Fraud and loathing in Pima County

The Pima County Courthouse in downtown Tucson. (Michael Barera/Wikimedia Commons License)

Pima Post

Last year, Pima County suffered a loss of nearly $43,000 due to a fraudulent account that used county taxpayers’ funds, as per a fiscal report by the state’s Auditor General released in March.

The report stated the account was created by an employee of a construction company contracted by the county, and the procurement department failed to obtain a tax form to change the account’s log-in credentials for an online money transfer service, leading to the loss.

The audit report also highlighted issues with the county’s verification procedures and recommended measures such as staff training and creating a monitoring system for vendors.

The report further revealed that former County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry submitted his retirement in July 2021, but returned to work and received his regular salary along with $12,228 in monthly pension benefits without the knowledge of county residents and the Board of Supervisors, a situation that raises transparency and accountability questions.

The audit report also found that the county failed to properly monitor a subrecipient of its federal funds, the city of Tucson, which received $1.6 million of the county’s Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program funds meant for asylum seekers. The county has since contracted with a third-party agency to monitor subrecipient spending, according to the report.

County Administrator Jan Lesher said in a public interview that the issues have been addressed, and the county has “no sense that we have any concerns with those kinds of problems continuing.”

The findings of the Arizona Auditor General’s report on Pima County’s finances and administration could have serious consequences for the county’s reputation and public perception of its officials. 

As well, the fraudulent account case and the lack of proper verification procedures for online money transfers could raise concerns about the county’s financial management and accountability given hundreds of millions in federal funds have been distributed. The lack of monitoring of a subrecipient of the county’s federal funds for asylum seekers may also raise questions about the county’s commitment to helping vulnerable populations, especially given the depletion of COVID relief funds.

The findings could have significant implications for the county’s reputation and the public’s perception of its officials. The county’s efforts to address the issues outlined in the report and implement recommendations for improving its financial management and monitoring procedures will be crucial to rebuilding trust with the public.