Gila County supervisor candidate Hallie Overman-Jackman has attacked incumbent Tommie Martin for a series of problems stemming from the 2016-17 audit, the most recent financial review the county has completed.
Key criticisms include money Martin spent on travel, failure to follow correct “conflict of interest” and the distribution of money to community groups without adequate documentation.
“The corruption in the county is ridiculous,” said Overman-Jackman after reading the audits.
Martin has another theory for the mess.
“Until Woody and Tim were supervisors, the two Globe supervisors simply ran the show,” she said.
Many votes split 2 to 1 frustrating Martin’s efforts.
“And that’s politics,” she said.
But now, “the three of us now have instigated a lot of stuff ... we’re good about fiscal responsibility, which includes having audits in place.”
The 2016-17 audit criticized the lack of documentation for county travel, including some $30,000 in travel expenses for Martin to travel to attend regional and national conferences. On some trips, Martin flew first class and her husband accompanied her.
“If you look at why it happened, a county manager gave (Martin) permission to fly first class and take two with her,” Overman-Jackman said.
However, Martin said even though the county didn’t file the proper forms — the extra costs were required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Issues arose when Martin realized her severe rheumatoid arthritis required her to fly in a larger, bulkhead seat so she could maneuver in and out of the seating. She also required the help of her husband to attend the sessions. She asked then-County Manager Don McDaniel how the county would address her ADA travel needs.
“They didn’t have a policy for that,” she said, but McDaniel said to just book the trip, anyway.
Last year, the county wrote up “specific travel policy exceptions” so county workers with disabilities and a need to travel could make the accommodations.
To save on her travel needs, Martin now takes a car.
“We’ve driven to South Dakota, Washington and North Carolina,” she said. “We take a car unless we can’t be accommodated.”
Conflict of Interest
Overman-Jackman has also criticized the long-term incumbent for the audit’s finding that Martin violated conflict of interest policies.
“The county needs to govern the law regarding conflict of interest,” said Overman-Jackman.
She referenced the audit’s finding that “an official disclosed” she had an interest in a party before voting to “award county monies to an entity in which she disclosed interest,” Overman-Jackman quoted from the audit.
Martin can only think of one possibility.
“I don’t have an interest except for my business, which is natural resources management,” said Martin.
Through her business, Martin had relationships with many experts, including Steve Rich.
When the federal government asked her to testify on resource management and carbon sequestering, she recommended Rich go in her place because he knew more than she did about the subject. However, he didn’t have the money to get to the hearing.
“Instead of paying my way in to testify, we paid Steve Rich’s way in as the expert,” she said. “If anything, that is what that is about.”
Documenting payments to community groups
Overman-Jackman pointed out the 2016-17 audit found the supervisors handed out county money to community groups without proper documentation.
“The county awarded more than $205,000 to various organizations without requiring them to fill out applications,” she said.
The organizations were in both northern and southern Gila County. The audit report cited as an example an “inappropriate” $2,000 payment to the Payson Senior Center, which said it spent the money on food without submitting documentation. The payments were supposed to support economic development.
Martin again blamed the north-south split on the board for the problem, saying the two Globe supervisors supported a variety of community organizations, but would not detail the spending.
“I do not know what the Globe folks did,” she said.
Now, she said, county policy requires a formal request from the organization receiving the money. “It would have to be either from another government entity with a memorandum of understanding,” she said.
Martin said the county has now tightened up auditing procedures by contracting with the state auditor general rather than a private firm to do the financial review. The current supervisors “want the auditor general to take a look at us, that is the only way you know if you are staying within the bounds,” she said.