By Chase Kamp
Copper Area News
The Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved a reorganization proposal by County Attorney Lando Voyles that will ultimately add a total of 30 new paralegal and administrative positions to the office at a cost of about $1 million this fiscal year.
Voyles told the Board the additional employees would allow for more trials and prosecutions of violent crime suspects. He amplified his election claim that the previous administration was soft on violent crime, alleging that since 2010, 67 percent of violent cases charged by the office with mandatory prison-time did not serve any jail time.
During the election, Voyles asserted the number was around 61 percent.
Among the changes, the move will expand the office from three to six bureaus and expand the number of paralegals to ensure more cases are taken to trial, Voyles explained.
The Board voted in a 3-2 split. Chairman Steve Miller, a Republican, said he supported Voyles’ efforts but argued for a slower and less costly revamping of the office, saying the added cost to the court and prison systems could bolster the actual bill by several million dollars.
“It goes farther than just this million,” Miller said before voting against the measure. “I want [Voyles] to succeed in the worst way but … I want to achieve it with a smaller machine,” Miller said.
District 5 Supervisor Todd House, voting in favor of the proposal, argued for prioritizing public safety in the budget. “We want to be known as a safe County,” he said.
The office restructuring comes weeks after Voyles let go of a dozen County lawyers and attorneys upon taking office in what some in the Arizona law community dubbed “the Pinal massacre.”
In early Jan., Voyles said his office was investigating a theft by a former employee and cited the incident as proof of mismanagement by the previous administration. Supervisors of the employee were terminated.
Previous County Attorney James Walsh said he alerted the Voyles campaign of the situation during the transition period and that the new County Attorney was wrongly criticizing his staff.
Walsh said his office discovered the theft in the adult deferred prosecution and diversion program, when a supervisor uncovered irregularities in collected fees.
It was determined that an employee was responsible for a missing check, one Walsh estimated to be less than $1,000. The Casa Grande Police Department was brought in for an investigation, as well as a forensic expert, and the employee was put on administrative leave.
The employee resigned on the spot when told of the investigation, Walsh said. The investigation was not complete by the time Walsh left office.
Walsh said the new County Attorney is entitled to hire or fire at will, but he framed Voyles’ comments as defamatory. “Don’t accuse my office and the people that worked there of mismanagement,” he said. “You can’t just fire at-will employees and then start besmirching their reputations and character.”
Richard Wintery, Voyles’ chief deputy County Attorney, is being targeted for an investigation by the State Bar of Arizona on the request of a Pima County judge for possible ethics violations.