TUCSON, Ariz. - Who is in charge of the purse strings when it comes to RICO funds? The state may end up deciding.
It's another major development in our more than year long investigation into public corruption in Pima County. This one centers on questionable RICO requests by the Pima County attorney. We've been investigating how the Pima County Attorney has used RICO funds -- that's money seized from people accused of crimes.
Barbara Lawall wanted the supervisors to approve a quarter of a million dollars for 50 non-profit agencies, but the attorney hired by the board determined -- a third totaling $85,000 -- did not meet the RICO spending requirements.
He gave Lawall the opportunity to defend her spending requests and after another review -- the attorney sent a letter to the county with his recommendation. "Our outside attorney, Artie Eaves, indicated he didn't think they should be funded by RICO. We told the county attorney we are not going to fund those organization with RICO money," said supervisor Sharon Bronson.
Eaves wrote, "At issue in all of the unapproved expenditures is whether the organizations have significant ties to law enforcement sufficient to merit an award of funds. It remains my opinion that the organizations for which she has submitted clarification still lack the sufficient law enforcement nexus. Ms. LaWall feels quite strongly that the groups do carry the necessary nexus to law enforcment. Following her clarifications, I remain unconvinced."
Administrator, Chuck Huckleberry, also weighed in. In a memo to the board dated three days later, he wrote, "As the board knows reviewing and obtaining of the County Attorney's Anti-Racketeering Fund Request has been both problematic and frustrating."
He suggested the board ask the legislature to not let individual county attorney or sheriff make the sole decision on any RICO spending and instead make "all anti-racketeering funds available to offset the ever rising cost of funding hte criminal justice system."