Trust in government is important to any democracy. As the people charged with running government on a day to day basis, government employees must be especially trustworthy and honest in their jobs so as to enable government to maintain that trust.
Government employees at every level, be it public safety employees, administrators, or clerks, have been entrusted with duties and powers that make integrity especially important.
Yet, unfortunately, here in Pinal County that trust has been breached recently when convicted felons have been hired by our County Government.
Over the last year, two convicted felons hired by Pinal County Government have been arrested and charged with crimes extending directly from their employment by the County.
County Recorder Laura Dean-Lytle hired a convicted felon Albert Robbs, immediately upon release from prison to work in the County Recorder's office. Despite a background that should have given any reasonable person pause before placing them in a position of trust, the County Recorder's office placed Robbs in a position that gave him access to Pinal County residents' checking account numbers, credit card information, and yes, even social security numbers. It's not surprising he was subsequently arrested and indicted for identity theft and assisting in a criminal syndicate.
Robbs was stealing checks submitted to the recorder's office and then turning them over to one of three accomplices (Larry Garcia) as payment for drugs. The other two accomplices were indicted for forgery, aggravated identity theft, possession of dangerous and narcotic drugs for sale, and fraudulent schemes and artifices racking up nearly $100,000 in retail purchases.
In the Pinal County Superior Court, another convicted felon was hired as a Bailiff. Royzell Williams, had served nine years in state prison for theft, possession and sale/distribution of drugs. He also was hired upon his release from prison. Just last week, he was arrested, booked and charged with accepting bribes in exchange for attempting to influence the outcome of cases before the Superior Court.
These situations serve as strong examples of why we should ban the hiring of convicted felons. Leaders in our government have knowingly hired convicted felons, who have used their public offices to commit serious crimes. Hiring officials allowed their personal relationships or other considerations color their judgment when it comes to hiring decisions. That's why I believe Pinal County must have a policy that prohibits the hiring of convicted felons.
Every time an incident like those mentioned above occurs, a piece of the hard earned trust that our honest employees have earned from residents is lost. The good work done by our government employees is needlessly called into question by the bad deeds of people like this.
Our county employees and residents deserve better.
It's time for the County Board of Supervisors to pass policy changes that prohibit the hiring of felons. Furthermore, I believe that Pinal County employees in sensitive positions should routinely have their backgrounds checked to help ensure we do not unknowingly have convicted felons working in these positions.
The residents of Pinal County deserve honesty and integrity from County Government. Changing our policies to prohibit the hiring of convicted felons and instituting routine background checks for employees in sensitive positions are two common sense changes we should make to help further these goals.
Paul R. Babeu, Sheriff
Pinal County, Arizona