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Pinal County

'There’s some major projects I hope to be able to announce in the spring in the area of the city of Maricopa'

Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith. Photo by Kyle Norby

Anthony Smith
Title
: Pinal County Supervisor, District 4
Age: 66
Maricopan since: 2003
Family: Nancy (wife), five grown children in blended family with seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren
Education: Bachelor of Science, Purdue University
Professional background: Project Management Professional, worked at Motorola 10 years
Previous elected office: Mayor of Maricopa, 2008-2010, 2010-2012

Anthony Smith is entering his last year as Pinal County supervisor for District 4, having previously announced his decision not to seek reelection. He has been supervisor since 2013 after serving two terms as mayor of Maricopa.

He sat down with InMaricopa to talk about activities in Pinal County in 2019 and what may happen in 2020, his perspective of Maricopa, Interstate 11, transportation, future concerns for the county and more. To see the full interview, visit InMaricopa.com.

Remind us of your background:
I came from Illinois. I was born in Indiana and raised there. I raised my children in Central Illinois. In 1997 I came to Arizona to work for Motorola and did that for 10 years. I’ve been married to Nancy Smith, who’s a city councilmember for the City of Maricopa, for nearly 20 years now. So, we came to Maricopa in 2003 because, just like a lot of people at that time, we were looking for affordable housing. This was at the time about 15 minutes away from our Motorola plant at Queen Creek and Price Road. It’s not 15 minutes’ drive time any more. It was a place that was convenient, and it gave us a community that we felt was evolving. We were very excited about those first few years. To my amazement after less than five years they gave me the opportunity to serve them as mayor.

Since you were mayor, how has Maricopa changed?
Well, during that time in which we were trying to figure out how long is this recession and how deep is it going to be, fortunately the previous city councils had put aside a lot of that one-time money received from growth that gave our city councils the ability to, once the prices dropped on land, we were able to make some very important strategic purchases. The purchases such as for the city hall, that large complex came from basically a fire sale on some properties that had finally dropped to the point that we could buy them at a reasonable rate. The same thing with Copper Sky. All that land for that beautiful park on the southern side of the city was all purchased at one time with the idea that we would keep the frontage so that we could get commercial development. Fast-forward 10 years and that is finally happening with the prospect of hotels and retail and other things. During that time we were sustained by important projects. I think in 2009 came the Walmart. It added to the tax base. We needed that influx of money. Central Arizona College put their stakes in the ground and started the Maricopa campus. In addition, we were able to attract some healthcare with Banner and then others coming to town. That provided some of the ingredients for the community we have today. Now, there’s been a lot of building since that time, and, of course, the overpass played a very, very important part of that. But we started working on the overpass, just like Mayor Price and those current city councils, but it’s been a long haul, and we made our trips to Washington, D.C., to lobby for that and ADOT meetings, etc. It’s been a whole community effort by its leadership in order to make it happen, but we’re very glad to see the results.

Did it surprise you it’s taken this long to break ground on a hotel?
Absolutely, it has. We did everything we could to help a hotel take hold. But it was a tough sell at a tough time. There was very, very much limits on capital investments at that basis. So, I think we just basically had the wrong dance partner. We did everything we possibly could to make it attractive for a hotel to come into the city of Maricopa. But it must not have been the right timing. And now I think we’ve have the prospect of not only one but two hotels. I’m pretty excited about it. I think it adds to our community. A lot of the people are wanting to visit people, plus also the number of hotel stays we have by the various car test facilities, Nissan, Volkswagen. We miss so much in revenue from hotel tax by not having a hotel in the city.

Has your political perspective changed since you became a supervisor?
There certainly is a learning curve to find out what works and what doesn’t work. One thing I found to my amazement is that my skillset in project management was a very good fit for the City of Maricopa, a new city in which about 80 percent of what we were doing was new projects. It made perfect sense to me as far as how to drive them along. Now, being a project manager, especially in the expertise of a planner scheduler, I spent my career trying to get things done as fast as possible and under budget. Well, it takes a lot of patience in government. You can’t move at the pace of the private world, and that’s oftentimes for good reason, because you have to engage the public, you have to have a lot of input and it moves at a slower place probably for good reason. I’ve learned that as the mayor of Maricopa, and it’s been reinforced now as a county supervisor that local governments move at a pace that may be frustrating for a lot of people, but oftentimes the end result is very good.

Let’s look back on the past year. What are the biggest successes you think the county’s had?
One of the big deals is that when ADOT selected the [Interstate 11] route that is south of the city of Maricopa, comes from the area in Hidden Valley, comes through the south of Maricopa, swings over about the Barnes Road alignment and then goes and connects to the I-8 near Casa Grande, when they selected that as the recommended alternative, that was a big deal. Because the other alternative went down State Route 85 at Gila Bend and then on I-8. It did nothing for Pinal County. It did nothing for the city of Maricopa and its growth. With that new road, not only do you get economic development associated with what you might find along the 101 or the 202 in the metro Phoenix are, but in the big picture it provides a commerce corridor that connects one of our main trading partners, Mexico, to Arizona and points northward but it also, as we develop additional manufacturing and high-volume employees opportunities in the Casa Grande area with the Lucid project and the Nikola project, those will give access to those jobs in about the same drive time or probably even less than what you would traveling to the metro Phoenix area. It also takes a lot of traffic off the 347. Of course, we have what we are still moving through the courts, the Regional Transportation Authority that the voters approved two years ago. I’d like to see that be successful in the courts. But that includes the widening of 347, and that coupled with the future I-11 I think will help in order to better manage traffic and transportation in this area and give people who live in the city of Maricopa an alternative for traveling into the metro Phoenix area. We want to keep them in Pinal County to those jobs that we have in the Casa Grande area and the I-8, I-10 area. So, that is a big deal. It’s not done. It’s years away from being built. But it’s an important thing, just like when I travel on the 101 and 202 today, I’m glad that there were people who had the guts and stood up and put the lines on the map, and now you see hospitals, you see retail, you see auto dealers, you see addition of employment opportunities in that area. Someday we’ll have that just south of the city of Maricopa and really quite available for our uses.

Another thing that I’m very happy that we’ve accomplished in 2019 is the finalization of a new county complex for the city of Maricopa. This was very important because currently a lot of people in Maricopa and Western Pinal drive to Casa Grande and even Florence in order to get county services. We’ll be bringing those services to this area, and some of those services are things like the recorder’s office, the assessor, planning. We’ll be expanding the justice courts, and of course the justice courts are associated with the county and municipal court is associated with the City of Maricopa. Also included in this location that is in the Heritage District in the area near the post office but around the existing justice court is a sheriff’s substation. Now, that is going to be a big deal for your local police because it’ll have holding cells. Currently, if there’s a person arrested and needs to go to jail they are transported by Maricopa Police to Florence. It takes the Maricopa Police off the streets as they do these transports, and it’s also very costly. So, there will be holding cells at the sheriff’s substation, and they will be able to transport the prisoners at a time in which it is more appropriate and saving the City of Maricopa lots of money. This project will probably break ground in January. We’re out for bid for the entire project right now and we hope to complete it in October of 2020.

Dec. 2 we’re going to break ground for the Lucid electric car manufacturing project. That’s going to be about 2,000 employees. They’re already hiring certain critical positions at this time. But it’s going to be  a big deal for the city of Maricopa because in the plan for workforce recruitment they are hoping to get 25% of their workforce from folks in the city of Maricopa. That again takes some of the pressure off 347, redirects them into another location and it also provides a much quicker drive time from what they currently experience. These are high-tech jobs and this is very comparable to what you would get at Intel and some of the other high-tech jobs you would have in Chandler and Ahwatukee area.

We had a change in leadership. We had a very good county manager in Greg Stanley. That was about five to seven years that he was there giving us leadership. He provided great leadership during the time period, but anytime you have a change of leadership at the top, you hope for the best. With Louis Andersen taking the helm, I have confidence it will continue in the direction of strong economic development, putting an emphasis on providing quality service to the people of Pinal County communities and continue our prosperity.

One of the things I continue to be very thankful is the strong financial position Pinal County is in. Pinal County was the first county to regain all the jobs that we lost during the recession. We have a very favorable tax rate. In fact, we lowered our tax rate once more. We intend on lowering it, assuming the revenues are sufficient, again next year. We actually have a strategic goal of lowering it to 3.75, and in two more years, we will achieve that goal. It’s important when you do a lot of recruitment of companies that you have a favorable tax rate, a low tax rate. Plus, also, a lot of entrepreneurs, small businesses, they need the lower tax rate in order to help with their bottom line also. So this is strengthening the financial position. We have plenty of moneys in reserve. We are able to deliver about the same amount of service or maybe a little bit with the same number of employees that we had about eight years ago.

In looking at the county numbers, we found that for a four-year period, 2014-2017, there was a steady rise in home prices and housing prices in general, whereas wages seemed to go up and down and overall were stagnant. Is that a concern?
We’re in a transitional economy. In fact, Pinal County is in a big transition. We’ve got historic industries such as agriculture and mining that have been very good for Pinal County and Arizona for decades, but we’re slowly making that transition. We certainly didn’t want to be communities that were bedroom communities to Tucson or Phoenix. We wanted to attract our own workforce. When I first became supervisor, I was astonished that over 50% of our workforce leaves Pinal County every day in order to work in Maricopa County or Pima County. We’ve certainly made great instrides on that and will continue to make that. With the city of Maricopa and San Tan Valley, those numbers are even higher; this 70%, 80% of the workforce leaves every day. We’re strengthening our transportation system out in the central area. We’ve got the North-South Corridor, which is not the same as the I-11, which connects around the Mesa Gateway Airport and goes truly down the middle of Pinal County all the way down to Picacho Peak and connects with the I-10.

We had the tiff between Apex and Atessa. How often does that occur and do supervisors have to wade into that?
I think that was a rarity. At the time when it happened, I thought, ‘Well, I think this is kind of crazy. Why can’t we have five racetracks? Why can’t we become the center of automobile manufacturing and tests and entertainment in the auto industry?’ I try to be more broad-ranged in my thoughts and not be so strung out on competition and trying to eliminate your competition. I very much supported Apex, and I very much supported Atessa, but when they got into that battle, I certainly was very supportive of where I live, my hometown, the city of Maricopa for the Apex project. And, of course, that’s turned out super. They’ve, I think, gone beyond what they thought they would on their success and their recruiting and membership. I’m wanting that the Atessa project overcomes their deficiencies in their water that they are working through the state and are able to put something special in that area, which is just south of I-8 near Bianca and Montgomery roads. Those are important project. Again, it brings more employment to Pinal. But we work very well with our communities. contrary to what might happen in Maricopa County. They oftentimes have pitched battles between the communities. We try to rally around all the communities in Pinal County. For now we’re working very well, tighter, and complement each other, whether it’s a project in Casa Grande with Lucid working hand-in-hand to make the project a reality, working with Coolidge and Eloy regarding the Nikola project, and of course there’s some major projects I hope to be able to announce in the spring in the area of the city of Maricopa. We continue to be a very attractive place because we have an availability of land, we have a workforce and we have a favorable tax rate. And we’re having a lot of interest from around not only Arizona but in other states and around the world.

As healthy as the county is right now, what red flags would you warn your successor about?
There’s certainly the concern about water. We have some conflicting information. We have certain forces that say we only have 80% of our supply that we’ll need in a 100-year time period. You’ve got others, including our local experts at Global Water, that say that’s inconclusive data. The information that they have, and I think if you manage it correctly, that you’ll have an adequate amount of water. I’m a person, coming from the Midwest in which we have water management up there, we need to remember that we live in a desert. I’d like to see more reuse, more conservation of our water resources. I think that comes down to planning and planning out developments. I think we sometimes need to rethink how we are using and managing our water, and I think that’s part of the formula for moving forward. We’re fortunate that we got money from the state in order to rejuvenate and renovate some of our groundwater wells. We’re going to have to manage that transition away from the CAP water resource to our wells to just make better use of our water. Again, it just comes down the reality that you live in a desert, and I think there’s going to be an adequate amount of water, it’s just that we’re going to have to manage it better than we’ve ever done before.

If ultimately the courts rule against the RTA, what next steps do you foresee taking?
Well, my term ends on Dec. 31, 2020, and we anticipate all court challenges will be done by the fall of 2020 and we’ll make those decisions. It would be my hope that we continue. It’s unfortunate that counties and communities have had to go forward on their own in order to fund road improvements rather than being able to rely on the state or the federal government in order to provide for these needed improvements, but we did. It was, I think, the right thing to do. I look forward to the success. I think we’ve got a good case and we’re going to win. It is frustrating for me and I think for many people who drive the 347 every day that we are still paying lawyers and court fees on something that we could be building roads. I know the county has spent over $1 million in legal fees. Those moneys could have been used to build roads. It’s frustrating when you get those delays, but more importantly there are people seriously injured, sometimes even killed, along those roads and that is just, I believe, inexcusable that we’re tied up in court on something that we could correct if we’re given the chance. The good news is the courts continue to let us collect the half-cent sales tax, and we have somewhere around $23 million, $24 million already collected. When we win our lawsuits, because I’m an optimist and I believe we will win our lawsuits, we should be able to get in the final design and construction very quickly. The good news for the city of Maricopa is that two of the high-priority projects are in the city of Maricopa, basically – the widening of 347 and the construction of the East-West Corridor. The East-West Corridor connects Maricopa with Casa Grande and gives us an alternative way to get over to I-10. More importantly, when Lucid is in their manufacturing, it gives the people of Maricopa a very convenient and expedited way to get over to that job market.

What are you looking forward to working on in 2020?
I think there is a great opportunity to continue with more economic development wins. We want to see the Nikola project break ground, and I have no doubt that it’s going to break ground. There are other big projects I would love to be able to mention today, but they’re not available and we don’t want to have loose lips that sink ships type syndrome. I think it’s going to be a 2020 that’s full of additional wins for economic development. Plus, once those manufacturing companies get into operation, we’re going to be very aggressively going after the supply chain. I think the supply-chain services and providing for those manufacturing is a great opportunity for the city of Maricopa and other communities to have those local businesses in there. I believe that it’s going to be very important to follow the future Interstate 11. We’re working on the federal legislation in order to have it designated from Wickenburg all the way down to Nogales a single route. Once the federal designation is given by federal highway I believe that’s going to cement into that route and we’ll be able to move forward with design and construction.

That’s been kind of a political fireball for you in Hidden Valley. They pretty much mind their own business until they feel threatened by something. Is that something you would tell your successor about and give them guidance on how to deal with the situation?
I certainly believe that you have to represent the people. I understand where the people from Hidden Valley and Thunderbird Farm and those areas out in there are coming from. They have moved out there oftentimes to enjoy the solitude and the quietness of the country. I appreciate that. But I’ve been quite a proponent for projects in that area. I campaigned on those. When people put me into office for things that I campaigned on, I don’t feel necessarily it’s the right thing to do to change course. I truly believe it’s going to work for the best. When it comes to noise and pollution, most of our cars they predict in the future are going to be electric. I don’t know that they’re going to hear anything, maybe a hum would be at the most. I’ve also been a big proponent of Palo Verde Regional Park that is on the western edge of Pinal and Maricopa County. When we’re competing with states like California, Texas, Colorado, Washington and Oregon for jobs, a lot of those have workers that participate in outdoor activities, whether it’s hiking or mountain biking, etc. This is a park that, when it gets into operation some years down in the future, will be about three times the size of South Mountain Regional Park. That will provide a great opportunity for people in this area to get that good outdoor recreation. We want to create healthy counties, and one of the ways you create healthy counties is providing an abundance of recreation opportunities. We have a beautiful county, a beautiful state, and why not get out an enjoy it.


This story ran, in part, in the December issue of InMaricopa.

County attorney says opioid makers 'lining their pockets'

Pinal County is taking pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacies and doctors to court over addiction and overdoses.

There have been 308 reported opioid overdoses in Pinal County in the past two and a half years.

Pinal County is taking on big pharmaceutical companies over opioid addiction. The law firms of Fennemore Craig and Theodora Oringher filed suit for the county in Superior Court Sept. 25.

“We know how many pills were forced into our county,” County Attorney Kent Volkmer said. “Every pill is tracked by the federal government. Needless to say, it falls far outside of appropriate norms.”

In suing many large drug manufacturers and all pharmacies that do business in Pinal County, Volkmer said his office is not as interested in getting a monetary award from the case as it is the opportunity to litigate it in the public forum.

Among the 50 defendants named in Pinal County vs. Actavis LLC, et al. are American Drug Company, Costco, Walgreens, Osco Drug, Walmart, Bashas’, Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt LLC, Safeway, Par Pharmaceuticals, Smith’s Food & Drug, Sun Life Family Health Center and Watson Laboratories. The suit also names eight members of the Sackler family, who Bloomberg estimates to be worth $13 billion collectively.

By filing suit at the county level rather than joining the many federal-level lawsuits, Volkmer said, there is a better chance of getting the evidence known. Ongoing suits against the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, brought by states and other levels of government, will likely be filed into a national settlement. At the federal level, a U.S. bankruptcy judge paused those lawsuits against Purdue Pharma in October.

But Purdue and the Sacklers are only part of the Pinal County suit.

“We are prepared to litigate it. We want a jury to hear what they did and to determine a remedy,” Volkmer said. “We’re confident they acted badly. We want the public to know. The best way to get that is to try the case.”

The complaint does not cite a number for the monetary damages the county is seeking from the 50 defendants named. It seeks “to recover all measure of damages permissible under the statutes identified herein and under common law, in an amount to be proven at trial.”

“We’re confident they acted badly. We want the public to know. The best way to get that is to try the case.” – County Attorney Kent Volkmer

Volkmer said opioid addiction has cost the county manpower in law enforcement and health. And it is removing once-productive people from the economy because they can no longer work, shrinking the tax base that helps pay for the services impacted by opioid addiction.

Patients who could no longer afford an opioid prescription sometimes turned to heroin, causing more impact on law enforcement, the medical examiner’s office and county health resources. “And all of this cost was foisted on the county,” Volkmer said.

“Janssen fully recognizes the opioid crisis that exists in this country. But one thing is clear: Janssen’s medications did not cause or contribute to that crisis.” – Janssen Pharmaceuticals

The county complaint opens with the statement, “Opiates are killing people every day in this country and Arizonans have not been spared. Each of the [d]efendants in this action engaged in an industry-wide effort to downplay the dangerous and deadly potential effects of the misuse of prescription opioids. The opioid epidemic has hit every community in Arizona hard, including Pinal County.”

One of the defendants, Beverly Sackler, died Oct. 15 at the age of 95. Purdue filed for bankruptcy in September.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain gave Purdue Pharma, the Sacklers and the government entities suing them until Nov. 6 to reach a disclosure plan that would show how much the company earned from OxyContin sales.

Fennemore Craig was hired by Pinal County this summer specifically for this case against Big Pharma. Its attorneys claimed the actions of opioid manufacturers were “a sophisticated, manipulative scheme” particularly designed to be effective in places like Pinal County because it “is home to a multitude of economically and medically vulnerable populations that defendants knew were uniquely predisposed to opioid addiction, including the elderly.”

Big Pharma companies, Volkmer said, are “lining their pockets” as a result of front-end and back-end domination of a field they created. Some of the same companies that make the opioids also make the overdose antidote naloxone, he said.

Those companies include Hospira (acquired by Pfizer) and Mylan, both named in the suit, which describes both as “a top manufacturer of fentanyl, oxycodone, morphine and codeine in Pinal County.” Mylan is further accused of withholding ingredients to treat “opioid-use disorder and opioid addiction” from its competitors.

Pinal County also accuses Janssen Pharmaceuticals and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson, of pushing “bogus research” to promote opioids.

It is similar to claims made in other cases against Janssen in Oklahoma and Ohio, where Janssen denied wrongdoing, stating in court papers: “Janssen fully recognizes the opioid crisis that exists in this country. But one thing is clear: Janssen’s medications did not cause or contribute to that crisis… Janssen will prove that its marketing was and remains supported by scientific medical evidence, offered in good-faith and without a scintilla of fraudulent intent.”

In the mid- to late-1990s, physicians started classifying pain as a “fifth vital sign.” That was allegedly pushed by the American Pain Society and resulted in pharmaceutical companies putting more attention on creating and marketing pain medication. Recent lawsuits from 23 states, as well as Pinal County’s suit, characterize the pharmaceutical companies as “pushing” drugs and turning up the heat on doctors to prescribe more.

Prescribed opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone became commonplace.

“They said opioids addressed and alleviated pain. It was a miracle cure, supposedly,” Volkmer said.

He said, despite a lack of public research, opioids were marketed as addiction-free. Doctors who did not prescribe opioids to help their patients overcome perpetual pain virtually were “accused of malpractice.”

In Massachusetts’ claim against the Sacklers, they were accused of hiring hundreds more sales representatives to pressure doctors. “They directed reps to encourage doctors to prescribe more of the highest doses of opioids. They studied unlawful tactics to keep patients on opioids longer and then ordered staff to use them,” the Massachusetts’ complaint reads.

After the medical community started to acknowledge people were becoming addicted around 2010, the number of prescriptions began to decrease but the amount prescribed increased.

Harinder Takyar is the only physician named in the suit while other local doctors are grouped as so-called “John Does.” Takyar was a Florence-based doctor who was charged with 42 counts of prescribing opioids to his patients without medical need in 2014.

Gov. Doug Ducey declared a statewide emergency in 2017 after a health report found 790 Arizonans died of opioid overdoses the previous year. State tracking showed 431 million opioid pills were prescribed in 2016, “enough for every Arizonan to have a 2.5-week supply.”

Since the emergency declaration, between June 15, 2017, and Oct. 10, 2019, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,633 deaths that were suspected of being opioid overdoses.

Volkmer said while the Pinal case is “very, very similar to Big Tobacco,” immediacy is the difference.

“If you smoke, in 20 or 30 years, you could get cancer,” he said. “Opioids have an immediate impact. It renders people unable to work. If one of my employees goes outside for a smoke break, they can come back to work. If they go out to pop a Percocet, they won’t be able to do that.”

Volkmer said he is “fairly optimistic” the case can be in court in 18-24 months.


This story appears in the the November issue of InMaricopa.

 

Thirteen of 14 food establishments in the Maricopa area inspected by Pinal County health personnel from Aug. 16 to Sept. 15 received top marks.

The exception was a slight markdown for Rob’s Convenience, a store on Papago Road that did not have adequate hot water pressure in the hand-washing sink or its three-compartment sink.

EXCELLENT [No violations found]
Central Arizona College – Café
Central Arizona College – Culinary
Dollar General
F.O.R. Maricopa
Gyro Grill
Legacy Traditional School
Maricopa Elementary
Sequoia Pathway Academy – K-6
Sequoia Pathway Academy – Secondary
Shell – Dairy Queen
Shell – Food Mart
Sonic Drive-In
Wendy’s

SATISFACTORY [Violations corrected during inspection]
Rob’s Convenience

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT [Critical items noted during inspection cannot be corrected immediately requiring follow-up inspection]
None

UNACCEPTABLE [Gross, unsanitary conditions necessitating the discontinuation of service]
None

Talks about prosecution philosophy, plea deals, marijuana and the challenges of the office

Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer talks about his time in office. Photo by Kyle Norby

Kent Volkmer, a Republican, was elected Pinal County Attorney in 2016 after several years in private practice. He sat down with InMaricopa to talk about criminal justice and some of the issues his office is tackling.

What is a day in the life of the county attorney?
A lot of meetings, as opposed to being in the courtroom every day. I would say any given day, probably three or four different meetings with various entities, various agencies. Typically, Monday is my most consistent day getting kind of caught up on stuff that happened on the weekend. On every Monday afternoon for about two hours, I meet with my chief of criminal, my chief deputy, my chief of staff as well as my head of civil, and we talk about kind of issues that are upcoming issues and preparing for what’s going on.

You rarely do appear in court. How many attorneys does your office have?
I believe we have 45 current attorneys.

In what circumstances do you go to court?
Honestly, there’s very, very few reasons. I actually am handling a trial coming up soon simply because it was a very unique situation. I felt comfortable handling the matter and didn’t want to put somebody else in that position just because of the unique circumstances surrounding it. Otherwise, it’s normally just saying, ‘Hi,’ to people. Actually, formally appearing on the record, I can’t tell the last time that happened.

Pinal County General Fund distribution

A giant chunk of the county budget (63 percent) goes to law enforcement, courts and prosecutions. What are your office’s costs?
Personnel. Ninety percent is just people.

What are your opportunities for keeping costs down?
There are some. Oh, yes, we absolutely do have grants. We have the JAG Byrne grant [Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant], which is federal prosecution grant. We have a number of other grants that come forward. Actually, in this current budget cycle here, I was able to request, and our Board of Supervisors gave me, a grant coordinator, so we’re actually going to have a dedicated person in our office that’s looking at those costs to see if there are any grants available. There are a number of federal grants. A lot of time when you do a pilot program or you do programs that other people aren’t doing, the government’s willing to give you those resources to get kick-started. That’s kind of how we kick-started our diversion program. The state gave us about $400,000 to really offset the costs to the taxpayer and then try to make the program sustainable.

How is the Diversion Program working?
I’m thrilled with it. About 2.5 percent of our felony cases are diverted and a bunch of our misdemeanor cases. So about 600, 650 cases in a given year are diverted. What that means is people that we identify as not being a danger to society but made a dumb decision, a poor decision, are given the opportunity to complete consequences, do a risk assessment, hopefully fix whatever caused them to make that bad decision in the first place, and then the charges are ultimately dismissed, so there’s no conviction on their record.

What are you enjoying most about your job so far?
That’s a good question. I think the ability that it gives me to really effect change in our community. There are a lot of different things I’ve been able to do, one of the things I’m very proud of is, under Arizona law when we’ve talked about marijuana specifically, prosecutors are given the opportunity to charge it either as a felony or as a misdemeanor. It’s sort of our decision. What I discovered is my office is making these decisions often without the input of law enforcement, without the input of the people who are on the ground interacting with these people. One of the things that we did is we flipped that and we allow the officer at the scene to make the initial decision and then we sort of review it on the back side. What we’ve discovered is that’s reduced about 750 felony charging of marijuana year-over-year. The other thing that does is significantly reduces the bookings at the jail, which is a huge cost savings to everyone. Just those types of things where we get to sit back and ask, ‘What’s the right thing to do? What’s the best thing for our community? What’s the safest thing we can do?’ This job gives me that opportunity. It’s a powerful position, but it’s also a humbling position and I love it.

Speaking of marijuana, if recreational marijuana were legalized in the state, how would that impact your office?
At the felony level, it would not have nearly the full impact. I have not had the opportunity to review all of the proposal, but I do know that they limit the amount of personal possession to one ounce, which I do like. Two and a half ounces is about a hundred joints. To say that’s personal possession has always kind of struck me as a little bit odd. So, they’ve reduced that number. There’s still going to be a gap between 18 and 21; I’m not sure how they want to treat that. There’s also still going to be above that threshold, how they’re going to handle it. Most of the time, when we’re prosecuting at the felony level, it’s going to be the sale amounts; it’s going to be the huge amounts. Depending on how that law is actually written, whether it’s passed, it’ll have some impact but not the impact it would have had, say, three or four years ago.

What is your philosophy when it comes to plea deals in cases of violent felonies?
Pleas are a necessary evil. About 98 percent of our cases resolve via plea. And that’s for a number of reasons, one of which is, frankly, the financial aspect of it. You mentioned most of our county budget goes to law enforcement. Our budget’s about $12 million of taxpayer dollars that we receive. If we were to try many more cases, that number would necessarily have to increase correspondingly. It’s not necessarily a dollar-for-dollar increase, but it would have to go up. So we do have to use those pleas. I’m much more comfortable using them in the non-violent cases. It’s the violent ones that are much more difficult, because part of my obligation is to make sure that I keep this community safe. I’m not going to say we don’t offer pleas, but typically on those murder cases, those real high-end cases, all of those pleas are normally staffed. That means the attorney assigned has reviewed it along with their supervisor and then usually my chief deputy and myself and the team to look at those and figure out what an appropriate resolution is.

In the violent cases, would it that state feels there’s a vulnerability in the case more than the cost?
It’s not a vulnerability in the case; it’s typically a vulnerability to the community. The law gives us the ability to put people away for a really long time. The issue is if someone has a violent propensity and they commit this offense, the law says, ‘Well, presumptive sentence, for example, is 10.5 years.’ And we say, ‘We’re going to give you 3.5 years.’ My concern is if that person gets out in 3.5 years and then commits another violent offense, how do I look that victim in the face and say, ‘Yeah, I know the law told me this is what I was supposed to do, but it was really expensive, so I put finances above your safety.’ Sometimes it does have to do with vulnerability of cases, but typically it’s what do we really need to do to make sure our community’s safe, and what does this person really need? Is this somebody who, again, maybe has a drug addiction, maybe has some violent tendencies? Is this somebody that we can put in prison and have them come out on probation to give what they need to return to our community, or is this somebody that we have to put away because we can trust them to follow our societal laws to keep us safe?

What have you accomplished so far and what would you like to accomplish before the end of this term?
Seems like I should know the answer to that question. I think the things that we’ve done have really been incremental. I don’t know that there’s been a lot of wide-sweeping, giant modifications that we’ve done. One of the things we’ve done is we’ve tried to streamline the process. I think my greatest accomplishment is, I believe, that my office is looking at each case as an individual case. We’re not looking at it as numbers. We’re not looking at it as paperwork, but these are humans that we’re trying to make an individualized decision on, to do what’s best not only for that person but for the community as a whole. That’s a mindset. It really is, because it’s easy to say, ‘No, no, this is what we’re going to do, and we can just run through these cases very quickly.’ It takes more time, it takes more willpower, it takes more emotional investment to look at an individual case and say, ‘Yeah, I know that these are both burglaries, but we need to treat these different because of the impact on the community, because of the impact on the victim, because the actual sort of criminal mindset that’s involved.’ I think my office is doing an exceptional job of carrying out that mission.

Did you have anything that you’d specifically like to accomplish by the end of this term?
I don’t know that I do. Our job is to see justice done. It’s not to gain convictions. It’s not to have a trial rate or put so many people in prison or put so many people on probation. Our job is to do everything we can to keep this community safe. Our community, we’re safer than any of the other big communities. The likelihood of one of our residents being victimized is about half the rate it is if you live in Maricopa County. It 2.5 times more likely in Pima County to be victimized. We’re safer than Yavapai County and Prescott, we’re safer than Yuma, we’re safer than all the other counties. My job is to make sure we keep that train headed in the right direction.

What has been your biggest challenge as county attorney?
The biggest challenge, I think, is finding the balance between what the law says we should do and what individualized justice is and figuring out what is truly in the best interest of our community. I’ll give you a perfect example. If you have two prior felonies and you’re caught selling drugs, let’s say a very small amount in hand-to-hand sales. You had half a gram, which is half an M&M, and you sell half of that amount to your friend for just the amount you paid for it. That’s a Class 2 felony. Under our laws, if you have those two prior felonies you should be serving 15.75 years in prison. I think most people would say 15.75 years is more than necessary. It’s sort of that ‘The strictest justice is the greatest injustice.’ But the question is, how far do you pull that back? What’s the appropriate amount? What’s really fair and just under those circumstances? Because, again, if somebody’s harmed or that person gets high and drives in a vehicle and kills somebody, it’s really hard to look those victims in the eye and say, ‘Well, I’m sorry, I took a chance and I was wrong.’ Maybe letting that person on probation isn’t right, but there’s got to be a balance, and I’m really trying to figure out what that balance is, what the community wants. I’m a representative of the community; I’ve been elected by the community to represent the will of the community. We are a representative democracy; we are a republic. We are not mob rule. So there is this delicate balance of trying to figure out what is really the thing that we should be doing for our community. What should we be doing that is in the interest of all the residents that are here? And then you also have that second sort of balance. What are other counties doing? Because we have a few different cities now that are sharing borders. We have Apache Junction that is on both sides. We have Queen Creek that’s on us both sides. We have kind of Oracle/Oro Valley/Catalina area there. We also have Marana who’s now growing. Depending on what side of the street you’re on should not make a huge difference in what your consequences are. You shouldn’t get probation if you’re on one side and prison on the other. That becomes justice by geography. That’s just as fundamentally flawed.


This story appears in part in the September issue of InMaricopa.

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

Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith announced he will not run for re-election representing District 4.

“In 2008 when I was elected into my first public office, I had no idea I would have the pleasure of serving the people for 12 years,” he said. “As I examine where I am in my life and what opportunities I might have waiting behind the next door, I know it is time for me to head in a different direction. That said, I announce today that l will not run for re-election as county supervisor.”

Smith was previously a mayor of Maricopa, where he and his wife Nancy Smith, a city councilmember, reside.

Reflecting on the progress Pinal County has made in the last few years, he said, “The County is very different from when I started my county service in 2013. In 2013, we were still feeling the impact of the Great Recession. The unemployment rate had soared to 13 percent with hundreds of jobs lost in the housing, agriculture and retail businesses. Sadly, families were being disrupted, and economic growth was basically non-existent.

“Today, Pinal County’s unemployment rate is around 4 percent. In fact, Pinal County was the first Arizona County to regain all jobs lost to the recession. New job opportunities abound. Our economy is being diversified with thousands of new high-tech jobs in industries such as green energy, automotive, aerospace, tourism and many others.”

Forbes recently listed Pinal County government as one of America’s Best-in-State Employers for 2019. Smith said that is something Pinal County can be proud of.

When asked what he considered his biggest accomplishment as supervisor, Smith said, “In 2014 as chairman of the board I led the effort to re-think the county’s Strategic Plan. I believe much of the success we’re having today is a result of driving to a road map that’s focused on growing jobs, improving of transportation network, increasing our quality of life and achieving financial stability.”

Smith is thankful for the support he received during his time as a public servant.

“I especially want to thank Nancy, my loving wife, and my family for their sacrifice and sharing time to allow me to be a public servant,” he said. “In addition, many thanks to Marlene Pearce, our district administrator, for her professionalism and loyal service, too.”

 

Starting April 2, Pinal County Air Quality begin issuing only 3-day open burning permits. All permits will expire by May 1, and Pinal County will suspend the issuance of all open burning permits on April 27.

Burn permits allow for the disposal of plant material by open burning during limited daytime hours.

Additionally, State law prohibits open burning in Area A from May 1 thru Sept. 30. The Pinal County portion of Area A includes Apache Junction, Queen Creek, Gold Canyon, San Tan Valley and portions of Florence.

The annual cycle of rising temperatures will quickly dry seasonal vegetation, leading to an acute wildfire risk in the desert and upland areas of the County.

The suspension on burn permits will continue until the summer monsoons arrive and mitigate the dual risks to public safety and public health.

Additional information on the Pinal County Air Quality program can be found at www.pinalcountyaz.gov or by calling the Pinal County Air Quality Division at 520-866-6929.

 

Supervisor Smith talks county economy, development

Supervisor Anthony Smith talks with Hidden Valley residents. Photo by Jim Headley

Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith had a public meeting for residents of the Hidden Valley/Thunderbird Farms area Thursday afternoon at the Raceway Bar and Grill.

Topics of discussion included the flood in the area when Hurricane Rosa parked over the region for about 18 hours in October. Also discussed were roads, taxes, the Thunderbird Fire Department and the local economy.

Smith brought several Pinal County managers and department supervisors with him to Thursday’s Hidden Valley meeting.

During the Hurricane Rosa flood of 2018, the Hidden Valley area was heavily impacted with lots of water, particularly Vekol Wash.

“There was about an 18-hour period where it just dumped a lot of rain and a lot of water in that area,” said Chris Wanamaker, Pinal County Flood Control section chief. “In that storm, we got almost what we would normally get in a whole year. In one area, we measured near the county yard, it was close to eight inches over the full three months. During the storm it was closer to three-and-a-half inches.”

Wanamaker said Rosa was a 10-year storm event and it cause a serious damage to private and public property.

“We identified 48 damage sites, private property and damage in homes. Some reports had 20 homes with water in them,” Wanamaker said.

In the coming fiscal year, a study of the Hidden Valley area is being launched to determine its vulnerability to flooding.

“This is an area that has not been studied before. That is the first step to moving into construction projects to negate flooding in the future,” he said, adding the study will look at existing data, damage estimates, talking to residents, typography and drainage patterns.

“We are identifying where are the projects needs and what sort of projects can we do,” Wanamaker said. “There are channels and basins, combinations of those, bridges and such. The goal of the study is to get a list of projects that we can actually build to reduce flooding on private property and reduce damage to public infrastructure.”

Wanamaker said he already knew there was extensive damage to the Hidden Valley area from Rosa, but after talking to residents at Thursday’s meeting, he said, “We probably have more flooding damage out there than we were aware of.  Not everybody calls us.”

Pinal County Emergency Manager Charles Kmet said there was about $700,000 damage to the county’s infrastructure during the Rosa event.

“After the event is over part of what our role is, is the recovery of that community or jurisdiction,” Kmet said. “What we did specifically with Rosa is we gathered all the information from public works road crews as to how much it was costing them to repave roads, fix roads and clear debris. We were able to put a dollar figure to that.”

He said that figure of almost $700,000 was submitted to the state department of emergency military affairs and to the governor’s office. With a state gubernatorial emergency declaration, funding is opened from the governor’s emergency fund for 75 percent reimbursement.

“Each year the governor’s office has a pot of $4 million to handle disasters around the state,” Kmet said, adding the county applied for and was approved for the emergency declaration by the governor.

The matter is before the department of emergency military affairs for their analysis of the flood damage.

Meanwhile, Smith updated residents on the county’s financial status.

“Pinal County was the first county to come out of and recover from the recession,” said Smith. “We have tremendously reduced our poverty level and hauled in a lot of jobs. Our population keeps growing at a brisk pace and our growth rate is around three percent. We have some great projects that are happening in the county. There is going to be more happening in the Hidden Valley area once the overpass is completed because a lot of development interest are looking to the south.”

He said there is a lot of industrial expansion coming to the county. He said there is a coming factory for Lucent Motors going to be built in the county as well as an Attesa race and test track that will be four times larger than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The huge facility will be used as research and development for the auto industry.

“Lucent is going to be breaking ground in the spring. The Attesa track will be breaking ground in the fall. So those are just two of the big projects that will be coming to the area,” Smith said. “We have a lot of good stuff happening in the county. We continue to find additional revenue that we are able to use to lower the tax rate.”

He said five years ago, Pinal County had the second highest tax rate in the state. Today, Pinal is fourth highest on the list of 15 counties in Arizona. Smith said the supervisors’ goal is to be in the middle of the pack.

“This year we will probably reduce our tax rate and the next year we will probably reduce our tax rate again. It helps a lot of the small businesses because they are not protected by what is called the 1-percent cap,” Smith said.

Photo by Jim Headley

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb said participating in "60 Days In" was beneficial for his department.

 

When television producers first approached Sheriff Mark Lamb about doing a reality show, he was understandably hesitant.

It was early in 2017, and Lamb was still getting his feet wet as sheriff of Pinal County. But when Lucky 8 producers reached out again in the spring of 2017, Lamb was re-thinking the proposal.

“They wanted to show what a border-state jail felt like,” Lamb said.

Sneak Peek from Thursdays episode of 60 Days In

SNEAK PEEK! Don't miss Sheriff Lamb on Thursday at 10PM during the brand new episode of 60 Days In!

Posted by 60 Days In on A&E on Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Lucky 8 produces “60 Days In” for A&E TV, and it is the network’s top-rated show. Now in its fifth season, the show sends a handful of innocent people undercover into jails. Posing as inmates, they gather information about other prisoners and staff from a vantage point usually unavailable to administration.

Previous jails filmed for the series included Clark County in Indiana and Fulton County in Georgia.

Lamb said he realized Pinal County Sheriff’s Office could gain great information at no cost to taxpayers. Filming at PCSO adult detention began in the fall of 2017 after PCSO and the TV producers did background checks on their faux inmates from diverse backgrounds.

“One had been in prison for 15 years,” Lamb said. “One was a police officer.”

The new season of “60 Days In” is airing now on Thursdays at 10 p.m.

After filming, the sheriff’s office debriefed the “cast” members and found consistent information from all participants. PCSO was instituting changes within a week. That included a body scanner purchase after learning the details of how drugs were entering the detention center.

“We didn’t get paid for the project, but we used the information to justify the purchase of the body scanner,” Lamb said.

Drugs, gangs and jail operations were focal points for PCSO in agreeing to do the series.

Had PCSO paid for a typical audit of the jail, “we would never get the intel that we got,” said Navideh Forghani, PCSO’s public information officer.

She said the department had also participated in A&E’s “Live PD” in the same way, weighing the pros and cons and seeing the benefits once they found a way to make sure everyone was safe. “Live PD,” she said, helped with recruitment, while “60 Days In” helped PCSO improve the jail.

While jail staff was as oblivious as the real inmates to the undercover operation, the sheriff said he had no intention of using the project as a “gotcha” against employees.

“We have 12-hour shifts for employees,” he said. “We wanted to make sure the programs were worthwhile.”

Lamb said his top priorities for any PCSO decision are employees, the agency, taxpayers and the county. He said he did not want the show to cost the department money. Any staff overtime required was paid by the producers.

While there were some things that went awry on the production side – participants forgetting their “back story,” for instance – there were not major issues for PCSO.

Besides the body scanners, the sheriff said the department has changed protocol, including improving the ability to lodge complaints.

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Supervisor Anthony Smith

County officials from across the state honored Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith for his outstanding service as President of the County Supervisors Association (CSA) at the organization’s Board of Directors meeting in November.

“It has been an absolute privilege to serve as president of this outstanding organization over the past year,” Smith said. “The work of CSA is essential to supporting local county operations throughout Arizona, and I am thankful that by working together counties had a very successful year at the Arizona State Capitol.”

Incoming CSA President and Yuma County Supervisor Russell McCloud lauded Smith for strengthening the partnership between county elected officials and state law-makers, stating: “Supervisor Smith’s leadership contributed directly to CSA’s success during the last legislative session. He is passionate about county officials engaging in the legislative process. He knows it’s the best way to help legislators understand the impacts of state policies, like if a bill increases costs to the county tax-payer or impedes local ability to be responsive to our communities. We followed his lead and CSA had one of its most productive legislative sessions in many years.”

Under Smith’s leadership, CSA worked with the governor and state legislators to address important issues impacting county finances and operations. Most notably, the state provided Arizona’s counties more than $20 million in financial relief by addressing recession-era policies that diverted county tax dollars to fund obligations of the state general fund. Also, legislators substantially amended or rejected over 30 proposals based on concerns raised by county supervisors.

“Serving as CSA’s president was an outstanding learning experience,” Smith said. “I am grateful for what we accomplished and for the inspiring support I have received from my colleagues across Arizona. I am looking forward to building on our successes in the years to come.”

“Supervisor Smith is a passionate and dedicated public servant and it was a privilege to work alongside him this year,” CSA Executive Director Craig Sullivan said. “His leadership and drive helped counties forge a production partnership with the state and that really helps government better serve the people of Arizona.”

CSA is a non-partisan research and advocacy organization representing the 61 county supervisors leading Arizona’s 15 counties. CSA serves as a forum for county leaders to address important issues facing local constituents and as a critical liaison between local county officials and the state and federal governments.

ADOT

 

Both sides in a lawsuit against Pinal County over a tax to improve roads are now waiting for a judge to decide whether that tax can continue to be collected during appeals.

The Goldwater Institute’s suit against the county and the Arizona Department of Revenue remains alive after a Maricopa County Tax Court ruled against the county in the case, Harold Vangilder et al. v. Arizona Department of Revenue et al., earlier this year. The defendants are preparing to file an appeal in the Arizona Court of Appeals Division 1.

The tax-court judgment was officially filed Nov. 15.

“It’s unfortunate the county is going to waste taxpayers’ money appealing this case when they’ve already wasted taxpayer money on the issue they were warned was illegal before the election,” Goldwater attorney Timothy Sandefur said.

At the center of the argument is Prop 417, approved by county voters in 2017. It is the funding mechanism for Prop 416, which is a plan to improve several roadways in Pinal County, including State Route 347. The Goldwater Institute, a conservative thinktank that litigates public-policy issues across the country, spoke out against Prop 417 during the campaign.

Joseph Kanefield, attorney for Pinal County, asked Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Whitten to stay the enforcement of the tax-court ruling and allow the collected monies to continue to be put into escrow until the case is finally resolved.

Whitten took up the motion Monday.

“He’s a judge who takes his time to weigh all the consequences of his decision,” Sandefur said.

Sandefur’s stand is that Pinal County opted to ignore the appropriate method of collecting sales tax for a funding project and instead devised a “scheme” that would exclude big-ticket businesses like auto dealerships, farming equipment dealers and others selling items that would generate more than $10,000 in sales tax. Kanefield argued the proposition as voted on by the public was not in the form as presented to the tax court by the plaintiffs.

“We believe the tax court erred in his ruling in terms of what was presented to the voters versus the resolution originally proposed by the Pinal Regional Transportation Authority,” Kanefield said. “Ultimately, the way the tax was structured was within the scope of the state statute that allows the RTA to propose a tax at a variable or modified rate, which is exactly what they did.”

Kanefield said if Judge Whitten rules against his motion to stay the enforcement of the tax-court ruling, he will include that issue with his appeal to the higher court.

Collection of the tax has never been suspended.

“A general principal of tax law is you don’t enjoin or stop the collection of a tax that’s being challenged in court,” Kanefield said, “because the ramifications of that are pretty severe.”

Meanwhile, Sandefur has an appeal of his own after the court denied his motion to collect $12,000 in attorney’s fees from the defendants in the case.

Pinal County has until mid-December to file its intention to appeal. Kanefield said he may ask the appeals court for an expedited process. He estimated the briefings could be completed by spring, “unless we can get the court to act quicker.”

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

Candidates
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

#InMaricopaTownHall

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.

IF YOU GO
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'

ADOT

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
520-568-9098
Maricopa-AZ.gov

 

Mayor
Christian Price
520-316-6821
Christian.Price@Maricopa-AZ.gov

City Council
Vice Mayor Peggy Chapados
520-316-3826
Peggy.Chapados@Maricopa-AZ.gov

Councilmember Marvin L. Brown
520-316-2020
Marvin.Brown@Maricopa-AZ.gov

Councilmember Julia Gusse
520-568-9098
Julia.Gusse@Maricopa-AZ.gov

Councilmember Vincent Manfredi
520-316-6823
Vincent.Manfredi@Maricopa-AZ.gov

Councilmember Nancy Smith
520-316-6822
Nancy.Smith@Maricopa-AZ.gov

Councilmember Henry Wade
520-316-6825
Henry.Wade@Maricopa-AZ.gov

 

Maricopa Unified School District
44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.
520-568-5100
MUSD20.org

Governing Board
President AnnaMarie Knorr
AKnorr@musd20.org

Vice President Gary Miller
GMiller@musd20.org

Member Torri Anderson
TorriAnderson@musd20.org

Member Patti Coutré
PCoutre@musd20.org

Member Joshua Judd
JoshJudd@musd20.org

 

Maricopa Flood Control District
480-980-0531

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

 

Pinal County

Sheriff
Mark Lamb
971 Jason Lopez Circle, Building C, Florence
520-866-5997
PinalCountyAZ.gov/Sheriff

County Attorney
Kent Volkmer
30 N. Florence St, Building D, Florence
520-866-6271
PinalCountyAttorney@PinalCountyAZ.gov
PinalCountyAZ.gov/CountyAttorney

Justice of the Peace – Precinct 8 (Maricopa/Stanfield)
Lyle Riggs
19955 N. Wilson Ave.
520-866-3999
PinalCountyAZ.gov/Judicial

Constable – Precinct 8 (Maricopa/Stanfield)
Bret Roberts
19955 N. Wilson Ave.
520-840-5294
Bret.Roberts@PinalCountyAZ.gov

Assessor
Douglas Wolf
31 N. Pinal St, Building E, Florence
520-866-6353
Assessor@PinalCountyAZ.gov
PinalCountyAZ.gov/Assessor

Recorder
Virginia Ross
31 N. Pinal St, Building E, Florence
520-866-6830
Recorder@PinalCountyAZ.gov
PinalCountyAZ.gov/Recorder

Board of Supervisors
135 N. Pinal St, Building A, Florence
520-866-6220
PinalCountyAZ.gov/BOS

Supervisor Anthony Smith [District 4, Maricopa]
41600 W. Smith-Enke Road, Suite 128
520-866-3960
Anthony.Smith@PinalCountyAZ.gov

Supervisor Pete Rios [District 1]
520-866-7830
Pete.Rios@PinalCountyAZ.gov

Supervisor Mike Goodman [District 2]
520-866-8080
Mike.Goodman@PinalCountyAZ.gov

Supervisor Stephen Miller [District 3]
520-866-7401
Steve.Miller@PinalCountyAZ.gov

Supervisor Todd House [District 5]
480-982-0659
Todd.House@PinalCountyAZ.gov

 

Central Arizona College (Pinal County Community College District) Governing Board
8470 N. Overfield Road, Coolidge
800-237-9814
CentralAZ.edu

Member Dan Miller [District 4 – Maricopa]
Dan.Miller2@CentralAZ.edu

President Gladys Christensen [District 1]
Gladys.Christensen@CentralAZ.edu

Member Debra Banks [District 2]
Debra.Banks@CentralAZ.edu

Member Rick Gibson [District 3]
Rick.Gibson@CentralAZ.edu

Member Jack Yarrington
Jack.Yarrington@CentralAZ.edu

 

State of Arizona

Governor
Doug Ducey
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix
602-542-4331
Engage@AZ.gov
AZGovernor.gov

State Legislators
Steve Smith – State Senator – District 11 (Maricopa)
1700 W. Washington St, Room 33, Phoenix
602-926-5685
STSmith@AZLeg.gov
AZLeg.gov

Mark Finchem – State Representative – District 11 (Maricopa)
1700 W. Washington St, Room 129, Phoenix
602-926-3122
MFinchem@AZLeg.gov
AZLeg.gov

Vince Leach – State Representative – District 11 (Maricopa)
1700 W. Washington St, Room 226, Phoenix
602-926-3106
VLeach@AZLeg.gov
AZLeg.gov

Secretary of State
Michelle Reagan
1700 W. Washington St., 7th Floor, Phoenix
1-800-458-5842
AZSOS.gov

Attorney General
Mark Brnovich
1275 W. Washington St., Phoenix
602-542-5025
AZAG.gov

State Treasurer
Jeff Dewit
1700 W. Washington St, 1st Floor, Phoenix
602-542-7800
AZTreasury.gov

State Mine Inspector
Joe Hart
1700 W. Washington St, 4th Floor, Phoenix
602-542-5971
ASMI.AZ.gov

State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Diane Douglas
1535 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix
800-352-4558
adeinbox@AZED.gov
AZED.gov/superintendent

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

Chairman Tom Forese
602-542-3933
foresee-web@AZCC.gov

Commissioner Bob Burns
602-542-3682
rburns-web@AZCC.gov

Commissioner Doug Little
602-542-0742
little-web@AZCC.gov

Commissioner Andy Tobin
602-542-3625
tobin-web@AZCC.gov

Commissioner Boyd W. Dunn
602-542-3935
dunn-web@AZCC.gov

 

U.S. Congress

Tom O’Halleran –  U.S. Representative – U.S. House District 1
126 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
202-225-3361
211 N. Florence St, Suite 1, Casa Grande
520-316-0839
3037 W. Ina Road, Suite 101, Tucson
928-304-0131
OHalleran.House.gov

John McCain – U.S. Senator
218 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.
202-224-2235
2201 E. Camelback Road, Suite 115, Phoenix
602-952-2410
407 W. Congress St, Suite 103, Tucson
520-670-6334
McCain.Senate.gov

Jeff Flake – U.S. Senator
Senate Russell Office Building 413, Washington, D.C.
202-224-4521
2200 E. Camelback Road, Suite 120, Phoenix
602-840-1891
6840 N. Oracle Road, Suite 150, Tucson
520-575-8633
Flake.Senate.gov

 

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
WhiteHouse.gov


2018 is an election year. For updated elected official information, visit https://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.

https://www.cdc.gov/std/products/infographics.htm



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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:

 

NOTICE OF HEARING ON PROPOSAL OF THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF PINAL COUNTY, ARIZONA, TO INCUR A LONG-TERM OBLIGATION NOT SECURED BY THE FULL FAITH AND CREDIT OF SUCH COUNTY

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