Arizona

Former Mayor of Superior Pleads Guilty in Theft Case, Won't Serve Jail Time

The Arizona Attorney General's Office agreed to a plea deal this week that will keep the former town of Superior mayor out of jail for his attempted theft of town funds.

Frank "Jayme" Valenzuela, 54, pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor attempted theft, and will be sentenced to a probation term of up to three years, AG Mark Brnovich said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

In December 2015, an auditor hired by the mining town east of Phoenix announced that she'd discovered that the mayor had made a number of unauthorized cash withdrawals from a town credit card. An investigation later showed he withdrew $2,300 total during 2013 and 2014 from ATMs, including one at a casino.

Valenzuela paid back the money. But the scandal gave his opponents the fodder they needed to launch a recall drive.


An indictment in July 2016 for felony theft caused him to be fired from his job as Pinal County's jail commander and sealed his political fate.

In the August 2016 recall election, Superior voters decided overwhelmingly to toss out Valenzuela — who had won his job in a 2011 recall election — and install his competitor, council member Mila Besich Lira, to the post.

Valenzuela was a strong ally of former Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, publicly supporting the Republican in 2008 even as Valenzuela ran for sheriff as a Democrat. After Babeu was elected, as former New Times writer Monica Alonzo reported, Babeu gave Valenzuela a $73,000-a-year job overseeing supply contracts for county jails.
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern