You would have thought that residents of the area had been personally invited to attend the Pinal County Board of Supervisors' Meeting Wednesday, in Florence with the number of people in attendance. Oh wait, they were personally invited by County Attorney Lando Voyles and Florence Unified School District Superintendent Amy Fuller, but why?
Why would the County Attorney and the FUSD Superintendent send out emails, letters and make calls requesting (mandating) that recipients of RICO funding and FUSD staff show up to the meeting? None of it seems to make any sense. After all, you would think that the County Attorney would be aware of the rules and regulations of RICO money re-allocation, wouldn't he? And I can't imagine a school district Superintendent not educating herself on the issue before asking staff to “speak out”.
So let's break all of this down and see what we can come with. Here is the letter sent out on May 23rd by County Attorney Lando Voyle's to the recipients of RICO funding.
May 23, 2014
You are receiving this letter from me because you have requested and/or received RICO funds from my office in the last two years. Currently, some members of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors are making statements to the effect that the RICO funds allocated from my office should be used internally rather than disbursed to the community for use in helping our youth avoid the dangers of drug usage and abuse.
If you are unable to attend the meeting on May 28, 2014, I would ask that you please send a letter to your Board Supervisor supporting my office’s use of RICO funds for distribution in the community. Thank you for your continued support of my office’s use of the RICO funds and your commitment to our community and our youth.
Pinal County Attorney
Some concerns with this letter:
- There was no agenda item for the May 28th meeting, which made the request to complete the “attached Request to speak” form pointless. If the item is not on the agenda, all anyone can do is speak at the beginning of the meeting during the Call to the Public. From the county website: Call to Public - Consideration and discussion of comments from the public. Those wishing to address the Pinal County Board of Supervisors need not request permission in advance. Action taken as a result of public comment will be limited to directing staff to study the matter or rescheduling the matter for further consideration and decision at a later date.
- The Board of Supervisors had made “statements to the effect that the RICO funds allocated from my office should be used internally rather than disbursed to the community” …. have made statements … is the Board no longer allowed to make statements?
- The letter was sent to organizations that have received RICO funding. What about all of the amazing non-profits across the county that haven't had access to these funds? Were they turned down? Are they not part of the club? What criteria was used to reject funds?
- The Board of Supervisors have absolutely no authority to regulate how RICO funds are re-allocated. So why would our County Attorney ask all of these recipients to take time off work to attend a meeting with a “Request to Speak” form without an agenda item, to fight for funds that the Board has no authority to vote for or against?
Now let's discuss the email sent out May 26th by FUSD Superintendent Amy Fuller with a phone call follow up the morning of May 28th:
I hope you each are having a relaxing Memorial Day,
We need representation from our schools to be at the Wednesday Supervisors meeting at 9:00 AM. Numbers are important so please let me know who will be representing your school. Chris will have a sample statement they can read that should include the number of people you're each representing. The statement should be formally written ( on letterhead paper) and signed. Our Sheriff and County Attorney have supported us when all other funding has failed.
We need to come together for their support so they may continue using RICO Funds to prevent crime among our youth. Educating the youth and keeping them out of the streets doing productive activities prevents crime and builds great communities.
Bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria staff, anyone and everyone is invited to attend. Again, FUSD needs to show support to the leaders who tirelessly support us.
See you Wednesday -Amy
Amy P. Fuller , Ed.D
Some concerns with this letter:
- As a staff member receiving this request, from your boss, the Superintendent of the school district, do you take this as a casual request or as a mandate to attend? Did the staff clock out to attend the meeting, losing take home pay? Or was this a paid field trip?
- “We need representation” - representation for what?
- Chris will have a sample statement for you to read, that will be formally written, on district letterhead and signed? - Why?
- Bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria staff, anyone and everyone is “invited to attend”. Would you take this as an invite that you could say no to?
- Again, FUSD needs to show support to the leaders who tirelessly support us. Which leaders are Dr Fuller referring to? The teachers? The principals? Elected state officials? Or is she speaking about the county attorney and county sheriff?
Does Dr Fuller know that the Board of Supervisors has no say in how RICO funds are re-allocated?
Did Dr Fuller know that there was no item on the agenda that would allow any of her “volunteer” staff to speak?
I am going to have to believe that there is no way the Superintendent of the district would make these types of requests while knowing that it was all for show. She must have thought that staff “voices” would make a difference, right?
Now let's go on to the actual meeting itself. There was standing room only and the call to the public took an hour and a half. After the first person spoke, a representative from the Florence Unified School District who had been “asked” to attend, Supervisor Rios took a point of privilege and stated very clearly that the Board
- has always been in support of the amazing services that the non-profits across the county provide and
- has absolutely no authority to re-allocate any RICO funds in any way, shape or form.
Rios even explained that he, along with many others, had tried to change the statue to allow counties to be able to redirect RICO funding, but that effort was defeated and the only people that could determine how the funds are re allocated are the Sheriff and the County Attorney.
Looking around the room there were some confused expressions to say the least, but that didn't stop the rest of us from listening to representatives, 27 of them, plead with the Board of Supervisors about the value of their organization explaining that without the tens of thousands of dollars that the County Sheriff and County Attorney's office give them, they would either no longer exist or all of our youth would be incarcerated.
The pleading continued for an hour and a half. An hour and a half of begging and pleading to a Board that has no authority to do anything at all regarding the issue. Dr Fuller even spoke reminding the Board that she had 8000 students, who would all become voters and over half of her 1200 person staff were voters. So thoughtful that she wanted to remind the Supervisors of that don't you think? I looked around for County Attorney Voyles, but surprisingly he wasn't there. Even after inviting so many of his closest donors, I mean friends, I mean supporters, I mean … well you know what I mean.
After the last person stood up to beg for their share of RICO funding, the room seemed to take a deep breath thinking we were finally going to begin dealing with the agenda …. not quite though.
The Sheriff then took it upon himself to let everyone know that “he” had not sent out any letters to anyone and that he had NO idea anyone was going to be at the meeting. He was however pleasantly surprised. He was only at the meeting because he had an item on the agenda that he was eager to discuss with the Board.
What was that item you ask? The Sheriff was asking for an additional $2 million dollars.
Before I wrap up, I want to be very clear. I have no issue with non-profit organizations and have personally been either involved or founded dozens of them. Most of those organizations have never received a penny of RICO funding and have done amazing things.
My issue with the RICO re allocation is that there are actually strict guidelines on how and to whom, RICO funds are distributed and I don't believe they are being followed. While it is up to the Sheriff and or the County Attorney's office to determine how the funds are used, it is NOT a free for all. There are limits, restrictions and processes that are supposed to be followed. Giving away tens of thousands of dollars to organizations that then become dependent on "you" and can only thank you with their vote, is not how RICO funds were meant to be spent.
Our sworn officers need to become the Sheriff's top priority. Their safety should be #1. When the county is faced with a reduced budget and when RICO funds CAN be used for additional purposes to keep our officers safe, I agree with the Board of Supervisors that the Law & Order Team should reconsider their priorities and use the funds to keep our officers safe. A strong law enforcement department with the right tools is a benefit for everyone.
Keep our deputies safe, fund the tools and resources that they need day in and day out to protect our communities. Follow the RICO guidelines and give the funds for the right reasons.
As I told the 8th graders at Mountain Vista Middle School, do the right thing, even when no one else is watching (or voting).
If you'd like to watch the Board of Supervisors' May 28th meeting that I am referring to you may click here.
If you'd like to watch the Board of Supervisors' Worksession that "caused" these letters to go out, click here.