Gov. Doug Ducey

Gov. Doug Ducey discusses the latest data on COVID-19 at a press briefing Wednesday. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

The Governor’s Office issued a press release before his press conference Thursday announcing he was releasing more than $440 million in federal aid to cities and towns.

The release included statements from officials around Arizona praising the governor for taking the action:

“My thanks to Governor (Doug) Ducey for his work to streamline this funding so we can put it to use quickly and efficiently.” — Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat.

These dollars will help us continue that critical work, and we thank Governor Ducey for prioritizing flexibility in the allocation of these resources.” — Yuma County Supervisor Russell McCloud.

“The Governor met with us. We told him about the importance of flexibility when allocating these dollars and he delivered.” — Sahuarita Mayor Tom Murphy.

I’m grateful for the Governor’s thoughtful approach in allocating these resources and for giving us the maximum flexibility in how we can use these dollars to meet the needs of our citizens.” — Maricopa Mayor Christian Price.

”Thank you to Governor Ducey for his leadership and for incorporating the input of local mayors and county leaders.” — Kingman Mayor Jen Miles.

“My thanks to Governor Ducey for ensuring that AZCares Funds lift all Arizona communities directly and with a focus on a safe and strong Arizona future.” — Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels.

“Thank you to the Governor for your support to Chandler communities and businesses, and for your work to make these dollars readily available.” — Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke.

“I want to thank Governor Ducey for prioritizing the health and safety of everyone in our community. I also want to thank him for acting quickly to get these significant funds to our city with as much flexibility as possible.” — Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli.

Excuse me while I gag now.

With the accolades these mayors were showering on the governor, you’d think Ducey was sharing the proceeds from the sale of his Paradise Valley mansion with everyone.

It’s a good thing for social distancing. Otherwise the amount of kissing up by the mayors would have been extremely uncomfortable to watch.

In truth the money comes from federal funds that the communities were entitled to that the governor had been sitting on.

However, nobody thanked the real people behind the governor’s action — Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer and the Board of Supervisors.

While our state lawmakers were busy taking per diem payments for not meeting, and trying to get the attorney general to investigate Tucson officials, the Pinal County supervisors stepped up and took action.

Last week they threatened to file a lawsuit to get the governor to release the funds.

The Pinal officials weren’t going to actually sue the governor but the Department of the Treasury for the wording of its written guidance for distributing Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds. They said the wording of the legislation gives governors too much leeway in deciding how much each community gets.

However, the rhetoric from the officials made clear their target was Ducey.

“If he’s going to be a bully, you have to punch a bully in the face,” Volkmer told the supervisors May 15. “The only way to stand up to the governor right now is to initiate suit.”

Arizona’s three largest cities and two largest counties got money directly from the federal relief package. Pinal County didn’t get squat. So they took up the cause of Arizona’s 88 other cities and 13 other counties to say Congress intended for them to get a piece of the nearly $1.9 billion that’s earmarked for the state.

That amount computes out to $114.80 per city or town resident.

The governor denied that Pinal County’s lawsuit threat caused him to release the funds, but we know the optics of such a case would look bad for Ducey.

Volkmer and the Pinal supervisors should be commended for their action. Most of them are Republicans, as is the governor. It takes guts to politically challenge a senior official in your own party. But they put the people above politics and acted in the best interest of their constituents, something I’d like to see more of from our state lawmakers.

The fact that no Pinal supervisor was part of Ducey’s dog-and-pony show Thursday didn’t go unnoticed. It is unfortunate that Maricopa’s mayor saw fit to participate in the governor’s praise parade.

So even if no one else will acknowledge Pinal County’s role in getting this money released, I will.

So on behalf of the residents of Pinal County and the 88 other overlooked communities in the state, thank you.

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You can reach Andy Howell at ahowell@pinalcentral.com.

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