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Casa Grande 1895 is setting for new BlackBox melodrama
 mstaude  / 

CASA GRANDE — With a train station as the setting and a plot centered on a bride-to-be awaiting the arrival of her fiancé, the new BlackBox Foundation melodrama, “Dirty Deeds at the Depot,” takes audiences on a journey back in time, to Casa Grande 1895.

“Dirty Deeds at the Depot” is written by Gary McCarver and the original script is set in San Juan Capistrano, California. The BlackBox Foundation received special permission by the writer to change the location to Casa Grande.

“The story is written so that the location can be changed and customized to fit any town,” said show director Jennifer Elliott, an administrative assistant with the BlackBox and a longtime volunteer with the Coolidge Performing Arts Center. “Because of the way it was written, it was really easy to change the location to Casa Grande.”

BlackBox Foundation play 'Dirty Deeds'

As the show opens, the date is the 1920s and the depot’s station master is reminiscing about a story that happened long ago. Through his reminiscing, the audience is transported back to 1895 as heroine Lacie Camisole is waiting at the train depot for her future husband, who was chosen for her by her father.

Many of the names in “Dirty Deeds” reflect the characteristics and purpose of the character. The fiancé Lacie is waiting for is named Dusty Trails.

While at the train depot, she has a chance encounter with her former childhood sweetheart, Justin Tyme, as well as Gypsy friend Claire Voyant.

The show includes several cue cards for the audience such as when to boo or say “awwww” in unison. The character showing the cue cards to the audience is named Paige Turner.

“There are so many fun things about this show,” Elliott said. “ It’s a wonderful melodrama and I’m excited to be directing it.”

The show includes plenty of references to Casa Grande and several local businesses, who sponsored the show.

BlackBox volunteer Melissa Temple plays piano in the show and rewrote the script’s lines to adapt the play to Casa Grande. She also wrote the lines that refer to area businesses and is the show’s assistant director. She acts in the play too, in the role of character Natalie Drest.

There is plenty of music in “Dirty Deeds” and one song, entitled “Casa Grande,” is a sing-along. Audiences will find the lyrics for the song printed in the show program.

The cast includes actors ranging in age from 11 to 40. Most are from Casa Grande and Coolidge.

Cast and crew members for the show are:

  • Ezekiel Sanders, musical director and acting in the role of Justin Tyme
  • James Elliott, lighting design and lightboard operator
  • Alexis Wagner, set design
  • Kaitlyn McCluskey, co-stage manager
  • AJ Delisle, co-stage manager
  • Keagan Delisle, in the role of Paige Turner
  • Haden Herbert, in the role of Judge Craven Power
  • Lillie Peterson, in the role of Anita Drink
  • Krisenna Hancock, playing Helen Highwater
  • Reina Montalbo, as Lacie Camisole
  • Anna Lucier, as Claire Voyant
  • Gillian Temple, playing the roles of Sheriff Willie Becaught and Foley Guy
  • Mardonio Monreal, as Professor Thaddeus Mack
  • Jordan Leal, playing Dusty Trails.

“Dirty Deeds at the Depot” will run for two weeks at the BlackBox Foundation theater, 407 N. Sacaton St.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7, Saturday, Feb. 8, Friday, Feb. 14, and Saturday, Feb. 15, as well as 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9, and Sunday, Feb. 16.

Admission is $12. Several raffle items were donated to the production and will be raffled off after the final show.

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Ethics complaints include accusations against Cook and Lamb

PHOENIX — An ethics complaint against Rep. David Cook, who represents much of Pinal County, includes accusations against Sheriff Mark Lamb and lobbyist AnnaMarie Knorr in what is described as a “bribery” scheme.

The Arizona House of Representatives on Wednesday released two complaints it received concerning the alleged misconduct by Cook, R-Globe. The first was submitted by Coolidge resident Janell Alewyn questioning why Cook is still allowed to represent her District 8 despite accusations of conflict of interest.

Last month a newspaper report raised questions about a possible romantic relationship between Cook and Knorr, a lobbyist with Western Growers. Both have said they’re friends and their relationship did not cross ethical boundaries.

Cook sits on two committees overseeing bills of interest to Knorr’s organization and has sponsored bills that she and Western Growers have supported.

Cook did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment about the ethics complaints.

Following the report, Western Growers placed Knorr — who also serves as the president of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board — on administrative leave as it investigates the matter.

“Our elected officials must be held to a higher standard,” Alewyn wrote in a letter to House Ethics Committee Chairman T.J. Shope. “If a private organization can recognize this obvious problem, surely our Legislature’s leadership, and your Ethics Committee, should take appropriate steps to ensure the impartiality and integrity of our lawmakers and stop corruption immediately when these issues arise.”

Shope said he’ll temporarily recuse himself from the panel because he and Cook represent the same legislative district. Shope oversaw an investigation last year of Rep. David Stringer that surfaced a police report from the 1980s showing Stringer had been arrested for soliciting sex from boys.

It’s in the second complaint where new and even harsher accusations against Cook popped up.

In a letter to House Speaker Rusty Bowers, former Pinal County sheriff candidate Kevin Cavanaugh — who dropped out of the race and eventually worked for Lamb’s campaign and in Lamb’s administration before resigning to run for multiple other offices — described his knowledge of a bribe involving Cook and Lamb concerning a piece of property owned by Knorr’s family.

According to Cavanaugh, the Sheriff’s Office was supposed to conduct a civil forfeiture over a tax debt of approximately $140,000 on Sept. 26, 2018. Cavanaugh claims that Cook himself told him later that day he had asked Lamb not to seize the property, and that Lamb agreed to the request in exchange for a campaign contribution arranged by Cook.

Cavanaugh said he then talked to Lamb, who expressed irritation over Cook’s behavior. In a phone call that took place in November 2018 between Cavanaugh, Lamb and Lamb’s campaign manager James Tanner — a recording of which was played for PinalCentral but could not be verified — Lamb confirmed he had received a donation he did not want to cash out of concern that he would get people in trouble.

Cavanaugh said he recently talked to County Assessor Douglas Wolf about the civil forfeiture in question, and Wolf told him the money still hadn’t been collected.

Lamb said he halted the seizure when he learned of it from Cook, but he never discussed a campaign contribution. Rather, he said, he wasn't aware of the pending seizure and wanted to first come up with protocols for property seizures before proceeding.

“As a sheriff and sheriff's office, we are always looking for ways to protect our citizens, their property and their businesses from government overreach,” Lamb said in a statement. “This includes giving businesses every opportunity to resolve tax issues prior to seizing the business and assets, which should always be a last resort."

Wolf confirmed to PinalCentral that about $142,000 in tax debt related to heavy equipment on Knorr Farms remains uncollected. He said the sheriff has the sole constitutional authority to conduct forfeitures, and the office typically doesn't notify the Assessor's Office of when they are going to do it until a few days prior to avoid word getting to the property owner.

In the case of Knorr Farms, which is located west of Stanfield and south of Maricopa, Wolf said he had only heard about the seizure the day before it was supposed to happen. Then, the sheriff notified him that it was called off because Lamb had some issues with the process.

Wolf said he understands why that would be. Lamb had only been sheriff since 2017, and the previous administration under Paul Babeu had stopped conducting forfeitures during its final years. It would make sense, Wolf said, to be caught off guard by everything that goes into forfeitures. He instead wanted to have a public meeting in front of the Board of Supervisors to explain the process.

"I think it caught him by surprise how this all worked," Wolf said. "From his standpoint, he said let's hold this off and have a couple meetings with the county staff to see how everything works."

Cavanaugh noted that he worked to get both Cook and Lamb elected, expecting them to serve in an honorable way. Quoting the biblical story of Achan, he said neither has done so, and now he worries that House Republicans are risking their majority by not taking action against Cook before the 2020 election gets in full swing.

“The secret sin and covetousness of men have drawn numbers of other of the family into potential punishment,” Cavanaugh wrote. “It is not right to protect these men and cause the entire Republican party to figuratively (be) stoned to death for concealing their sins.”

Campaign finance records show Lamb received $200 from Knorr and $250 from her father, prominent lobbyist Bas Aja, on June 19, 2019.

“At no time did Rep. Cook ask me to do any favors nor was I offered any campaign contributions in return for not seizing a business and property,” Lamb said.


The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Man attempts to rob CG Popeyes but fails
 jheadley  / 

CASA GRANDE — An armed man wearing a mask attempted to rob the Popeyes restaurant Monday night but the staff simply abandoned him and retreated to the safety of a back room.

The would-be robber, described as a 5-foot-7 heavyset black man, walked into the restaurant shortly before 10 p.m. with a gun in his hand. He demanded money from the staff.

The staff moved quickly, according to Casa Grande Police spokesman Thomas Anderson, and locked themselves in a back room, where the man couldn’t harm them.

A customer was sitting in the dining room when the incident took place and the man demanded the customer help him, but instead, the customer locked himself in a bathroom for safety.

Confused and bewildered, the man simply left without any funds in hand.

“He failed and took off on foot,” Anderson said.

CGPD are still looking for the man and are investigating video footage taken in the area.