AZ legislator wants to require counties accept any grants for law enforcement, prosecutors

Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem and former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul on the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives in March 2017. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

An Oro Valley Republican wants to take away the authority of all county governing bodies to turn down any federal money awarded to law enforcement and prosecutors, effectively mandating that counties rubber stamp the partnerships between federal law enforcement and local law enforcement if the federal government provides any amount of funding.

Rep. Mark Finchem introduced House Bill 2001 Friday, which would require all counties accept “federal grant monies, award monies and other monies that are intended to supplement” a law enforcement or prosecution agency’s budget.

The bill comes in response to the Pima County Board of Supervisors’ vote in September to reject a $1.4 million federal grant that partners federal border authorities and local, county, state and tribal law enforcement, according a press release.

“We have an obligation to our law enforcement officers to provide them with as many resources as possible to do the job of keeping our communities safe,” Finchem said in a written announcement of his legislation. “The Pima County Board of Supervisors shouldn’t be able to jeopardize the safety of our citizens simply because they want to make a political gesture.”

Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias told the Arizona Mirror that Finchem’s bill is an “attack on local control” and will hurt transparency in law enforcement spending. He said it’s important for local governments to have oversight of grants because they need to review the costs associated with the award and get input from the public.  

The federal grant program Pima turned down is known as Operation Stonegarden, which the county had accepted for 12 years.

The Stonegarden partnership between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Pima County Sheriff’s Office was shunned by residents after public outcry over the Trump administration’s controversial family separation policy, the Arizona Daily Star reported. Pima Sheriff Mark Napier said the vote to reject the funds was a politically motivated decision

Stonegarden funds overtime and expenses related to the coordination of law enforcement efforts on border security. According to a Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General report from 2017, “Stonegarden funds may be used for personnel-related costs, including overtime, travel and per diem, as well as vehicle rentals, mileage and fuel costs, and other equipment.”

However, in Pima County, the grant doesn’t cover all of the Pima County Sheriff’s Office’s costs for complying with the partnership with Homeland Security.

The legislative session starts Jan. 14.

Laura Gómez
Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for Spanish-language news and feature reporting. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.


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