group gets lease from Pinal for park site in Oracle
ALAN LEVINE, Staff Writer
- A controversial proposal to turn Oracle parkland over to a pro-development
group was approved Wednesday by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.
people in attendance requested the item be moved from the consent agenda
to be heard separately with discussion.
McLean, Pinal's chief civil deputy attorney, read into the record the Arizona
statutes covering lease agreements between counties and certain entities,
specifically non-profit organizations, and advised the board that the law
did not require that the leasing entity have 501C3 status from the IRS,
that a more general non-profit status was all that was required by the
citing of the statutes was in response to an e-mail sent to each board
member and other parties by J.C. Huntington, an investigative journalist
and frequent contributor to the Oracle newspaper, contending that Citizens
for Positive Growth & Development was in violation of the rules that
qualified an organization for 501C3 status. He provided a detailed analysis
of his investigation of the organization and concluded that CPGD was intertwined
in numerous ways with Pinal Voters for Positive Development (PVPD), a political
action group operating out of the same office, using the same phones and
sharing some of the same officers with CPGD, violations that would disqualify
the organization from 501C3 status, he said.
said he had forwarded his findings to David M. Shelton, special agent in
IRS Criminal Investigations.
Chairman Jimmie Kerr called as the first speaker Jane Woodruff, who lives
next door to the property in question and first brought the idea of turning
it into a park to the attention of the Oracle Historical Society (OHS).
Woodruff announced her opposition to the proposed lease agreement with
CPGD and then explained that she had sought the help of OHS because of
the organization's "record for many community projects and historic property
management and restoration."
are non-political by charter and by nature," she said. "They first contacted
the county in January of 2000, and it took several attempts to get the
county rolling on this issue ... I think by July. It took six months of
numerous contacts between the county attorney and OHS. There was poor communication
between branches of the county government."
other things, Woodruff criticized Supervisor Lionel Ruiz's citing of lack
of communication on the part of OHS as a reason for giving the lease to
CPGD; she characterized CPGD as a rightwing organization and said that
by referring to the property as Liberty Park, they had no sense of history
and she urged the board not to vote in favor of the lease.
Black, a former vice president of OHS, spoke on behalf of David Dobler,
former president, who moved the process along through negotiations with
the county up to the time that his term in office expired in June 2001.
Black went on to chronicle the many communications regarding the lease
that took place between OHS and the county beginning in January 2000 and
continuing through January 2002. Black concluded by urging the supervisors
to deny the lease agreement.
on behalf of CPGD, co-director and 32-year Oracle resident Sue Parra defended
the organization against accusations that it was a political group that
held meetings that were not open to the general public. On the one hand,
she said that CPGD was not a political group but later stated that "a lot
of the people in our group belong to a group called Pinal Voters for Positive
Development (PVPD), which is a political action committee, and there are
people in that group who are members of CPGD."
are a lot of wannabe journalists who live in Oracle or go to Oracle," she
said, "and they turned this into a big scandal. We are a 501C3 charitable
organization ... we have been harassed, threatened ... groups that don't
like what another group is doing, they will complain to the IRS. It's common."
claimed that her organization found out about the lease "basically through
rumors ... that OHS had intended to turn the property into an equestrian
center ... Miss Woodruff lives next door to the property and she has a
horse," she said. "I was infuriated, because how many children would this
truth, the lease agreement that had been drawn up between OHS and the county
is a matter of public record, and said: "Whereas the lessee intends that
Heritage Park (the premises) be used by the youth of Oracle, Pinal County,
Arizona for youth sports and youth activities."
said her group has been portrayed as being "in cahoots" with Ruiz, that
some scheme had been planned between them.
do not hold closed meetings," Parra said. "Our members are told that they
can bring anyone they want to our meetings."
minute or so later, she said: "We're open, but a lot of people want to
come and disrupt. We don't have any time for that. We're hard-working people,
and we don't want to sit and fight about petty things."
conclusion, Parra stated that her group's plans were to make a park for
the kids, that the land was meant for use by the children and not for landowners
who live next door and want to run their horses there.
Helzer, a teacher and resident of Oracle for 22 years, spoke next and emphasized
the need for a facility for the children of Oracle. She claimed that CPGD
had the support of most of the children and parents of Oracle, and she
presented the supervisors with copies of letters that school children had
written, thanking the supervisors for considering that the property be
leased to a group that would turn it into a park for youth activities.
said that Oracle parents had to travel 45 miles to Tucson in order to find
suitable activities for their children, and she noted that the children
was excited at the prospect of having a youth facility in Oracle.
intentions are to clean up the park," she said. "We have just about everything
in place. We will do what we say we're going to do."
made a statement: "I was first approached about making the park by CPGD,
and at that time, they asked me about the park, and I told them that there
was already somebody interested. ... I was going to see how we were in
process. I think there was quite a bit of miscommunication. I did check
with the County Attorney's Office at the time, and they told me that two
months prior, the lease hadn't been returned yet, so I assumed that the
interest wasn't there."
think the bottom line is that regardless of who gets the property, the
kids are going to benefit from it. I think that a skateboard arena and
a family park would be more beneficial to the community than an equestrian
that point, Woodruff said: "Can I say something about that?"
... I've got the floor," Ruiz said. "I commend the CPGD for their efforts
to provide a park that will benefit the youth of Oracle. They have demonstrated
their commitment to the community by taking ownership of the Oracle park
and make the effort to clean it and make the necessary repairs to improve
the facility, and the entire area will benefit from it. ..."
supervisors voted unanimously to approve the lease agreement between the
county and CPGD.
other actions, the board approved the following:
15 was the date set for public hearings on petitions to establish as county
highways North Faldale Road, South Montgomery Road, North Warren Road and
North Signal Peak Road.
for a zone change by Mae Ella Jones and Grady Whatley on a 1-acre parcel
to allow the property to be split to provide two manufactured home sites
for immediate family members in the Desert Beach area.
request for a zone change by Mario A. Hong on a 3-acre parcel to allow
the property to be developed as a manufactured home residence in the Dudleyville
for a zone change by Chris Anderson on a 40-acre parcel to develop the
37-lot Encanto Real subdivision in the south Queen Creek area.
of a portion of right of way easement known as Vineyard Road.
of a portion of right of easement known as Green Road.
supervisors approved of Stan Jenkins' bid of $13,000 on six lots in Toltec
Arizona Valley subdivision.