DOC Paid Some of Fife's Bills

First lady's furniture, gubernatorial aides' cell phones were provided by Department of Corrections

Although Governor J. Fife Symington III is bankrupt, cash is never a worry for him.

When Symington needed $1.5 million to run for governor in 1990, he got it from his mother and his wife. When legal bills related to his pending criminal trial surged past $600,000, Symington's wife, Ann, cheerfully kicked in the dough.

Symington's reliance on other people's money carries over even to the operation of the Governor's Office.

When Symington needed to buy new chairs for his wife's eighth-floor office in the executive tower, he didn't tap the governor's budget.

Instead, he turned to the state Department of Corrections.
And when two top Symington aides needed cellular phones, DOC was happy to supply those as well.

The Legislature appropriates money to each state agency, including the Governor's Office, and each agency is supposed to stay within its budget. Any budget changes require legislative approval.

Shifting money between one state agency and another isn't supposed to occur unless there is a formal interagency agreement or if personnel are temporarily assigned to a different agency, officials with the Joint Legislative Budget Committee say.

"Beyond that, it would have to be addressed by the Attorney General's Office," one JLBC official says.

Symington's office appears to have bypassed the normal channels when it charged more than $1,140 to the corrections department in 1991 and 1995 for La-Z-Boy office chairs for the Office of the First Lady, state records show.

The Governor's Office also tapped the corrections department for cellular phones for gubernatorial aides Kurt Davis and Jay Heiler.

State records show that DOC paid $1,908.28 for cellular-phone service for Davis between September 1993 and May 1995. Corrections also paid $1,734.22 for a cellular phone assigned to Heiler between February 1993 and October 1994.

The Governor's Office and DOC officials declined to comment on the spending arrangement. Heiler did not return phone calls. Davis could not be reached for comment.

But Howard Boice, a spokesman for the state Department of Administration, says it's legal for DOC to pay for services used by the Governor's Office.

"The expenditures appear to be for a valid public purpose and . . . the agency has the authority to make these purchases," Boice says in a written statement.

State Senator George Cunningham, a Tucson Democrat, disagrees with Boice's assessment.

Cunningham says such a practice undermines the basic function of the Legislature, which is to collect and appropriate money to be spent by each agency. If each agency can unilaterally decide how it spends its money, the intent of the Legislature is undermined, Cunningham says.

"If the standard is simply spending on a valid public purpose . . . then why don't we as a Legislature just appropriate the entire $4.5 billion to the governor and say, 'Just make sure spending is for a valid public purpose,'" Cunningham says.

 
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