Once more, the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District finds itself dogpaddling in troubled waters.
In this case, the controversy centers on board member Mike Greer’s unwise, perhaps illegal, use of a district credit card. And if that’s not enough, the district is also struggling to explain — or understand — problems that turned some water deliveries murky.
So what’s going on? How can a district that has provided such a tremendous benefit to the community it serves somehow keep stumbling into trouble?
Must be something in the water.
Make no mistake — the community owes a huge debt of gratitude to the people who led the crusade to get rid of Brooke Utilities and establish a water district, dedicated to ensuring the community has enough water.
The district almost immediately transformed the prospects of that community by assuring an ample water supply and removing a building moratorium that for years had blighted real estate values and the community’s future.
The district has suffered a series of problems ranging from burned out pumps and power outages to murky water as it took over a system that Brooke had neglected for years. The district has hired a respected water management firm, CH2MHILL, that continues to work to isolate and fix system problems.
Now, the furor over Greer’s use of a district credit card to charge at least $9,000 has raised new issues.
Unfortunately, many key questions about the charges remain unanswered. Although Greer has admitted using the card by mistake and making at least $2,000 in inappropriate charges, we still have no idea precisely how much got charged and whether most of those charges represented legitimate district expenses. We still have seen no receipts. We still don’t know what sorts of checks and balances the inappropriate charges involved.
But we know enough to advise Mr. Greer to resign.
Certainly, he has rendered great service to the district. He played a prominent role in the great accomplishments of the district. He has devoted many long hours in the service of his community. We are grateful for that service.
But he also made some fundamental errors in judgment by using that credit card so carelessly. No matter what his intentions, his mistakes have embittered and divided the community he sought to serve.
Instead of minimizing his conduct, it’s time he took responsibility — by resigning. And instead of making excuses, the district should review its financial oversight to ensure such a problem never recurs.
Protect the children
We are failing in our most vital and sacred task.
We are failing to protect our children.
The shocking annual report on child deaths in Arizona offers tragic details of that failure. Out of the 71 children who last year died of abuse, a stunning 34 lived in families Child Protective Services had investigated because of allegations of abuse or neglect.
But that’s really just the tip of a heart-chilling iceberg.
The systematic failure of the Legislature to adequately fund CPS has produced this cascade of tragedy. CPS caseworkers in Arizona carry two or three times as many cases as the national standards allow. Even at that, the agency struggles to clear an uninvestigated backlog of 10,000 cases deemed serious by intake workers.
Some 14,000 Arizona children live now in foster care, although the state suffers from a desperate shortage of foster homes — especially here in Rim Country. Ironically, that has forced the state to place a heart-wrenching 2,000 children in group homes, which generally yield worse results at four times the cost of foster care.
The shortage of foster parents reflects, in part, inadequate reimbursement rates. But perhaps more importantly, many foster parents have given up in despair because of the Legislature’s refusal to pay for the mental health, counseling and other services their foster children need.
Gov. Jan Brewer has proposed making a down payment on a solution in the form of a nearly $50 million increase in the CPS budget in the upcoming fiscal year. The money would provide 200 new employees, in an urgent effort to reduce the 30 percent annual turnover rate.
In the past few years, lawmakers have repeatedly spurned pleas for enough caseworkers to protect abused and neglected children. We pray they will this year take note of the growing state budget surplus and fulfill their most fundamental duty.
Raise taxes, cut spending elsewhere, do anything — but do not fail in this task.
No matter what else we do, we must protect our children.