By Tom Prezelski
Cross-Posted from Rum, Romanism and Rebellion
This week, there was a settlement in the State of Arizona's case against two Tucson Transportation Department supervisors who misappropriated at least $83,000 in public resources for personal gain. They will each have to pay just $5000 to the city.
This result is a failing by state, rather than city, officials. This fact cannot be allowed to get in the way of The Arizona Daily Star's usual narrative about the city, so the once-great morning daily chose to write about something else entirely.
First, they create a controversy where none exists. The story states that "officials were divided on whether the restitution is adequate," but the two quotes which follow do not support this statement. Councilman Kozachik is quoted calling the settlement "a lousy deal," while other city officials, including Mayor Rothschild, are quoted saying that they did their "due diligence." The two sentiments are not at all contrary, so it is hard, at least from what is written, to see evidence of this reported disagreement.
Next, they are dismissive of those who point out that this was the Attorney General's responsibility. The Star writes that city officials "said state prosecutors and the courts were responsible," as if this notion was merely someone's opinion. The equivocation in this regard is particularly troubling.
The prosecution of official corruption is the province of the Attorney General. This is well established in statute and by precedent. This is not someone's opinion, or something someone "said." It is a well-established fact and should be reported as such.
City officials did their job by identifying the problem and handing the evidence to the Attorney General's office. Their responsibility ended there. It is Tom Horne's office that deserves the blame for the inadequate response. The real scandal here, the one that is missed by the Star's reporters in their eagerness to toss red meat to the likes of Jon LoGiudice, is what this says about what has happened to the Attorney General's office.
During Horne's scandal-plagued tenure, he has packed his office with political hacks, then made unnecessary and counterproductive reorganizations of his department to make room for even more political hacks. His legal problems have been more than a minor distraction, as his staff have been made to deal with them on taxpayer time. It should come as no surprise that his office is no longer equipped to aggressively pursue this sort of case. The divisions that handle fraud, civil rights, and consumer issues have been eviscerated as well. All of this is the product of having an Attorney General whose priority is grandstanding rather than actually doing the work of the people of Arizona.
Part of the settlement requires that each of the two defendants pay $1000 into a fund that the Attorney General maintains to pay for efforts to prosecute racketeering. This is ironic considering that Tom Horne's office barely does such cases any more.
There are plenty of things for which the City deserves criticism. In this case, however, the Star's very pointed reporting is, as it is too often, misdirected. Once again, in their enthusiasm to make the Council look bad, they have ignored the real story.