FLORENCE — Pinal County staff first learned almost two years ago that a dentist had been operating rent-free in a county-owned building in Eloy, but have allowed the practice to continue up to now.
The county recently told the dentist, Dr. Russell Taylor, that his lease is terminated when it expires next month. With no rent collected over a six-year period, county taxpayers are due approximately $100,000, according to the lease.
Pinal County spokesman James Daniels told PinalCentral by email that county staff are confident this is “an isolated case,” and no other rents are going unpaid.
“Apart from space at our airports and cell tower leases, the county only tends to lease space to other government entities and nonprofits,” Daniels said. “This is a unique situation and one that we believe to be an isolated case, but of course, checks are being made to confirm this.”
Daniels said there is no evidence so far that any county official told the Taylors they did not have to pay rent. The Board of Supervisors will provide direction at some point on whether to pursue the Taylors for nonpayment, Daniels said.
County staff first discovered the nonpayment in October 2019 after a staffing change. A letter was sent to the dentist requesting payment, stipulating that the county would pursue all remedies if payment was not made.
“It is not clear why this legal avenue was not followed through when payment was not made,” Daniels said, “and unfortunately those who might be able to shed some light — the county manager at the time, the finance director at the time and the attorney who handled this case at the time — are no longer with the county.”
Management of leases has been transitioning to Pinal County’s real estate division within Public Works over the past couple of years to provide a more efficient process. “And it was this improvement in process that flagged this issue again earlier this year,” Daniels said. Another letter was sent with no response from the dentist and continued nonpayment, so the decision was made to terminate the lease on its expiration in August, Daniels said.
Pinal County Attorney spokesman Michael Pelton said by email, “The Pinal County Attorney’s office is aware of the issue and has been working with county staff to identify what happened, why it happened and to evaluate all available options. As the legal advisers for the county, PCAO will evaluate and, if requested, make recommendations, but ultimately, county management will decide what steps the county takes moving forward.”
Taylor previously told PinalCentral that his father, Dr. Malcolm Taylor, first began seeing patients in Eloy in 1966, before Pinal County owned the building. The office at 302 E. Fifth St. shares a building with a Pinal County Public Health clinic.
Taylor typically only saw patients in Eloy on Fridays, and after the onset of the pandemic, was only there every-other Friday.