[Updated]: Request for $150,000 tribal grant denied in tie vote of Queen Creek Town Council

Queen Creek council members Jake Hoffman and Robin Benning, on opposite sides of the issue. (Photo by Richard H. Dyer, Independent Newsmedia)

[Update: The Queen Creek Town Council is slated to take the matter up again at the March 21 meeting, Ashley Drew, director of community relations for the Never Again Foundation, said in an e-mail. “We learned late last night that the mayor and other council members who felt passionately about our request and the split vote due to a sick council member have moved to have it added to next week’s agenda to request a re-vote. We are hopeful that we will receive the council’s support this go-around.]

A nonprofit agency’s request for a $450,000 grant over three years to assist with services for victims of domestic-violence homicide will not be forwarded to the Gila River Indian Community by the town of Queen Creek because of a March 7 failed 3-3 tie vote for approval.

Voting for 14 resolutions in support and sponsorship of tribal state gaming compact grant applications, including one for the Gila River Indian Community, were Mayor Gail Barney, Vice Mayor Emilena Turley and council member Jake Hoffman. Voting no were council members Robin Benning, Julia Wheatley and Jeff Brown. Council member Dawn Oliphant was absent.

The Never Again Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit in Queen Creek, approached the town and requested a resolution of support and sponsorship for a grant application to the Gila River Indian Community for a community project, as required by the tribe, Jamie Bennett, the town’s intergovernmental affairs coordinator, said in a memo to the council.

The purpose of the grant is to educate crime victims, victims advocates and county prosecutors in Arizona of free legal services funded by the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission. It is to provide crime victims’ rights enforcement representation as well as holistic legal services free to victims of domestic-violence murder, according to an application filed Feb. 28 by Ashley Drew, director of community relations for the Never Again Foundation. For information about the foundation, call 602-761-2535 or go to www.neveragainfoundation.org.

Ms. Drew in an e-mailed response to questions said the group’s founding attorney and executive director attended the council meeting and could comment on the council action. R. Keith Perkins’ response has not yet been received.

If awarded the funding, the town’s responsibilities in acting as a fiscal agent for the purposes of the grant were limited to accepting the grant funding from the tribe on behalf of the grantee and passing the funding on to the grantee, Ms. Bennett said.

Council members Benning and Brown said at the March 7 meeting that such requests should be part of the town’s budget process.

“This one is really tough for me because I think it’s a really great program,” Councilman Benning said.

“I just feel at the end of the day for myself that this should probably go through the budgeting process. We have a budget committee that looks at non-for-profits,” he said.

“Even though this isn’t a direct expenditure by the town, it … affects our carrying capacity – if that’s the right word – in terms of our ability to request other grant money. And I realize the grants would be evaluated on equal footing and it does not necessarily cut down our ability,” Councilman Benning said.

Councilman Brown said the town in the past received improvements to an ambulance from a grant from the Gila River Indian Community and plans to seek funds this year for firefighter turnout clothing.

“On March 21 we’re going to have on this council dais a request to submit for turnout gear, additional turnout gear for our firefighters,” he said.

“This organization fronts legal services on behalf of victims of domestic violence to make sure that those who perpetuated that crime don’t profit from writing a book or … collecting life insurance,” Councilman Brown said.

“It’s such an admirable thing and yet I too think it might be part of the budget process,” he said.

Vice Mayor Turley and Councilman Hoffman pleaded with the council to approve the item.

“If there is anything that we are here to do, it’s to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” Vice Mayor Turley said.

“There is no competing factor here. Gila gives out millions … of dollars in grants. We’ve done this before, as have others,” she said.

“This money is there to be used and I cannot think of a more worthy cause,” Vice Mayor Turley said.

“I would really quite plead with my fellow council members… It is at no cost or loss or damage to our own citizens. It is simply only to the benefit of the good of everyone,” she said.

“I’m saddened, kind of, I guess,” Councilman Hoffman said. “I join Vice Mayor Turley. This is an opportunity for us to tangibly do very, very good for those who are in the hardest of spots,” he said.

“Council member Benning and council member Brown, I would plead with you. This is an opportunity for us to really help people that are in need. I would ask you to reconsider,” Councilman Hoffman said.

Ms. Drew, of the Never Again Foundation, said in a letter to the town that the foundation was requesting individual resolutions for each tribe to include with the applications. The tribes and amounts sought are:

  • Gila River Indian Community, $150,000.
  • Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community, $125,000.
  • Tohono O’Odham Indian Community, $125,000.
  • Ak-Chin Indian Community, $25,000.
  • Fort McDowell Yavapai Indian Community, $25,000.
  • Pascua Yaqui Indian Community, $10,000.
  • Navajo Indian Community, $10,000.
  • Quechan Indian Community, $5,000.
  • San Carlos Apache Indian Community, $5,000.
  • Tonto Apache Indian Community, $5,000.
  • White Mountain Apache Indian Community, $5,000.
  • Cocopah Indian Community, $5,000.
  • Yavapai-Apache Indian Community, $2,500.
  • Yavapai-Prescott Indian Community, $2,500.

Editor Richard Dyer can be contacted via e-mail at rdyer@newszap.com or at twitter.com/rhdyer or facebook.com/RichardDyerJournalist

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