FLORENCE — Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb says a new nonprofit foundation he’s forming will be different from another with a questionable relationship to the agency he oversees.
Lamb filed papers with the state in February to form American Sheriff Foundation, an organization he describes as trying to bridge law enforcement and communities together through service projects.
The sheriff told PinalCentral he’s starting this foundation separately from his duties as sheriff and his office would not be financially tied to it.
That would be a different arrangement from another nonprofit foundation formed within PCSO more than a decade ago and tied to Lamb’s predecessor.
The Arizona Public Safety Foundation, formerly named Pinal County Justice Foundation, received thousands of dollars from PCSO through checks funded by seizing assets from suspected criminals, also known as RICO money.
The American Civil Liberties Union accused AZPSF of being a slush fund for PCSO because of how it received and spent RICO checks. Former Sheriff Paul Babeu disputed this allegation.
Pinal County recently settled a lawsuit related to how it gathered RICO funds and AZPSF was subject to an FBI subpoena in 2016. According to public records, the Arizona Corporation Commission ordered AZPSF to dissolve in March for failing to submit an annual report.
A message left with the president of AZPSF was not returned Friday. And the FBI said it could not comment on a question regarding AZPSF.
Lamb said he’s “divorced” his administration from AZPSF and his new foundation will not be associated with PCSO.
So American Sheriff Foundation will have to generate funds on its own, and Lamb has already found one way to do that.
Earlier this year, he formed a limited liability company called Fear Not Do Right, which sells a variety of patriotically themed merchandise.
The company’s website includes pictures of Lamb showcasing some of the T-shirts for sale. One section of the website states 20 percent of merchandise sales go to American Sheriff Foundation.
Lamb said he formed the LLC with his son, who is in the military, as a way to help his son make some extra money and to generate funds for the foundation.
It’s possible for this arrangement to remain above board, according to Daniel Borochoff, president of Charity Watch, as long as the foundation and private enterprise operate separately.
Charity Watch investigates nonprofits across the country for how they solicit and spend donations. Borochoff recommended someone in Lamb’s position should avoid any potential conflicts of interest by recruiting an independent board of directors.
He further discouraged soliciting donations while in uniform, as it might intimidate the public into handing money over to law enforcement.
Because of his busy schedule, Lamb said someone else will be running the foundation while he remains one of the directors. The foundation is currently awaiting approval of its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.