiscal year to spend more than $150 million [more]. That’s not the way we anticipated they should go, but we did our due diligence by providing the information for them to know where we were in our budget and where we were in our economy.

“Well, they did have our information available to them. Did they listen? No.”

Now, fast-forward, around that same time, my state senator was looking to retire. So, it was a woman asking another woman to run for office, and I wanted to see if that became open and it did. I became a state House member first and then served in the Arizona Senate for three terms in District 20, which was northwest Phoenix, parts of Glendale. And I served as the senate majority leader in my last term. I was the second female to have that position since Sandra Day O’Connor served 44 years prior to that time. It was a real privilege to meet with Sandra Day O’Connor, the former justice, when she came to the Legislature and I invited her as my guest and we promoted civics education, which is a legacy she wanted to leave following her time on the bench.

This seems to be always circling back to education. What drew you to that in the first place?
My mother was a former schoolteacher in the public-school system in Phoenix for 38 years. It was easy for me to make that decision, because around the dinner table, as a young girl, we talked about education and the importance of making sure our kids have a high quality of education no matter what ZIP code they lived in. I carried that in my public policy behind the scenes working for elected officials, and then when I became elected that really was a priority for me and has been. So, I’ll continue working on education-related issues even out of the Treasurer’s Office.

Right off the bat, I promoted financial education in our schools, which is something that is very important. When I was working for State Treasurer Dean Martin 12 years ago, we were looking at our schools and unfortunately found we aren’t teaching kids the basics, these life skills, on how to manage their money. When I learned this wasn’t a requirement, while I was serving in the Legislature I tried to promote and sponsor legislation that would get us moving toward that direction. Early on in my legislative career, I sponsored a bill that requires the K-12 system to have academic standards which touch on financial education, age-appropriate of course. In kindergarten, a student can learn about savings in a piggy bank but have more concepts that are a little more complicated as they move on to high school. Simple skills that are really used once you get out into the real world.

“We were looking at our schools and unfortunately found we aren’t teaching kids the basics, these life skills, on how to manage their money.”

Finally, at the end of my term, we look at how do we incentivize a high schooler to take classes that teach you these basic skills? Because these other classes are much more inviting, like golf and art. Who would take a business class or something that would teach these things? So, I created a little seal at the end of my time in the Senate that allows for a student who takes these courses to have a seal of proficiency for financial education. So, that really would help them if they take – even if it’s just one semester – a class that would allow them to get that seal on their graduation diploma. Once I became state treasurer, it was important to deal with it more. We really want to teach students in high school those basic life skills to ensure they understand how to balance a budget, balance their checkbook, what it means to carry credit month-to-month on their credit card. We had a bill put before the Legislature that has now become law that requires a student who is in their econ semester to be taught financial education within that time period. They would have curriculum that would be embedded in that econ semester that teaches them these basic skills.

Is this going to be part of the Financial Literacy Task Force?
The Task Force will move forward to create more ideas. This was already done in my first six months and it’s now law, so this will be the first academic year that will be administered. We have a long line of items we want to continue to work on. I created a task force of 16 members, 17 including myself – I chair the task force – first-ever in the state that brought together experts in this field, individuals who will represent not only our K-12 system to advance educational options for financial education but also other vulnerable communities like our senior citizens who are on fixed-income budgets. Our veterans and those who have served in the military, we have a representative on their behalf.

We have teachers, we have individuals who represent vulnerable populations, for instance single-parent homes and those who are struggling to find jobs. We also wanted to be sure to hit a number of these groups who are dealing with issues in their finances, to provide them with a toolbox, resources that are free that will help them get on their feet. One of the reasons why we’re in Maricopa today is to talk to a group that will be able to advance that through nonprofit work. It’s exciting for me. This will be a priority for my administration. It’s something I’ve been passionate for over a decade.

How did you find the members of the task force?
A number of them I worked with over my time in the Legislature, those eight years working on bills that advance financial education in our schools but also looking at what we can do next. In talking to various groups, we need to open doors for individuals to find easy-to-find resources – something that’s free of cost. We need to put it into one place. I thought, “What better way to bring everybody together at one table for the first time.”

Our meeting was fantastic when we first met face-to-face. We have a lot of work to do. We’re going to provide proposals on how we’re going to roll this out in all these various communities. I’ve just come back from a treasurer’s conference where I’m learning from other states what they’ve done. We’re borrowing ideas, we’re looking for ideas. We have it open to the public so we can hear from others who aren’t at the table.

“When these young kids come out into the real world, they have to learn how to manage their money or it will affect your neighborhood.”

I think this is very important because if affects everybody. When these young kids come out into the real world, they have to learn how to manage their money or it will affect your neighborhood. We are looking at our Millennial population in particular, because these are young people who we see, the evidence shows, are $1.6 trillion in student debt. Roughly 39 percent of the Millennial population say they don’t pay their bills on time. That’s a significant number. If we keep going down that road, we will really be in trouble from an economic perspective. So, this is a conversation we should have had years and years ago, but let’s have it now.

After your years in the Treasurer’s Office, to come back as the treasurer yourself, did you find surprises there?
In a good way. There was very little transition time because I already knew the office and how it works. At the very beginning I wanted to create new structure in terms of our organizational chart. I moved various divisions into areas that fit better in terms of operations and performance from our investment side.

As you know, we manage roughly $40 billion in the state’s cash management of the budgets going in and out of the agencies throughout the year. We have roughly $17 billion in assets under management in our office. This provides investments for local governments, local jurisdictions that would like our office optionally to invest their dollars. It was important for me to look at what other administrations had done, what their performance has been in those areas, what we can do that can be improved. One of the things I wanted to improve was our local government investment pool.

“If we maximize every single dollar, that’s really what matters. That’s what people elected me to do.”

These are optional choices that local governments can make, but if they see that our returns are doing great, which they are, and they want to invest those local dollars, that means more to local taxpayers, which means more money for infrastructure, education, transportation. I want to provide that eye-to-eye conversation with our local leaders. I have been going out on the road, talking to mayors and council folks because they need to know when we’re managing their funds, that we’re doing a great job at it and we have various portfolio options they can continue to use or advance.

If we maximize every single dollar, that’s really what matters. That’s what people elected me to do. I’m looking out for the state level but for the local dollars as well. I also want to use the office to continue to advance our economic forecasts because what we see coming in and out of the office really does matter to the policymaker, whether it be at the state level or even at the local level, how they’re going to plan their out-going budgets year to year. If we can provide the information and that can be helpful to them, I’d like to use that economic forecast for their purposes.

How well do you think the average Arizonan understands what your office does?
I think probably not a lot of people know what the Treasurer’s Office does. That has been another goal of mine. I’ve been [making] the office available for tours, for children to come in to see what we do. It’s something I’m proud of. This office has done such great, great work over so many decades, and we need to acknowledge that from the taxpayers’ perspective. In fact, our investors in our office, they manage the state land trust proceeds. So, anytime state lands are sold, the proceeds come immediately to our office and investors invest that money, and most of it goes to K-12 education. That is something most people probably don’t know, but it’s important because the numbers are significant.

“Anytime state lands are sold, the proceeds come immediately to our office and investors invest that money, and most of it goes to K-12 education.”

What we invest goes right back into the K-12 system. As an example. All of the state lands that were sold in the last fiscal year, in this fiscal year 2020, which just began, we are going to roll out $342 million to the K-12 system on top of what they’ve already received from the legislative appropriations. Those are investments that came out of our office from the state lands sold. That is one that I would like to share, but also to talk about how well the investments have performed.

We really take a careful look at how we invest. It’s always safety first, because these are tax dollars. If you were to look at our long-term investments over 10 years, over a billion dollars, and you were to compare the National Association of College and University Business Officials that ranks the biggest endowments across the country, we out-performed Yale, Stanford, Columbia and Harvard, all of the big universities. We ranked in the 95th percentile. It shows that our office has done very, very well in its investment performance on behalf of the taxpayers

This article appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

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Rep. Bret Roberts. Submitted photo

Bret Roberts (R-District 11) just completed his first session as a state representative. He shared some of his experience.

How was your first legislative session?

Rep. Bret Roberts
Age: 46
Hometown: Bowling Green, Ohio
Community of residence: Maricopa
Previous occupations: Detention officer, mortgage banker, constable
Committees: Regulatory Affairs (vice-chairman), Appropriations, Commerce, Judiciary
Primary sponsorship: HB 2521, which adds properly trained/certified constables to list of peace officers who may be allowed to carry a firearm; HB 2675, which validates unambiguous contract provisions negotiated by parties represented by attorneys.

I really enjoy being up at the Capitol representing District 11. Being vice chair of one and sitting on three other committees is a lot of work, but it does have its rewards. You get much more exposure to the issues you have come through your committees.

What have you learned that will help you in year two?

There was the obvious learning curve. The first few weeks to a month was a blur. Back-to-back, 30-minute meetings with individuals wanting to meet with you to discuss issues on bills. Learning who all the staff is and how they can help you. If you’re not in committee or on the floor, you’re in a meeting. The more committees you’re on, the more individuals want to meet with you. Which is great, you get to learn about so many issues. Next year, none of the day-to-day will be a surprise. Work can also be done in the interim to get a head start on any bills I may want to run.

How would you see the “Wayfair bill” (House Bill 2702) impacting Maricopa?

HB2702, or Wayfair, has to do with taxes being collected on products that are purchased online out of state. This would bring parity and fairness to any brick-and-mortar business that is currently collecting sales tax on products sold. Any time a product is purchased out of state online by an individual located in Arizona, that out-of-state vendor would have to collect sales tax and send it back to Arizona; just like our businesses are doing for those states. Forty other states have done this already, which means our businesses are currently at a disadvantage, meaning our businesses are collecting taxes for out-of-state vendors and sending taxes back to those states. Once we get this in place, those states will have to do the same for Arizona.

You were emotional during testimony about suicide prevention training for schools during this session. Share your thoughts on why that bill was important?

Yes, this was an emotional bill for many, including myself. This was also a great example of a bill that had tremendous bipartisan support. In my opinion this bill is important for many reasons but what stood out the most in my opinion [is that] today with social media, it’s a very different time than when most likely you or I went to school. Bullying is a much different animal today. Something could happen with a student and in mere moments it could be spread to pretty much the entire student body. This can lead to tremendous pressure on kids. The required training in the bill will help all school staff, not just teachers, to recognize signs that a student may be in distress, whether it be from an issue at school, home or anywhere for that matter and know how to act on that to prevent these tragic losses of life.

This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

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Tom O'Halleran (center) speaks with Maricopans during a town hall in Maricopa Wednesday. Photo by Jim Headley

U.S. Congressman Tom O’Halleran (Arizona-D1) said he’s looking forward to seeing the Mueller report today.

“I am a former homicide detective,” O’Halleran said. “Until I see the facts, I am not anticipating anything other than being able to review it and see the consequences of what is in the report and what’s not in the report. Then move on from there.”

O’Halleran, a Democrat, said over the past few months many people have been talking about things they really don’t know about. He was at Maricopa City Hall on Wednesday to host a town hall and field questions from constituents.

“If we’re going to bring people in America back together again, we have to talk about real issues and real facts. Not just  somebody, who isn’t in the room when the investigation is going on, saying, ‘I believe this is what happened’ or ‘I think this is going to happen.’ None of that is relevant until you know the facts.”

O’Halleran said he is worried what might be redacted in the report when Congress finally gets a copy of it today.

“I am very concerned about the redactions. Across the entire spectrum of Congress, we want to see the whole report. It is not just the Democratic side or the Republican side. I haven’t found a member that doesn’t want to see that report,” O’Halleran said.

O’Halleran said he is coming to Maricopa a little more frequently lately because, “I have a lot of issues down here. Whether it’s a meeting on farm issues or a meeting with the mayor on city issues. The levy issues that we have been back and forth on for a long time. There is just a lot of issues when you have a community this size that is this close to a metropolitan area.”

WASHINGTON, DC – JAN. 10, 2019: White House protest over government shutdown by furloughed as well as unpaid working federal employees, union members, contractors and supporters after rally at AFL-CIO - By BAKDC

The longest federal government shutdown has had a wide impact. Central Arizona Governments (CAG), a regional planning district, has had to institute an unpaid furlough for the duration.

CAG is comprised of Pinal and Gila counties, their respective incorporated communities, including Maricopa, and Native American communities.

“With the federal government shutdown, many of our funding agencies are being affected,” said Andrea Robles, interim executive director. “We have learned that CAG does not have access to the majority of our reimbursable funding sources including EDA, USDA, some transportation funds and EPA project approvals. The billings are booked to be paid to CAG, but the funds have been ‘frozen’ for the duration of the shutdown.”

Robles said the Globe City Council approved an “advanced payment” of $50,000 to CAG on Jan. 8 for administration of projects to cover operating expenses for January.

The partial shutdown is now 25 days long, surpassing the 21-day shutdown during the Clinton Administration that cost the government $400 million, according to the Congressional Research Service. The current shutdown, which started Dec. 22, came about over a stalemate between the Trump Administration and majority Democrats in the House of Representatives regarding $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the border with Mexico.

The unpaid furlough at CAG was put in place to decrease expenses while maintaining “the work that is required to keep up with our grants and projects,” Robles said. CAG staff will work a reduced workweek, Tuesday-Thursday 7 a.m.-6 p.m.

CAG helped coordinate planning of the Pinal Regional Transportation Authority and landed planning fund funds for a regional transit study. CAG’s Community Development Block Grant planning program distributes funds through the Arizona Department of Housing.

“Staff continues to look for additional funding sources to enable us to provide the best possible services to our cities and towns throughout the region,” Robles said.