Donald Trump

Report: Trump Refuses to Pay Mesa $64,000 in Security Fees

Trump in Mesa in October 2018.
Trump in Mesa in October 2018. Jim Louvau
President Donald Trump was greeted with fanfare last October when he arrived at an airport hangar in Mesa via helicopter. He endorsed Arizona Republicans, criticized Democrats on immigration, and made 78 false or misleading claims.

The president's campaign also racked up a still-unpaid bill of $64,467 for police security-related services provided by the city of Mesa, according to a report Thursday from the Center for Public Integrity (CPI). The cost included police personnel for crowd and traffic control. Mesa also "rented equipment for a temporary parking area for 12,000 people which included barricades, security, and towing," according to a letter from city staff attorney Nancy Sorensen to the Trump campaign.

“It is our hope that the organization will do right by the taxpayers of Mesa and provide payment in a timely manner," Mesa City Manager Scott Butler told CPI.

CPI also found that the Trump campaign has refused to fulfill an invoice from the city of Tucson for $81,837 for 180 officers who provided security during a March 19, 2016, rally.

Protesters clashed with Trump supporters during the event, which occurred while the Republican was still campaigning for his party's nomination for president. One protester memorably was punched.

Trump campaign counsel Don McGahn (and former White House counsel) later criticized Tucson police's performance. In an October 2016 letter obtained by CPI, McGahn wrote, "The Campaign has had numerous reports from people who attended the event that the on-site police officers refused to do anything to control protesters or otherwise protect attendees of the event."

McGahn's description contrasts with news reports of the event. In fact, the Arizona Daily Star reported at the time that Tucson police removed protesters from the event at Trump's behest. The Daily Star also reported: "Police blocked the doors shortly after the rally began, as the large group of protesters surged toward the entrance."

On top of its dissatisfaction with the Tucson police, the Trump campaign said it won't pay the $81,837 bill because it never asked for the city's help in the first place. In his letter, McGahn pointed to another 2016 presidential candidate that refused to pay Tucson for security services: Bernie Sanders.

The Democrat's lawyers provided the same rationale as Trump. "The campaign did not contract for, nor did it request or arrange for the Tucson Police Department to provide public safety at the campaign event," wrote Sanders attorney Brad Deutsch to the city in October 2016.

In response to questions from CPI, Tucson officials said it plans to change its procedure to better ensure that the city gets paid for campaign security services going forward.

“In connection with these events, we will always provide the law enforcement and public safety support and response that is necessary to ensure the safety of the public. But [in the future], we intend to use revised agreements that identify certain costs that we expect the campaign to cover,” said Lane Mandle, chief of staff for Tucson's city manager.
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Steven Hsieh was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from August 2018 to April 2020.
Contact: Steven Hsieh