5/9/2012 9:00:00 AM
Sugarcoating the annex opinion

Butch Meriwether

Butch's Brew

If you have a red delicious apple and you paint it a different color, it still is a red delicious apple. And no matter how much effort is made to spin or sugarcoat Coconino County Attorney Dave Rozema's opinion in regard to the Mohave County Library Annex lease agreement and the two county employees who are partners of ORB Investments, Arizona laws were definitely violated.

What is most disturbing about this entire discomfiture is the media release by Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith in regard to Coconino County's review and opinion of the library district annex and the two County employees who are partners of ORB Investments. It took Smith 18 days from when Coconino's opinion was handed down to make a simple three-paragraph news release attempting to state there was no intentional wrongdoing by either employee. I wonder who in the county he had to seek approval from prior to issuing the news release.

Smith indicates in his news release (issued only to the Kingman Daily Miner) the two county employees are currently in compliance with filing of the appropriate legal disclosures, and he is correct in saying so.

Some people might wonder why these two employees are now compliant. Here's why: Beverly Brooks, who works directly for County Attorney Matt Smith, filed her "notice of conflict of interest" the day after a formal request was delivered to the Mohave County Attorney's Office on Jan. 30, requesting that an investigation be conducted into the possibility of Arizona laws being violated in regard to the leasing of a building for the Library District Annex. However, Yvonne Orr, who works directly for Mohave County Manager Ron Walker, held off filing her notice of conflict of interest until April 19, six days after the opinion was handed down by Coconino County.

The current compliance by the two women doesn't erase the fact that they originally violated Arizona laws by not filing conflict of interest notifications. This may sound minor to some, but it isn't. If they intentionally or knowingly violated any provision of A.R.S. 38-503, then they committed a Class 6 felony. If they only recklessly or negligently violated the A.R.S., then they committed a Class 1 misdemeanor.

The punishment for being found guilty of either offense is forfeiture of your tax supported job - "...shall forfeit his public office or employment if any..." is the verbiage in A.R.S. 38-509.

I honestly don't think anyone wants Brooks' and Orr's employment with the county terminated, but some punishment should and must be handed down for them violating Arizona laws. I suggest non-punitive letters of reprimand be placed into their employment files for failing to originally file the letters of conflict of interest in 2007 as mandated by A.R.S. 38-503.

To top it off, the county itself violated A.R.S. 38-503 subparagraph C by leasing the Library District Annex building from ORB Investments without a public competitive bidding process since there was a conflict of interest. A.R.S. 38-503 C. states, "... no public officer or employee of a public agency shall supply to such public agency any equipment, material, supplies or services, unless pursuant to an award or contract let after public competitive bidding ...." I guess county officials will now say they didn't realize there was a conflict of interest.

I think one of the most important questions is, how did the county become aware of ORB Investment's property since no competitive bidding notice was posted, unless someone, possibly Brooks or Orr, told the county's procurement department of the building. The answer to that question will probably never be revealed.

I believe there must be a total transparency within Mohave County government in order that there will no hint of impropriety, favoritism or possible illegal activities being perpetrated by county employees or county officials. Every time a relative of a county employee enters into a contract for services, that employee must file a notice of conflict of interest as stipulated in A.R.S. 38-503.

And last but not least, it appears that Coconino County's opinion proves Mohave County Manager Ron Walker's five-page rant and vilification of Hildy Angius was unjustified, as was his suggestion Ms. Angius' appearance before the BOS resembled the Jerry Springer Show. It seems appropriate to say the Springer show more closely resembles the actions of the Mohave County Administration.

And speaking of the BOS, it is time for the Supervisors to demand County Manager Ron Walker apologize for his disdainful attitude toward Hildy Angius and Supervisor Gary Watson in his five-page rant. Will an apology occur? Can pigs fly?
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