Rep. Warren Petersen has crafted legislation that will have a chilling effect on public officials who illegally waste money and then walk away with lucrative benefits or severence pay. It’s HB2115 Simple, straightforward, brief. (This bill is scheduled to be heard Jan. 28 at 9:00 am in the Government and Higher Education Committee. See ACTION at the end of this article.)
Should a public official who is caught and terminated for fraudulently, lavishly spending taxpayer dollars on meals, travel, hotels, entertaining, etc., go on to receive lucrative payouts, annuities, pensions, and other benefits?
Rep. Warren Petersen doesn’t think so, and neither do the many other sponsors and co-sponsors of this excellent bill. HB2115 spells out that anyone who is found guilty would forfeit any future benefits. While there already are laws on the books against fraud and misappropriation of public funds, these cases don’t always get pursued as the official is fired or even allowed to quit.
HB2115 ensures that these public officials forfeit any future benefits. States Petersen: “All too often, those who are caught and terminated leave with lavish payouts, annuities, pensions and other benefits. Termination from a high position in government office should not be like winning the Lotto. Rewarding someone for bad behavior can only encourage more of the same.” See Petersen Seeks to Prevent Lavish Payouts to Errant Public Officials.
Two cases come to mind.
One, cited in the Capitol Times article, is Valley Metro CEO Stephen Banta, who spent lavishly on meals and travels. Some of the people he claimed to entertain on the public dime say they weren’t even present at those events. But he is reportedly walking away, not just with his public pension, but also with a big annuity.
More recently is this January 20, 2016 article titled Superior Wants Mayor to Resign: "Proof of stolen cash from town coffers has led to an uprising of people calling for the resignation of Superior Mayor Jayme Valenzuela, who is also a commander with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office." Town clerk Rachel Sanchez had discovered that a town debit card was used to make 4 cash withdrawals totaling $1300 for personal use, including at Wild Horse Pass Casino in Chandler. Then, when the Town ordered a third-party audit by a private firm, it was discovered that Mayor Valenzuela used the town’s card eight times since 2012 to withdraw $2,300 for personal use.
The person who was fired? Town Clerk Rachel Sanchez, who found and reported the evidence. Mayor Valenzuela was the deciding vote to get rid of her.
And another thing! As stated by a commenter at the end of the Capitol Times article: "What about the person who approved those expenses? What about the accounting firm that conducted the initial audit? What about the Board of Directors that had access to the financials? All are guilty of not doing their job."
At the very least, Valenzuela should resign. But watch out. How much public money might he receive in payouts, annuities, pensions, or some other benefits?
HB2115 will be heard by the Government and Higher Education Committee at 9:00 am Thursday, January 28. Please contact its members and ask them to vote YES. Click HERE to find their names. Then, click on the name of each Representative to send an email. OR, click HERE to learn how to use the RTS system, by following the procedure as explained by Jose Borrajero. RTS (Request to Speak) is a way for your comments to be read during the Committee meeting. You can submit your comments from the comfort of your home or office.