Category Archives: Court Tower

$347 Million Court Tower Boondoggle Drama Continues

We emailed you on Tuesday and blogged about the Maricopa County $347 Million Court Tower Boondoggle and the scheduled meeting that was to take place on Wednesday.  Well, we want to give you a bit of an update on what actually went down (or better yet, what didn’t go down) at the meeting.Maricopa County Court Tower

Just prior to the meeting and responding to grassroots reactions, the agenda item on the $347 Million Court Tower Boondoggle was removed from discussion.  From what my sources tell me, it was because of the pressure we put on the Board of Supervisors.  But what does this mean for the future of this extravagant expenditure?

At this point, the budget-busting project is still moving forward so we must do whatever it takes to pressure the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors from allowing this project to continue.  We have stated before, Maricopa County has a HUGE budget shortfall even after laying off employees at the Superior Court and cutting law enforcement budgets by 15%.  Sheriff Arpaio is even having difficulties finding deputies to transport inmates to the courthouse.

This is a critical moment for Maricopa County and the taxpayers.  We need to stand up to the Board of Supervisors and remind them they are accountable to us, not to the contractors making political contributions.  BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…

 

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Maricopa County Board of Supervisors In Their Own Words

 

We also wanted to let you know about some research we conducted that we find very interesting in light of this excessive spending.  We told you about the political contributions that may be influencing the obstinacy of the Board of Supervisors but we thought you might be interested in what some of the Supervisors have said in the past about the satellite court houses throughout Maricopa County.

Let’s take a look Special Meeting Minutes from July 19, 2002 at the Dedication Ceremony of the Superior Court NW Regional Center in Surprise.

“Chairman Stapley stated that he was pleased to see this facility, serving the northwest valley, become a reality. The goal of regional services is to meet the needs of the outlying areas, and he predicted that this center would become the heart of judicial services for this community.”

“Having formally represented the area, Supervisor Wilcox stated that the City of Surprise had worked for many years toward obtaining a regional center, and she was happy to have been a part of the initial planning as well as completion of the project.”

 

Now, we should take a look at the BOS “Summary of Key Accomplishments from the 2001-2005 Maricopa County Strategic Plan”:

“Completed planning and have begun building five new regional court centers to expand access to the Court system in localized areas throughout the County. This eliminated a 10-day delay for preliminary hearings and arraignments….Two additional RCCs are planned for the Northwest and Southeast regions, to be operational before the end of 2001.”

 

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors continued to comment.  In 2002, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors submitted the “Regional Court Centers for Felony Case Processing” for a NACM 2002 Justice Achievement Award.  Here is the description they submitted for consideration of the award:

“Benefits include tangible cost savings, such as jail housing and transportation costs.”

 

Finally, we have yet another quote that we would like to draw your attention to coming from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors “Maricopa County Justice System Annual Activities Report – Fiscal Year 2000-2001”:

“The Justice Courts and Superior Court greatly streamlined front-end felony processing, by coordinating early court proceedings at Regional Court Centers which expedite case processing, and reduce jail overcrowding and inmate transports.”

 

We are left with confusion about the Board of Supervisors – do we believe the words and evidence from recent times, their comments of today, or the political contributions from contractors involved with this lavish and unnecessary spending.  Our take is read their words of the past and then follow the money.

 

AIA ACTION ITEM:

Will you please do two things for us today?

  1. Contact all of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors today and demand that this project be stopped immediately.  Tell them that you are forced to reevaluate your personal spending and that they have a responsibility to the taxpayers not to be engaged in excessive and frivolous spending.  Fix the courts that we have already in place! http://www.maricopa.gov/BOS/contact.aspx
  2. Please forward this message on to your friends and family and ask them do to the same.

 

Thank you for all of your help.  If you receive a response, please let us know!

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$347 Million Court Tower Boondoggle Hurts Taxpayers

Arizonans In Action larger  

   The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is spending $347 million to construct what they refer to as a “state of the art” brand-new court tower.   Yet, many taxpayers are unaware of the details behind this project and the reason why this project continues may be found in the money.
 
   Maricopa County is facing a $138.2 million budget shortfall.  In response, numerous county employees have been laid off in recent months, including 40 Superior Court employees that would staff some of these offices to be featured in the court tower.  Also, county law enforcement has been cut by 15% and Sheriff Arpaio is having difficulty finding sufficient deputies to transport inmates to and from court.  All in all, we are talking about budget shortfalls and staff reduction, yet it appears that the Maricopa County Supervisors have their minds set on this budget breaking project. 
 
   The court tower, to be constructed of marble, travertine, porcelain and wood floors, is the most  expensive venture the county has ever undertaken.  Maricopa County Court TowerAs if the overindulgence and sheer nonsensical relocation of all court business in Maricopa County weren’t enough to question, the timing for this massive construction project is extraordinarily misguided at best considering the current recession and projected economic forecast.
 
   In the past, satellite courthouses were gradually built up around the Valley to accommodate the growing population, as is being done in other counties around the nation.  Superior Court Presiding Judge Barbara Mundell told the Supervisors at a public meeting on October 4, 2006, that co-location of the regional court facilities has “helped tremendously,” “made economic sense,” and provided “improved customer service.”  Maricopa County is the second fastest growing large county in the nation. Bringing those satellite court locations back downtown into one consolidated building only increases the cost to taxpayers due to the time increase for law enforcement and the greater usage of fuel by their transport vehicles to drive further into the city.   Just for a reference, the Mesa courthouse location is 19 miles away from downtown.
 
   Since this projected plan was in the works, the Maricopa County Supervisors were told several times during public meetings by their budget analysts last year that they could back off on building such an expensive building.  The reason given by their analysts was simple… it’s that the tax revenues aren’t coming in as high as we expected or hoped.   Yet, the Maricopa County Supervisors have ignored this advice and refused to budge on the centralization of the county courts or its extravagance.  The Board of Supervisors also discovered recently that even with cutting all other areas of county government, they still don’t have enough cash for the project.  Now, why are they digging in their heels on this project?
 
contracts   There may be a reason for their obstinacy.  We discovered some very interesting data when we looked into the campaign finance reports of the Maricopa County Supervisors.  The contractors who won the bids for the court tower project have ties to the County Supervisors.  The owner of Goodman Schwartz, the consulting firm which represents DMJM, the interior design company for the court tower, contributed $150 to Supervisor Don Stapley last year.   A Project Manager at HDR Inc., the architectural, engineering and consulting firm for the court tower, contributed $50 to Supervisor Wilson last year. A law partner of Tom Irvine, who has been paid over $800,000 over the past three years for legal help with the tower, contributed $390 to Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox last year.  This makes this construction project all the more interesting considering the political contributions and does force us to beg the question if there is an appearance of impropriety going on here.
 
   However, the cause is not lost.  The Maricopa County Supervisors will meet on July 22, 2009 at 9am at the Supervisors Auditorium at 205 W. Jefferson, Phoenix, AZ, (details here)to vote on changing the funding to bonding – a move that will cost taxpayers even more money by spreading it out over the years.  We strongly encourage you to attend this meeting and demand that the Supervisors halt this unaffordable patronage and stick to improving our existing courthouses. 

   If you are unable to attend, please contact the Maricopa County Supervisors today and tell them that you want this project to stop immediately.