The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is pressing County Attorney Andrew Thomas’ office to release how much public money it spent last week to distribute thousands of crime prevention booklets prominently featuring his name and likeness.
Four days after the thick pamphlets were inserted into local editions of The Arizona Republic and East Valley and Scottsdale Tribunes, Thomas’ office has not said how much they cost, how many were printed and if he plans any further distribution.
Supervisor Don Stapley, R-District 2 of Mesa, said Tuesday the county attorney’s office should turn over that information quickly.
“We’d like to find out if we can stop this from happening in the future,” he said. “We need to trace the funding back and see if there’s anything we can do.”
He went on to criticize elected officials who use publicly funded advertisement campaigns to promote their names for political gain.
Although he stopped short of accusing Thomas of doing that, he did say he would support a state law banning the practice. But he cautioned that any law shouldn’t “hamstring” elected officials by banning them from appearing in any publicly funded advertisement.
Stapley, along with other supervisors such as Fulton Brock, R-District 1 of Chandler, has appeared in commercials that were paid for with taxpayer money. Most recently, there was an advertisement for the county flood district, warning the public of the dangers of floodwaters.
“There is a line between promoting yourself politically and communicating with the public,” he said.
The 45-page Road Map to Crime Prevention was sent out as the county struggles with a large budget deficit that could force the county to lay off employees.
Thomas’ name is displayed on the cover, and a picture of him smiling appears next to a note explaining the reason for the handbook.
The guide also includes information on various crime-related topics as well as contact information for local police agencies and crime prevention and victims agencies.
On the back page, Thomas claims the money for the booklet was provided by the board — a claim that has some of the supervisors upset.
While the board votes to approve the department’s budget each year, it doesn’t don’t know every detail. For the current fiscal year, the board approved a $70.6 million General Fund budget for the county attorney.
Lisa Graham Keegan, a county spokeswoman, said it’s “misleading” to say the supervisors approved the money because they were never told about the guidebook. Once their budget is approved by the board, she said officials have a lot of discretion when it comes to spending.
Deanne Poulos, the board’s communications director, said officials with Thomas’ office informed the county on Tuesday the money came from its general fund budget, but had not released any other details relating to the overall cost of the project. Mike Anthony Scerbo, a spokesman for Thomas, would not say when further information would be provided.
Thomas, who is up for re-election in November, has recently come under scrutiny for spending $2.5 million on public service advertisements that feature him. He has been using money seized from criminal prosecutions to pay for high-profile advertisements on television, radio and print media.