Earlier this week the Jones for Congress campaign released the following video:
The two articles mentioned in the video come from the Arizona Republic and question the ethics of former Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley.
The first article is fairly damning to Stapley who accepted $140,000 in dark money contributions in order to secure a national non-profit position. Some of the individuals and businesses benefited from votes Stapley made as County Supervisor.
Supervisor Don Stapley used money he took from businesses and individuals to buy expensive personal items, and some of those donors benefited from votes he cast as a Maricopa County board member, records examined by The Arizona Republic show.
Donors from 2004 to 2008 gave about $140,000 to an unregulated campaign fund Stapley had created when he sought an uncontested, volunteer position with the non-profit National Association of Counties (NACo). At least $86,000 was spent on personal items, including a Hawaii trip, luggage and a Bang & Olufsen video and sound system, banking records indicate.
Stapley says he committed no crime and there were no rules requiring disclosure or restrictions on how the money could be spent. Donors said the contributions were unrelated to Stapley’s votes in favor of contract proposals or land-use changes they had before the board.
But ethics experts and a former county supervisor said Stapley’s actions were inappropriate. Under the county’s ethics policy, his solicitation and acceptance of major gifts from those doing business with the county would be grounds for dismissal were he an employee instead of an elected official. And had he sought the money for a regulated election campaign, state law would have prohibited him from using contributions for personal use.
“It’s an ethical issue,” said Tom Freestone, an East Valley icon and longtime Stapley friend who is a former county supervisor. “If you are going to raise money just so you can spend it on yourself, you should declare it a little charity. You shouldn’t vote on something, because it can be construed as a bribe. It used to be people would run with honor.”
Stapley used a letter written by a land-use attorney to explain to donors that their contributions were legal and they would not be identified.
Stapley, who earns $76,600 annually as a supervisor and represents the East Valley, was first elected in 1993. The Republican began asking for money for his NACo bid in December 2004, when he told donors in a letter he needed more than $150,000 for a “national campaign.”
Steven A. Betts, then a land-use attorney who advised GOP politicians on campaign finance, wrote an opinion a few months earlier saying Arizona campaign-finance laws didn’t apply to the NACo campaign. Stapley used the letter to assure donors that there were no giving limits and that they would not be publicly identified.
About 50 friends, lobbyists and big businesses gave amounts ranging from a few hundred dollars to $25,000, and Stapley nearly met his fundraising goal. Records show five donors who gave a total of $35,000 later did business with the county, while two did business with the county and then gave a combined $7,000.
Donors said they wanted to help Stapley land an influential national position.
“We wanted him to win,” said Rusty Bowers, government-relations director for the Arizona Rock Products Association, which gave Stapley $5,000 in April 2005. “He needed support, and it was totally legal.”
Less than a month later, Stapley moved to award a $1 million county contract for some of the association’s members who won a competitive bid.
Similarly, Stapley took part in a unanimous Board of Supervisors vote to extend a $184,450 contract for Millett Family Properties for office space. He had received a $2,000 contribution from Millett six months earlier. Millett could not be reached.
So how did Stapley evade the ethics of taking gifts? An ethics policy that applies to all county employees did not apply to Don Stapley.
Maricopa County has an ethics policy for its 13,000 employees. They are prohibited from using their positions for personal gain and from soliciting or accepting gifts. They also aren’t allowed to vote on a contract or service in which they have an interest.
The policy, however, does not apply to Stapley or other board members because, according to Elizabeth Yaquinto, county workforce management and development director, supervisors technically are not employees.
The ethics policy was approved unanimously by supervisors in 1997.
While it does call for elected officials to maintain “unquestionable standards of high personal integrity,” supervisors must only “aspire” to follow the policy, County Manager David Smith said.
The county has cited a violation of ethics as one of the reasons to fire 51 employees and suspend 30 others since 2005, when Stapley received most of his financial gifts.
Other county supervisors declined comment on Stapley’s actions. But Freestone, the former county supervisor, was blunt in his criticism.
Freestone said elected officials never should take gifts, especially large ones, from those they govern, and he said there should not have to be “laws to tell us what is right and wrong and what is decent.”
Read the full article by JJ Hensley and Craig Harris HERE.
The second article cited in the video is an opinion piece written by conservative Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb. In his column Robb calls Stapley a skunk for his political machinations as a county supervisor and how he used his office for personal gain.
During the ruction, it became public that Stapley set up a fund ostensibly to run for office in the National Association of Counties. Contributors to it were people who do business with the county.
However, Stapley instead spent a majority of the funds on personal stuff for him and his family. In other words, he leveraged his elected office for personal enrichment.
Stapley wasn’t charged with a crime. But he was pretty much documented to have been a skunk.
A sensible person would have taken the settlement money for the Arpaio-Thomas abuse and retreated from public life. Instead, Stapley says he’s just the man to represent the East Valley in Congress.
Read the full column by Robert Robb HERE.
Three years have passed since Don Stapley left office and he probably thinks the stench of his prior problems has faded in the memory of voters. Now he’s running for a higher office that requires the utmost of personal and professional ethics to serve. We don’t believe in rewarding bad behavior especially for career politicians who can’t distinguish ethical boundaries and conflicts. We just hope the voters get a whiff of what’s happening in CD-5 before it’s too late.