If you run for county supervisor in Yavapai County, AZ, you have to disclose whether you intend to hold a second job. But the election law says you don’t have to state how much money you make from any source, except campaign donations.
Double-dipping has historically meant “taking two incomes from the same source” (such as holding a government job and receiving a government pension), but the Yavapai County supervisors have taken the definition to a new level that includes four incomes for some and generous county contracts for their private companies or wives.
Supervisor Jack Smith took criticism when he disclosed he would keep his Ace Hardware manager job while also taking the county supervisor’s $63,000 salary. He declared in debates that the supervisor’s job was not a full-time job.
“While I have no comment about supervisors having more than one income, I do feel they should not have more than one job!” said Harold Wise, a former Prescott and Prescott Valley, AZ councilman.
“The position of county supervisor encompasses many different duties and no one can fully carry out those duties while being beholding to an outside employer or business. The position of county supervisor is compensated at a rate of more than $60,000 a year and the citizens are entitled to someone who takes the position seriously, not as a side line to help their elite friends!” Wise was an opponent of Smith’s.
Sixty-three thousand dollars makes for a good question. Isn’t that a bit much for a county that busted its U.S. census britches in 2010 with 211,000 population? And why isn’t that a full time gig?
Not too long ago, the cows outnumbered people in Yavapai County. Ranchers, Indians and forest land are keeping the rural, Arizona feel that stretches from the Verde Valley, up and over Mingus Mountain, across both sections of the Prescott National Forest and down towards Wickenburg. Tourism is big. So is cattle.
Supervisor Smith isn’t making as much money as some of his colleagues but he’s feathering his nest. This examiner requested public records and paid for more than one hundred pages of documents. Let’s take the supervisors one at a time.
Chip Davis represents the residents on the northeast side of “the mountain” – mostly in the Verde River valley. He and three other supervisors refused comment on this article. Davis doesn’t care. He’s on his way out, having announced he won’t seek re-election by the folks in Cottonwood. His eyes are on a state legislative position.
But over time Davis funneled contracts to his wife’s company. Karen Davis and her partner Jennifer Bartos parlayed their former county government experience into a county government contractor – Improvement District Services, Inc. (IDS).
A long time county employee reminded this reporter that Chip Davis’ son got a job in the Management Information Systems division of county government.
As chairman of the board of supervisors in 2003, Chip Davis signed off on at least two multi-year contracts for his wife’s company; one for $5,300 and one for $20,000. The company’s top earners were billing themselves at $30-59 per hour.
Supervisor Tom Thurman who represents part of the county on the west side of “the mountain” – signed off on one contract extension for IDS for his supervisor-colleague’s wife’s company.
Thurman was not asked about the contract, but when asked about double-dipping, he said, “It is not against the law for elected officials to have two jobs especially since the pay is so minimal.”
Thurman signed off on a contract extension for IDS work to be done in Coyote Springs (where he owns property). Work included lien releases and recording fees. One county worker who spoke on condition of anonymity said that sounds like work the county recorder’s staff could do.
Ex-county-supervisor Carol Springer approved a $3,500 contract with IDS for work in Seligman and generously extended the Coyote Springs contract an additional five years, to a whopping $51,000 for processing assessment payments, assessment modifications and assessment redemptions, attendance at board meetings, contacting county cartographers, transfers to the treasurer, and other assessment chores – work that could be done by the recorder or assessor staffs.
If there was a property split during the lifetime of the contract, which required more work, IDS could bill an extra $2 per parcel. Under one contract, IDS would get $625 if a lot (property) split and the company had to modify the paperwork.
Springer also signed off on an additional three-year contract for IDS worth $27,000 – which could have paid for one-half, or one full-time, employee in the assessor or recorder’s office, an opinion stated by the anonymous source. The source asked if there was a cost to benefit ratio done or if the contracts went out to bid. Stay tuned.
IDS also received a $40,000 contract for similar work performed in Poquito Valley, and with that came an extra $750 set-up fee for entering data into the already existing county computer.
IDS was created within months of Chip Davis taking office in 1998; he first doled out a contract to IDS in December of 1999, when he was signing documents with his legal name – Arlo.
The Davises own property in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Wagner and Clarkdale, AZ. Mrs. Davis receives an income from American Funds, according to election records.
Craig Brown is one of the newer supervisors. He has four sources of income. He was employed as a Santa Monica, CA police officer in March 1971 and he retired as a police sergeant in November of 1985, so he gets that California Public Employees Retirement check, his $63,000 supervisor salary, a disability pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and dividends from Charles Schwab, TransAmerica and Lawson Financial.
When the heat was turned up by hungry news reporters, Brown took his bio off the county website, but not until this reporter printed it off, intrigued by the fact that his police career was cut short by injuries.
Brown has been said to have a hot head. He was recently seen ranting and stating loudly, “Because we have the authority to do that!” He is under investigation by the human resources department for a complaint a female county worker brought against him.
He and his wife own a home in Williamson Valley’s Inscription Canyon Ranch.
Brown spent about $20,000 on his election campaign. His donors included the county sheriff.
Rowle Simmons is also a new supervisor. He spent about $18,000 on his election campaign. Many large donors gave more than $1,000 including Paul Brown, Kathy and Henry Hampton, Martin Gotlieb, Tommy Merideth, Chas Arnold, and Steve Gehl. The former Prescott, AZ mayor’s bio says: As owner of the Communications Center and the Alarm Connection he has spent more than 30 years providing our local communities wireless communications and security solutions for both home and business.
But Simmons began tapping the county gravy trough in 2009, selling fire alarm contracts to Yavapai County to the tune of $25,000, even while he was running for county supervisor. His contracts appear to have run out before he took office.
His wife works for the school district. His election form says he is a trustee for Yavapai Regional Medical Center. The Simmons have stocks, a 401 K, mutual funds with Wells Fargo, Sun America, Kaufman Fund, and Prudential.
He began buying his companies’ offices on Commerce Drive and Highway 69 in the 1990s. He spent jail time and a fine for drunk driving in 2002.
Tom Thurman rarely spends more than a couple hundred bucks on his supervisor election campaigns. He just keeps getting re-elected. He and June Thurman just kind of mind their own businesses. The only trouble Tom gets into is when he opens his mouth. He contradicts himself a couple times a year on important issues such as stating the recent move of 10 people from under the control of the county assessor to his control “didn’t cost anything,” or “I was never involved with the county fair board or race track decision.”
He was the only supervisor to comment on this article, saying, “It is not against the law for elected officials to have two jobs especially since the pay is so minimal.”
Sixty-three thousand dollars a year in salaries and benefits is not minimal for many tax payers who define that term.
He’s involved with the Verde Valley Senior Center, and the food bank, and just enough other causes to keep getting the 3,000 votes he needs each election cycle. He owns a house and lot in Mayer, AZ, property in Buckeye, eight acres in Coyote Springs. He owns Thurman Construction of Cordes Lakes, AZ. He receives income from Nationwide Retirement at Country Bank and an IRA, and is involved with Dream Ridge Investments of Dewey, AZ.
Jack Smith is the supervisor who claims his Ace Hardware transportation manager job does not interfere with his supervisor job which is what he calls “a part time (supervisor) job.” He spent about $8,000 to get elected. His wife owns Children’s Party People on Peppermint Way. The Smiths have investments with Fidelity. They own two acres of land near Prescott Valley. And two homes there. Diane Smith has a TIAA CREF retirement plan and Jack has one.
Locals will tell you he is backed by the good ol boys network. His campaign manager became the new Constable, for instance.
According to the National Journal, the practice of piling a pension atop a paycheck is legal, if unsavory to many. Taxpayer groups and some conservatives have condemned the practice. They say elected officials shouldn’t simultaneously draw a public pension while cashing a government paycheck, because taxpayers ultimately foot at least part of the bill for both. “You’re paying them twice,” says Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
A bill to bar Texas elected officials from “double dipping,” or collecting a state pension while still in office, won approval in the Texas House and Senate two months ago, according to the Associated Press. Former Gov. Rick Perry inspired the legislation after revealing four years ago — on a personal financial disclosure form that he filed as a presidential candidate — that he was collecting a state pension of about $90,000 in addition to his $150,000 salary as governor.
State ethics laws don’t require politicians to disclose their income from pensions.
“Clearly, it’s a bad practice that erodes the public trust, and it’s something I’m glad we have bipartisan support to end,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie.
Arizona seems to almost endorse double and quadruple dipping. This reporter does not begrudge any American from making as much money as they can, but some of the actions described above – just smell bad.
Girard Miller, wrote in Governing magazine: Pension watchdogs loathe double-dippers, and progressive reformers are now wondering whether something is indeed wrong when retirement benefits are paid to employees who are obviously capable of earning an income. Critics say the practice is akin to doling out farm subsidies for big, successful farmers who are already making good money.”
With all the other recent “comedy” observed by county residents recently, such as the supervisors trying to get a misdemeanor against the assessor for hiring a relative, and some saying its fine that the county administrator Phil Bourdon’s wife works for him for $70,000, and cattle ranchers suing because their property assessments went up for the first time in 30 years, and supervisors hiring consultants to plan for a new jail even after the public voted it down, it occurred to me…. When the supervisors go into their closed door, back room, cigar smoking executive sessions with multiple attorneys, I can just see them re-enacting a scene from Seinfeld, with the supervisors in starring roles….
(Jack Smith walks over to the snack table as Tommy Thurman watches him from across the room. Smith takes a chip from the bowl, dips it, takes a bite, and then dips again. Tommy hurriedly comes over.)
TOMMY: What are you doing?
TOMMY: Did…did you just double-dip?
JACK: Excuse me?
TOMMY: You double-dipped!
JACK: “Double-dipped”? What are you talking about?
TOMMY: You dipped the chip. You took a bite. And you dipped again.
TOMMY: That’s like putting your whole mouth right in the dip! From now on, when you take a chip – just take one dip and end it!
JACK: Well, I’m sorry, Tommy…but I don’t dip that way.
TOMMY: Oh, you don’t, huh?
JACK: No. You dip the way you want to dip…(bites the chip) I’ll dip the way I want to dip. (dips the chip again.)
TOMMY: Gimme the chip! (Grabs Jack and the chip goes flying.) Gimme the chip! (They struggle in front of the snack table.)
Sheila Polk, county prosecutor, shakes her head, puts her cigar out and leaves in a huff.
Epilogue: A long-time resident of Yavapai county, and retired grocer said, “The supervisors will not stop what they are doing until someone stops them.”