Ex-Pinal County Manager Stanley Griffis had himself one heck of a good time on the county taxpayer’s dime, according to an auditor’s report released by investigators this week.
Griffis, who awaits sentencing on six felony charges of fraud, tax evasion and theft of county funds, pleaded guilty in January to stealing nearly a half million dollars in county funds, including $3,250 in improper credit card purchases and mileage reimbursement.
But county expense reports released Wednesday by lead investigator and former Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley indicate Griffis used the county plastic far more freely, spending more than $10,000 during his last three years as manager on items and services deemed “questionable” by investigators.
Those purchases included nearly $2,000 for steak dinners and hotel rooms at a local casino, $1,400 for an RV rental, $750 for an island hop in Hawaii, and about $30 apiece for in-room movies at three separate hotels.
The audit also accuses Griffis of double-dipping by charging gasoline and other costs to his county credit card and then asking the county for reimbursement as though he had paid those costs himself.
The report was prepared by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General as part of an investigation initiated by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors in January 2006 following allegations that Griffis spent $21,000 in Pinal County Sheriff’s Department funds on guns and ammunition for his personal use.
Griffis has pleaded guilty to fraud and theft charges that include stealing $426,800 of the county’s Superstition Valley Transportation Project funds to enrich his family trust, purchase cars and remodel his home.
In a five-page plea agreement signed Jan. 31, he also admitted to defrauding the Arizona State Retirement System, committing tax fraud and misusing county credit cards on 65 occasions for his personal benefit, including the purchase of a $600 lifetime membership to the National Rifle Association.
As a result, he has agreed to pay more than $600,000 in restitution and faces up to 51 years in prison.
Griffis is scheduled to be sentenced before a Maricopa County Superior Court judge in May.
The Auditor General’s report contains a long list of what Romley called “questionable transactions,” many of which were not included in the plea agreement because Griffis either repaid the money — sometimes years later — or because Romley decided it would be too difficult to prove criminal intent.
For instance, Griffis charged $1,939 to the credit card for what was described in the report as an “unofficial office Christmas party.”
The three related purchases were for 10 hotel rooms at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino and Hotel totaling $1,008, plus two dinner tabs totaling $466 and $465 at the Range Steakhouse in the hotel.
The report stated that the rooms had held “at least 10 County employees,” including Griffis, and that their stay was not business related.
“There were no trainings conducted and no County purposes were fulfilled, and as such, Mr. Griffis should not have used County funds to pay for this unnecessary party,” it read.
Romley said Griffis did repay those costs but is fairly certain it was not until after finding out he was under criminal investigation.
“My gut feeling is yes, but I can’t swear to it,” Romley said.
Griffis often used his county credit card during his many business-related travels either to pursue his personal interests, according to the report.
In one instance, he rented a recreational vehicle in March 2004 for a sheriff’s department posse event in Wickenburg at a cost of $1,400 to the county.
In another case, he took advantage of a legitimate business trip to Hawaii in July 2005 to purchase a side trip from Honolulu to Kona, charging the $356 plane tickets to the county card, along with a $391 rental car fee in Kona.
Those, too, were eventually reimbursed to the county months later.
In all, the Auditor General’s Office report lists $5,108 in “credit card theft,” $5,125 in “credit card misuse” and $2,469 in “travel theft.”
On three separate occasions, Griffis used his county credit card for purchases listed as “in room movie” in the report.
The transactions were for $32.39 at the Crowne Plaza in Atlanta on Dec. 3, 2004; $32.42 at the Hyatt Regency in Phoenix on Feb. 2, 2005, and $35.01 at a Marriott in Washington, D.C., on March 9, 2005.
Griffis attorney Lee Stein did not return phone calls seeking comment on the Auditor General’s report.