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Questionable RICO Spending? Outside counsel reviews County Attorney requests

Posted at 7:43 PM, Feb 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-19 21:43:05-05

Ally Miller said, "I'm not saying a single thing on this list is wrong. I'm saying I don't have the expertise to determine that and no one on this board does." Sharon Bronson said she was also concerned. 

But Ramon Valadez said he didn't think having the attorney review the request is worth the money. "We're talking about using a legal resource to then review each one of these applications. That doesn't make sense to me."

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry advised the board that his staff reviewed the materials and believe the awards meet RICO guidelines and regulations. Huckleberry wrote that he did not believe the 50 grants requires review by the new outside legal counsel -- Artie Eaves.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors will find out tomorrow whether some of the County Attorney's RICO expenditures follow state guidelines.    
The board hired outside counsel to review RICO spending after our months long investigation revealed questionable spending practices.

Barbara LaWall wanted the board to approve funding for 50 non-profit agencies totaling over a quarter of a million dollars. During the last board meeting, 25 agency representatives lined up to appeal to the board for funds. LaWall approved each of the requests  -- required by law -- and submitted the list and summaries to the Board of Supervisors. All the requests to be approved all at once.

3 of the board members disagreed. Miller said, "And even if we go beyond what we think the statute requires to make sure we're doing the right thing."  

During the meeting, Bronson read a letter that state representative Bob Thorpe sent to the board.

"Last year, the legislature reformed RICO and Civil Asset Forfeiture laws in order to address abuses of these laws and the assets collected by county prosecutors from our citizens practices within the office of County Attorney Barbara LaWall and the Pima County Sheriff's Department. 

Rico and CAF laws were never intended to take monies from average citizens, who are not part of organized crime, to be used (abused) by government officials and agencies as a slush fund for non-law enforcement activities. These practices are counter to everything that embodies the concept of 'public trust.'

LaWall's current requests, that include a $5,000 payment to the Perimeter Bicycling Association of America, Inc., demonstrate to me that further state legislative action is needed in order to hold county officials personally accountable for their decisions."

The board voted 3-2 to send the 50 requests to legal counsel. Another memo shows legal counsel needed to complete the review in time for the Feb. 20th board meeting.