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1:50 AM Sun, Nov. 18th

County manager slams Kingman Supervisor Watson in letter on lease

County manager refused to reopen negotiations on library annex lease

Ron Walker

Ron Walker

KINGMAN - County Manager Ron Walker said a District II Supervisor candidate displayed "fundamental ignorance" of county policies when she questioned the renewal of a lease for office space for the Mohave County Library Annex, and offered a similarly brutal assessment of Supervisor Gary Watson in the same letter.

Hildy Angius, who is running against incumbent Tom Sockwell, expressed concern in November about a possible conflict of interest between the county and ORB Investments, the owner of the building.

Angius pointed out that several members of ORB Investments are related to county employees.

According to the Arizona Corporation Commission, three couples - Beverly and Robert Brooks, Yvonne and Kevin Orr and Tamara and Taylor Ross - own ORB Investments.

Beverly Brooks is an administrative assistant in the County Attorney's Office, Yvonne Orr is an assistant to Walker.

Angius also questioned why the county was leasing office space when there appeared to be plenty of space in other county-owned buildings.

"In every aspect of the allegations made by Ms. Angius, she demonstrates her fundamental ignorance about County Library operations, county business and procurement policy," Walkers wrote in a five-page letter to Board of Supervisors Chairman Buster Johnson and County Attorney Matt Smith, dated Nov. 18. "Ms. Angius' unfounded allegations against county staff did not seem to be inhibited by her ignorance of the facts. It is regrettable that the Board meeting on Nov. 14, had the political resemblance of a Jerry Springer Show."

Walker called Angius' comments during the meeting "unsubstantiated, politically motivated allegations that someone was cheating."

He said that he usually ignores this type of behavior in online blogs but since Angius' comments were part of the public record, he felt it was his duty to set the record straight.

"In my life experiences, unfounded allegations about someone whom an accuser knows nothing about, only illustrates the character of the accuser. Therefore, I believe that the people making such allegations would, themselves, do what they accuse others of doing. They see the world as they are, not as it really is," Walker said.

He goes on to correct several statements made by Angius during the meeting, such as the size of the building being leased, the amount of open office space in the County Library to house staff, the owners of ORB Investments and county procurement policies.

"So far, it is not what she knows that is relevant. It is what she does not know, but complains about that is the problem," Walker said. "She put on her political paradigm and has mistaken the limits of her own vision and perspective for the limits of reality. Almost all of what she thinks she knows, just is not so."

He wrote that county procurement policy does not discriminate against a proposed contractor because someone in the county likes or dislikes them, because they have a family member employed by the county, or because of political affiliations.

"No county employee is allowed to be involved in the negotiations that may involve a family member," he said. "Discrimination, as well as steering or rejecting legitimate contracts for political purposes, is illegal."

Walker also explained that all county contracts are negotiated by a procurement officer, and in this case, a representative from the library and the property management company.

He also explained the criteria used to evaluate the contract, such as whether the office was suitable for the county's purposes, if the terms and price of the contract were reasonable, and if the money was available. The contract was then reviewed by the County Attorney's Office.

The only part his office had in the handling of the lease was to put the item on the Board of Supervisors agenda, Walker said.

He also criticized Watson in his letter.

"It seems ironic that Supervisor Watson's office is about 12 paces from the County Manager's office and staff, yet at no time before the meeting did he inquire about the conditions of the legality, suitability of the property, terms and conditions or the cost of the lease. Staff mistakenly assumed, after almost three years, the supervisor understood fundamental procurement policy and that he would inquire if he had questions," Walker said.

He accused Watson of pulling the item from the Board's consent agenda at the request of a candidate for county supervisor and her campaign chairman.

Walker also objected to Watson's request to staff to see if ORB Investments would lower the lease even further.

According to information provided to the Board, the amount of the lease was decreased by more than $6,000 from the previous year.

"Nevertheless, based upon Supervisor Watson's motion, staff is being asked to pressure the property management company to lower its already discounted lease based solely upon, in my opinion, the fact that they have family members employed in the county as a favor to political campaign," Walker said.

He goes on to say that he is "duty bound to personally decline to direct county staff to reopen negotiations already done in good faith by unbiased procurement officers and validated by legal counsel."

Walker then deferred the matter to the County Attorney's Office.

A copy of Chief Civil Deputy County Attorney Bob Taylor's opinion on the matter is also included.

In his opinion, Taylor wrote that he found nothing unethical or illegal in the process used by the County Procurement Office in negotiating the lease with ORB Investments and that state statutes do not prevent the county from "entering into a lease with an entity in which a county employee has an interest."

However, any employee or public officer who has a financial interest in a contract or has a relative that has a financial interest in a contract with the county is prohibited from voting on or participating in any negotiations over the contract.

Taylor said he found no evidence that Orr or Brooks had anything to do with the contract negotiations.

Taylor also said the procurement code does not require competitive bidding.

The Board will take up the issue at its meeting at 9:30 a.m. today at the County Administration Building, 700 W. Beale St.