In case you missed it, Representative Warren Petersen held a press conference on Monday preempting a bill he plans to introduce that will punish public officials who wrongfully misallocate tax dollars and then try to grab pension, severance pay or other benefits on their way out of public service.
Petersen’s bill comes in response to Phoenix ValleyMetro’s CEO Stephen Banta resigning with an annuity of $265,000 after he was exposed using taxpayer dollars to for lavish expenses.
Representative Petersen released the following statement:
I want to thank you for coming out today. Recently there has been a lot of coverage about the scandal that has occurred at Valley Metro. Apparently an employee has misappropriated sacred taxpayer dollars. While this has received a lot of attention, this is certainly not the first case of this in the state of Arizona. There have been various incidents over the years of public officials using public funds to enrich themselves rather than serve the public good. Clearly there is neither a sufficient deterrent nor oversight in place to prevent such malfeasance. Worse we have learned all too often that those who are caught and terminated, leave with lavish payouts, annuities, pensions and other benefits.
Termination from a high position in government should not be like winning the lotto. Rewarding someone for bad behavior can only encourage more of the same. This is unacceptable and the current way of doing things has change. It is for this reason that I will be working with council member Dicicio and introduce legislation to prevent this from happening in the future. What I will be proposing is that any public employee who is caught misappropriating tax dollars shall be ineligible for any severance pay, annuity, pension or other benefit. Furthermore to add a layer of oversight and accountability I will make sure that any taxpayer will have standing in such an event. The problem with the oversight of a 30 member board is this. When 30 people are responsible for something, nobody is responsible. All too often a watchdog citizen or journalist will do a much better job than a 30 member board. We believe this will be a strong deterrent for malfeasance and a merited penalty for those who violate the law.
We only hear about the people who are caught. There is no doubt that there are many who go unpunished. If there is no punishment we are just going to have faith that people will do the right thing for the sake of doing what’s right. And there are plenty of people who are doing the right. This legislation is not for them nor anything they need to worry. However those who are engaged in illicit behavior will soon have something to cause them to think twice before they squander taxpayer funds.
Petersen was also joined by Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio during the press conference. DiCiccio has been a longtime reformer fighting and exposing corruption in city government.