Letter to the Editor: Rep. Nutt gives her opinion on operations in Greenlee County

Dear Editor:

Becky Nutt

In light of recent events in Greenlee County I am prompted to shed more light on a few other issues.

It is easy to see that an entrenched “good ole boy” system is pervasive throughout Greenlee County government. Both current and former residents have seen it and grumble but keep going about their lives as best they can, thinking nothing will ever change that “good ole boy” system. If you are one of those, please consider Suzanne Menges and Shane Dunagan. Two people who have stepped up to the plate to bring new energy, innovation, and perspective to the Greenlee County Board of Supervisors. Yes, two! And with two new supervisors, changes can finally be made. It is interesting that people who want to be reelected have been in office for more than a decade continually state they want to finish all the things they have been working on. What exactly are those things? Where is the economic development? Where is the housing? Where is the economic stability in one of the best economies in generations? The current condition of the county says it all about the type of leadership Greenlee County has endured for too many years!

It seems that citizens’ voices are being silenced by people being hand-picked to fill vacancies. As an example, out of a reported five applicants for the County Manager/Administrator position when Kay Gale retired after 40 years in the Greenlee County government system, only one applicant was even interviewed. Five is a very small number, and it begs the question as to how far and deeply the search was conducted. Again, of the five, only one person was interviewed – the very person who was rumored for over two years would be the next county manager, Derek Rapier.

Then there is the most recent atrocity of residents’ choice being taken away, regarding how the children are educated in Greenlee County – that of the retirement of Tom Powers as Greenlee County School Superintendent. By Powers’ actions in announcing his retirement just days after the deadline for candidate signatures had to be filed, he virtually hand-picked his replacement. Then he went to the supervisors to have this person appointed as Powers stepped down. The “good ole boys”, of course, did Powers’ bidding. However, Greenlee County does have a choice – Elizabeth Speck, a highly respected educator in Morenci schools who is stepping up as a write-in candidate to challenge the audacity of this action to give you a voice in who you want to help oversee education in Greenlee County!

Another recent incident shows how entrenched the problems are, when the county elections director, Bianca Figueroa, refused to provide the paperwork for Ms. Speck to file as a write-in candidate for the general election. Citing nonsense that showed either a total ineptness at her position or blatantly lying to Ms. Speck. When Ms. Speck showed Figueroa the Arizona Revised Statute stating Ms. Speck’s rights to file as a write-in candidate (A.R.S. 16-312 B) Figueroa continued to deny her the paperwork. Kudos to Ms. Speck for requesting and receiving the paperwork from another county’s election director who knows the law! I was forced to make a complaint to the Attorney General’s Elections Integrity Unit, which is looking into the matter.

Then there is the issue of huge violations in Open Meeting Laws being enormously abused by the current Board of Supervisors, in which minutes were not posted for over a year! Yes, a year of no minutes, and when citizens asked for minutes they were denied! The Arizona Law states minutes must be available within three days. After I filed a complaint to the Attorney General’s office they investigated and found that they indeed had violated open meeting laws and were reprimanded for either their incompetence or disregard for the law. It then took the current supervisors several months to comply – not until June of 2020! I have discovered that there are many more issues regarding the conduct of the Greenlee County Board of Supervisors.

Another issue that I began working on in 2018 is that of a pool of excess tax money for schools outside of the Morenci School District. This was brought to my attention by Duncan School Superintendent Eldon Merrell. It required going toe-to-toe with the inner circle of the state budget negotiators, but I prevailed and was able to wrestle $700,000 out of this pool of money for Duncan to replace its leaking sewer system, buy a new school bus, and install/replace fire alarms through the school. Blue School District also was eligible for this money and in trying to help them access it to meet some of their needs I became concerned that shenanigans may have taken place when conversations stopped concerning financing those needs. With a balance of over $1 million in that pool where is it?

Freeport-McMoRan (FMI) has graciously gifted (roughly) $1.8 million a year for some time to Greenlee County. (The) Greenlee County Manager/Administrator does not add this to the budget and therefore are not required to show how the county uses it. Do you see where the county supervisors might have invested that amount of money to improve lives in the county? Any investment in economic development or housing or fairgrounds or parks or sports fields or…? I have found FMI to be very vested in the communities where they are located. It is inconceivable that they would not want their gift to be used to benefit the whole county.

These are a few things to ponder as you decide if you want the “good ole boy” system to continue, or if enough is enough. Please consider a vote for Suzanne Menges, Shane Dunagan, Elizabeth Speck, and yes, Tim Sumner. Tim challenges the “good ole boy” system and they do not like it! If you are doubting him, talk to him – and know who is backing his opponents. Is it the “good ole boys?” Consider Menges, Dunagan, Speck, and Sumner this election.

Becky Nutt – Arizona House of Representatives LD-14, Majority Whip