E-mails detail Griffis’ $50,000 African safari - East Valley Tribune: News

E-mails detail Griffis’ $50,000 African safari

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Posted: Sunday, October 7, 2007 2:03 am | Updated: 7:43 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

E-mail exchanges between former Pinal County Manager Stanley Griffis and a Phoenix land investment firm detail how the company handled travel and billing arrangements for a 10-day hunting trip to Tanzania costing an estimated $50,000.

In the November 2005 messages, then-manager Griffis discussed plans for an upcoming hunting trip with El Dorado Holdings chief executive K. Michael Ingram, which Ingram’s company appears to have arranged and funded.

The e-mail exchanges were withheld from the public in early 2006, when Griffis’ attorney, Lee Stein, obtained a preliminary injunction to bar their release.

Stein claimed the messages were personal and should not be considered public documents, even though they originated from Griffis’ office computer while he was serving as the top county administrator.

Griffis was suspended in December 2005 and is now serving 3 1/2 years in a state prison for stealing at least $428,000 in public funds.

An ensuing legal dispute led by Phoenix Newspapers Inc. ended in September, when the Arizona Supreme Court ordered Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Duber to review the 120 e-mail messages in question to determine whether they were, indeed, personal.

Duber released about half, deeming them relevant to the public interest. Pinal County released them to the media last week.

The e-mail correspondence makes it clear that Colleen Shoemaker, an El Dorado Holdings employee, arranged flights for Ingram and Griffis to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, and wired at least $30,000 to tour operator Tanzania Big Game Safaris to cover costs of the hunting trip. An online search of flights from Phoenix to Kilimanjaro found the least expensive round-trip tickets cost about $10,500 each.

However, at no point does Shoemaker include the price of the tickets or ask Griffis to pay his share.

“Here is the flight information for your visa application,” one Shoemaker e-mail states. “Please let me know if you need anything else.”

In his response to Shoemaker, Griffis copied an e-mail he had sent to deputy county attorney Patricia Grieb about El Dorado Holdings business pending before the county.

“Any chance of getting the three remaining El Dorado Holdings Development Agreements to the (Pinal County Board of Supervisors) on 30 November?” Griffis asked in his e-mail to Grieb.

In another exchange, Shoemaker forwarded Griffis an e-mail in which Tanzania Big Game Safaris tour operator Roul Ramoni asks her to pay the remainder of the bill for Ingram and Griffis.

“The reason for my e-mail is to let you know that the remaining 50% of the basic safari rate for Mike and Stan is now due. In addition, the extras are due,” Ramoni’s message states.

The e-mail also contains a list of “extra” fees totaling more than $25,000, including hunting-license, charter-flight and taxidermy fees, along with bank account information and instructions for wiring the money.

As with the airline tickets, Shoemaker did not provide Griffis with a total for his share of the safari costs, nor did she ask him to pay. The basic rate for Griffis’ and Ingram’s hunting excursion was not specified, although comparable safaris found on the Internet charge $4,000 to $6,000.

Tribune e-mail requests to Tanzania Big Game Safaris for pricing information and a record of whether Griffis paid for his half of the 2005 trip went unanswered.

Neither Ingram nor Stein returned repeated phone calls seeking comment last week.

Pinal County chief civil deputy attorney Chris Roll said the county is not investigating whether Ingram bribed Griffis to secure favorable county treatment for his development projects.

The county did hire former Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley to investigate allegations that Griffis purchased hunting rifles and other guns with sheriff’s posse funds, ultimately leading to Griffis’ admission he had stolen nearly a half-million dollars of public money earmarked for county road improvements.

With regard to Ingram, the county will continue to treat him as it would any other developer.

“There is a responsibility to not single one individual out and not treat them differently from other individuals,” Roll said.

Expensive game

A 2005 e-mail from Tanzania Big Game Safaris to Phoenix land firm El Dorado Holdings lists itemized “extra” fees of a hunting trip taken by El Dorado chief executive K. Michael Ingram and then-Pinal County Manager Stanley Griffis:

Conservation fees: $6,500

Hunting licenses: $900

Packing/dipping documentation: $3,000

Rifle import/export: $275 per rifle

Staff gratuity estimate: $1,500

Trophy fee estimate: $10,000

Air charter estimate: $3,500

Hotel estimate: $280

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