TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A major development in KGUN9's year long investigation into public corruption in Pima County. One of the Pima County Sheriff's Unions has reversed course and asked the Arizona Auditor General to immediately step in and examine past RICO spending. The RICO scandal rocked the Sheriff's Department after the F-B-I investigated a money laundering conspiracy that lasted 18 years.
This move comes about a week after our interview with protem Judge Rick Romley, the former Maricopa County Attorney who prosecuted the largest corruption scandal in Arizona.
Romley told KGUN9 in mid October, "I just don't understand why everybody is fighting this so much. I mean transparency is the only way to sit there and rebuild confidence. Open it up."
It's that statement by Romley -- to open up the books on past RICO expenditures -- that led the Pima County Deputy Sheriff Association to go over the boss's head and ask the Auditor General directly.
In a letter to KGUN9, union's chairman Eric Cervantez wrote:
Considering the recent news release by KGUN9 news and citing the continued RICO investigation the PCDSA Board take the following stance:
The PCDSA Board members agree with the statements from Pro Tem Judge Rick Romley and that he stated he would advise Barbra LaWall, the Sheriff, and the Board of Supervi-sors to open the books. That transparence is the only way to rebuild confidence.
PCDSA believes that a combined investigation from the Attorney General's Office and the Auditor General's Office would be best. This would allow for the entire issue involving RICO be resolved faster than waiting for two separate investigations and be put to rest.
The union had supported Sheriff Mark Napier's decision to wait until the Arizona Attorney General Office finished its criminal investigation into the money laundering scandal. A few weeks ago, County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry suggested the Pima County Board of Supervisors also hold off on any attempt to audit the County Attorney's past RICO spending "because it's a criminal investigation and we would not want to interfere with that in any way."
For months, Sheriff Mark Napier has reiterated a similar sentiment. And It's no different this week -- after we requested a response to Romley's statements. Napier emailed, "It is my intention to allow the (Attorney General) to finish its review before taking any additional action."
In the October interview, Romley said, "I don't understand why. The Auditor General works with the Attorney General all the time. The Auditor General worked with me all the time when we're doing a criminal review as well."
The union heeded Romley's recommendation.
Cervantez wrote: We again agree with Pro Tem Judge Rick Romley that the B.O.S should seek out-side counsel for RICO advice. He also stated that the Attorney General and the Auditor General's Office work together all the time. Any subsequent RICO investigation cannot include those that are potentially involved. There is no other choice in a conflict of interest case than to find a third party to investigate or assist. That party in this situation is best suited for the Auditor General.
Many deputies have told KGUN9 the PCDSA has worked long and hard over the past two and a half years to establish a positive connection with the community. Cervantez said the department "will continue to build upon that relationship by holding Pima County Government accountable to the same rules, regulations, laws, and ordinances that our community is also expected to follow. The investigation involving Countywide RICO use past, current, and future needs to be addressed, so that Pima County Government can move forward in a positive light and focus on the most important part of Pima County, which is its citizens in the community."
KGUN9 reached out to Sheriff Napier about the union's decision. He said he stands by his statement that he wants to wait until the Attorney General completes its investigation.
Romley says about six months ago, he spoke with Auditor General Debra Davenport about the need for outside audits. He said,"she thinks it's very important. She thinks there are significant issues not just in Pima County, but just out there in general with the use of RICO dollars." He says an Auditor General review could take six months to a year and a half depending upon the cooperation of the agency.
PCDSA letter to Auditor General Debra Davenport:
I am writing you on behalf of the Pima County Deputy Sheriff's Association (PCDSA) to humbly request for an investigation by the Division of Financial Investigations of the RI-CO expenditures and use by the above listed entities for the duration stated.
There is a current investigation conducted by the Attorney General Office with no set date on completion. To bring justice and closure to a recently damaging issue, we ask for a combined or simultaneous investigation.
Information arose in 2015 that led to an investigation of the Pima County Sheriff's De-partment by the FBI. Which in turn led to the indictment of the second in command, Christopher Radtke, resulting in Federal charges.
Allegations arose following the election of the new Sheriff in January of 2017, which out-lined more potential RICO violations on a state level. The allegations incorporated other areas of government in Pima County to include the Pima County Attorney's Office.
The PCDSA believes that the situation involving RICO Funds in Pima County is a matter of public concern, which should be investigated with the assistance of the Auditor Gen-eral. PCDSA humbly request that an in-depth investigation be started so that information can be shared with the ongoing efforts and investigation being conducted by the Attor-ney General.
The PCDSA further asks that the findings be separate and complete in accordance to the guidelines that govern the Division of Financial Investigations.
PCDSA Chairman and Board