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Arizona Auditor General released the full report Tuesday of an embezzlement investigation that led to the indictment of Maricopa resident Suzanne Perkins, 56, former office administrator and governing board clerk for Thunderbird Irrigation Water Delivery District of Pinal County No. 2.

The district serves farmers on 720 acres in western Pinal County and is governed by a three-member Board of Trustees. One of the trustees is Perkins’ husband.

Perkins was the District’s office administrator and governing board clerk from 1998 until her resignation in 2013. She was responsible for all accounting functions, including signing warrants, which was also a duty of the Board of Trustees.

Perkins was indicted by a grand jury in February. According to the audit, from March 2006 to October 2012, Perkins allegedly issued 232 district warrants (checks), with 99 of them with at least one forged signature, for personal purposes totaling $278,371.

“Specifically, Ms. Perkins paid for $172,569 worth of personal credit card, District credit card and District line of credit charges and issued warrants totaling $105,802 payable to her family members that were deposited or endorsed to her and her husband’s joint personal checking account,” the Auditor General’s Office stated.

Perkins is accused of spending the money on personal purchases like air conditioner repair, stone countertops, appliances, kitchen cabinets, swimming pool filters, items from the grocery store, roofing materials, paint, a home theater system, MP3 players, personal computers, home furnishings, carpet and rugs, a riding lawn mower, health and beauty products, tattoo shop services, clothing, bridal store items, fabric and crafting supplies and pet care.

“From August 2007 through July 2012, Ms. Perkins issued 105 unauthorized District warrants (i.e., checks) payable to her husband and two of their sons totaling $105,802,” Auditor General Lindsey Perry said. “Available bank records show 100 of these warrants totaling $102,698 were deposited in her and her husband’s joint personal checking account. All warrants issued to Mr. Perkins are included in this report because he was not a District employee and he reported to us that he was never paid for any District-related work. He further stated that any work he performed was as a volunteer or as a member of the Board of Trustees, and he does not remember ever receiving a check… Of these 105 warrants, 63 had at least 1 Board of Trustee’s forged signature.”

The Auditor General’s report also recommended the irrigation district take steps in the future to prevent this from happening again.

“The District’s former Board of Trustees did not establish controls to ensure District monies were properly safeguarded. In fact, no written policies for financial processes existed,” the report states. “Ms. Perkins’ husband, who was also a trustee, participated in related-party transactions. In particular, he participated in hiring two of his sons and signed warrants payable to family members, including his wife.”

The auditor general recommends the district:

  • Supporting documentation for all expenditures is independently reviewed and determined to be appropriate and for District purposes prior to payment.
  • Financial duties are properly separated. For example, a person not authorized to sign warrants should record the expense in District records, and another person not authorized to sign warrants should ensure accuracy by comparing District records to canceled warrants.
  • Financial transactions are independently verified. For example, a person not authorized to sign warrants should receive treasurer statements directly from the county or use digital access to compare county records to District records and ensure transactions are accurately recorded and reconciled to treasurer statements. The Board of Trustees should immediately investigate and resolve any discrepancies noted in reconciliations.
  • Related-party circumstances and potential conflicts of interest are fully disclosed in writing on at least an annual basis, and participation in associated transactions is appropriately restricted.

According to the Auditor General’s Office, the information in the report was submitted to the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, which then presented it as evidence to a grand jury Feb. 27. Perkins was indicted on nine felony counts.

Perkins is scheduled to be arraigned in Pinal County Superior Court on May 3.


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Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa City Council voted Oct. 3 to approve payment of a third-installment for irrigation water at Copper Sky.

The $191,750 credit will supply the city’s recreation complex with 500 acre-feet, or almost 163 million gallons, of non-potable water to help keep fields and landscaping green around Copper Sky.

Interim Parks Director Fred Gray said, though he wasn’t around in 2013 when the first agreement was made, he understands that at the time, Global Water lacked the infrastructure or supply to support their need.

Gila River Water Storage LLC, being more established, agreed to step in and provide the city 1,500 acre-feet, which would last until 2015 when the second agreement was made.

According to the agreement, an initial 1,500 acre-feet would be supplied for the first year, with an additional 500 acre-feet coming each year thereafter. The contract, which is set to expire in 2020, set the initial price at $347 per acre-foot, and then increases that number by roughly $20 dollars a year until that expiration date.

When the contract does expire, the city will have paid out just over $1.5 million to Gila River.

At that point, Gray said, the city should open up the bidding process to potentially allow Global Water to gain the business.

“My guess, based on my experience with municipal governments, is that we would be required to look at other options at that point, based on the amount of money that we would be spending,” Gray said.

Being a six-year contract, he added, the city should most likely start looking at those options sometime in the fifth year – 2019.

“If I were going to be the long-term guy, that’s what I would recommend,” Gray said.

Global Water was recently granted a zoning change and permit to move forward with a plant expansion they say will allow them to supply another potential 11,000 customers. It is, however, unclear at this point if the utility plans to seek out the city’s business when the contract does expire.