Last week, the public learned about a rejection letter sent by the federal government to Pima County officials regarding their request to use Operation Stonegarden grant funds for humanitarian aid purposes. The not surprising denial is expected to cost local taxpayers more than $1 million.
In the past, the Operation Stonegarden grant was a noncontroversial budgetary item routinely passed on the consent agenda by the Board of Supervisors. However, it has been a point of contention for the county since the ascension of Donald Trump to the Presidency.
The fiscal year 2018/2019 Stonegarden grant request was for approximately $1.43 million specifically earmarked for overtime and mileage for the Pima County Sheriff Department to assist federal partners.
Sheriff Mark Napier, since assuming office has been a fiscal hawk in securing funding for the deputies and corrections officers under his charge. The Stonegarden grant has been a way to bolster the budget of the office.
According to Napier, “the taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden for the asylum-seekers but we have to provide a standard of care. They just can’t wander the street.”
Additionally, since grants must be accepted or rejected by the Board of Supervisors, Napier cannot unilaterally accept the funding from the federal government.
The money at issue is from the FY 2018-19 grant request as the FY 2019-20 has yet to be awarded according to Napier.
Napier also indicated that if the County were to write a grant request for humanitarian aid under HB 3401 that he would fully support that. He also said he was told there is approximately $20 million still available for distribution.
Yet, with all the available money to assist municipalities providing services and care for asylum-seekers, democrat supervisors still play partisan games to the detriment of the community.
In June 2019, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry sought to alter the conditions of acceptance after the board accepted the grant at the May 7, 2019 meeting which provided for $200,000 with another $330,347 to cover indirect expenses.
Huckelberry’s letter to the Department of Homeland Security seemed to override the guidance of the Board of Supervisors who approved acceptance of the grant. He then shifted the blame for the change to Supervisor Sharon Bronson. Regardless of the who made the changes, they were made without the full consent of the Board of Supervisors sitting as the Board.
Various law enforcement agencies within Pima County and Arizona have applied for and received Stonegarden grant funds.