The thick glossy crime prevention guide that dropped from tens of thousands of Valley newspapers Friday morning caught many by surprise, including the people who supposedly paid for it -- the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Board members said they didn’t authorize Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas to pay for a 45-page booklet inserted into the East Valley and Scottsdale Tribunes and Arizona Republic.
Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, D-District 5 of Phoenix, said she was surprised when she found it in her newspaper. “And to say that we approved this is a misrepresentation. We didn’t know about it and I’m not real happy,” she said.
This is the first time Thomas’ office has circulated a crime prevention guide, which includes write-ups on such topics as burglary, DUI, auto theft, identity theft and illegal immigration. It contains contact information for local police agencies throughout the county, hotlines for crime prevention and victims agencies. It also gives selected prosecution statistics for his office.
Thomas’s name is prominent on the front cover and the first page is a letter from Thomas accompanied by his picture. “I commissioned my office to provide this booklet to help protect you and your family members,” Thomas wrote, urging people to keep the reference guide handy.
Thomas, who is up for re-election in November, refused to be interviewed for this story, but an unsigned e-mail sent from his office said: “We find it ironic that the Tribune, which was paid to distribute our office’s new manual for crime prevention to Maricopa County citizens, is apparently writing a negative article about this very important public service. Such criticism is both confusing and hypocritical.”
The Tribune was paid through its advertising department, which has declined to release the financial details.
Representatives with the county attorney’s office would not immediately release details about the guide, such as how much it cost or how many copies were printed. But a statement on the last page reads: “The production of the Road Map to Crime Prevention was made possible by funding provided by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.”
Deanne Poulos, the communications director for the board of supervisors, said the members were not told about the project and only found out after the booklets were distributed Friday morning. “At this time we’re still searching for a funding source,” she said.
Recently, Thomas has been criticized for spending $2.5 million in public money since he took office in 2005 to pay for public service advertisements that promote his name.
Most recently, Thomas kicked off an anti-DUI billboard campaign where his name is splashed in a broad red strip with large lettering across the bottom. The letters used for Thomas’ name are nearly as large as the letters in the board’s message.
Now, Sen. Jim Waring wants to prohibit Thomas and other elected officials from attaching their names to publicly funded campaigns, unless that is specifically approved when the money is appropriated by the Legislature.
Waring, R-Phoenix, said he’s hearing a lot of complaints from voters about public officials using their office to campaign on the backs of taxpayers. So this week he introduced SB 1061, which would outlaw the practice – which he claims elected officials from both parties are guilty of.
Last year, Secretary of State Jan Brewer, a Republican, took some heat for reminding voters to bring their identification to the polls in a series of ads that ran shortly before the election in which she was on the ballot.
And Gov. Janet Napolitano also was criticized for having her image on interstate billboards welcoming travelers to Arizona. State Attorney General Terry Goddard, also considered a likely gubernatorial candidate, is currently appearing in radio ads warning against drunken driving.
“There’s a real backlash out there and I think there needs to be some real oversight of this money,” Waring said.