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AG wants $420,000 for county to patrol Colorado City

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Attorney General Tom Horne is going to ask the Legislature for money for a Mohave County Sheriff’s deputy to patrol Colorado City now that a bill inspired by corruption of the polygamist town’s police force died unceremoniously in the Senate.

Horne said he’ll ask for about $420,000, the amount he provided to the county in June from asset forfeitures obtained through criminal prosecutions.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Michelle Ugenti, R-Scottsdale, said she won’t try to revive the measure this session, but lawmakers can expect another version next year.

“The public I know really supports it, that’s very encouraging,” Ugenti said. “I’ll do everything I can to overcome any kind of objections, which is exactly what I did this year.”

Despite the popularity of HB2648 in the House, where it passed on a 52-7 vote, it was assigned to two Senate committees and never got a hearing.

Chester Crandell, chairman of the Senate Public Safety Committee, said he didn’t have the votes to move the bill and, besides, he had issues with it.

“I have a problem with taking over a police department by whatever means,” Crandell said.

He also said it is not a permanent fix because after the temporary takeover of the police department expires, the powers in Colorado City can simply reinstate the people who were forced out.

Horne, who has been pushing for a takeover of the police department since last year, has maintained that police officers in Colorado City follow the orders of imprisoned Fundamentalist Church of Latter Days Saints leader Warren Jeffs instead of following the law. Horne has said officers return young runaway brides to their much older husbands and show favoritism to FLDS members.

Horne declined to comment on the death of the bill, saying no measure is truly dead until sine die.

Two measures addressing Colorado City failed last year, the second one coming on the final day of session as an amendment to another bill.

Last year’s bill was crafted for an immediate takeover of the town’s six-man police department by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, but Ugenti wrote this year’s version in a prospective manner. The bill seemed to gain further support when Ugenti’s seatmate, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, amended it so a special master would take over the leadership.

Kavanagh said his amendment had so many safeguards it would be difficult to trigger and certainly wouldn’t be abused.

Ugenti said it still didn’t get the support of police unions even with Kavanagh’s amendment.

“It’s a public safety bill and anti-corruption bill. I look forward to working with the police,” Ugenti said. “We have standards of conduct for officers. This is just providing a standard of conduct for a department.”

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