Pinal County officials debate use of racketeering money

CASA GRANDE, AZ - Members of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Paul Babeu are at odds over how the sheriff's department uses some of the money that it gets from seizures made under an anti-racketeering law.

Supervisors and Babeu discussed the issue during a meeting Wednesday, the Casa Grande Dispatch reported.

Supervisors said it could help the financially struggling county if Babeu used more of the racketeering money for training and equipment for deputies instead of making donations to organizations such as sports leagues and dance groups.

Of the $700,000 collected this year under the racketeering law, more than $200,000 has been given to nonprofit organizations.

"Two hundred thousand dollars in a tough budget year is a big amount of money that could be applied to equipment or training," Supervisors Chairman Anthony Smith said.

Babeu responded that he uses racketeering money to buy protective vests, scanners, uniform allowances, surveillance equipment and weapons.

But he also defended giving money to youth groups on the grounds that it helps keeps children out of trouble by providing them with positive activities.  "Everything we're doing is connected to mitigating crime," Babeu  said.

The sheriff also said the county should fund his department adequately and the supervisors have no authority to tell the Sheriff's Office or the County Attorney's Office, which collects the racketeering money, how to use it.

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