FBI INTERVIEWS MARANA OFFICIALS: GRAND JURY SUBPOENAS RECORDS OF TOWN CONTRACTS, MPD CONTACTS WITH MARANA BUSINESSMAN - Tucson Local Media: Import

FBI INTERVIEWS MARANA OFFICIALS: GRAND JURY SUBPOENAS RECORDS OF TOWN CONTRACTS, MPD CONTACTS WITH MARANA BUSINESSMAN

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Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2002 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:46 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

The FBI has served the town of Marana and its police department with grand jury subpoenas ordering the release of records related to police "contacts" with a prominent Marana businessman and his contracts and dealings with the town, according to sources and copies of the subpoenas.

In addition, the FBI has interviewed Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton Jr., Town Manager Mike Hein, Development Services Director Jim DeGrood, and several Marana Police Department officers and other town employees as part of the four-month federal probe seeking information on businessman Richard "Rick" Westfall.

The grand jury proceedings are sealed. The subpoenas gave no indications of the focus of the investigation or leveled any specific allegations against Westfall, Marana or the MPD.

Westfall, owner of Arizona Cordwood, 5300 W. Ina Road, and Westfall Transport, operated from Westfall's home in the 8000 block of North Sanders Road, did not return calls seeking comment. He has not been charged with any crimes in relation to the federal subpoenas.

Ron Van Vranken, an FBI special agent in the bureau's Tucson office, refused to comment as to whether any federal investigation was underway in Marana. Van Vranken said as a matter of policy, the FBI will neither confirm nor deny the existence of active investigations.

Sutton, Hein and DeGrood confirmed they have been interviewed by the FBI, but said they were admonished by the bureau not to discuss the case.

Requests for comment from Marana Police Chief David R. Smith relayed to him through department spokesman Sgt. Tim Brunenkant last week were referred to the FBI.

A federal grand jury subpoena served on the Marana Police Department May 22 ordered the release of records of all MPD investigations of Westfall and all police officer contacts with him from Jan. 21, 1997 to the time the subpoena was served.

The subpoena also ordered the release of the MPD personnel files of all officers who have had contact with Westfall.

According to a computer printout of MPD radio transmissions that the police department surrendered to the FBI, 10 MPD officers and supervisors responded to incidents 37 times at or near Westfall's business on Ina Road since March 1999. Most of the reports appear to be related to routine traffic violations in the area of the business.

One of the people who claims to have been interviewed by the FBI, speaking on condition of anonymity, said "90 percent" of the questions the source was asked by a bureau agent centered on activities related to the Marana Police Department. The source refused any further elaboration.

Another source said an MPD detective was interviewed by the FBI as recently as Aug. 9 at the bureau's office in downtown Tucson.

An MPD spokesman said he could not confirm that the detective had been interviewed. A transcript of the detective's radio transmissions obtained by the EXPLORER indicates the detective was in the area of Congress Street and Church Avenue in Tucson for more than hour Aug. 9.

The FBI's office is located at 1 S. Church Ave., at the intersection of Congress and Church.

A federal grand jury subpoena served on the town of Marana June 1 ordered the release of "all contracts of any kind" between the town of Marana and Westfall.

The long list of town records ordered surrendered under the subpoena included contracts, bids, checks and payment records.

Westfall has been contracted to haul materials for the town for work at the Marana-Northwest Regional Airport, a town road project and for clearing brush on land used as a parking for the town's Fourth of July celebration earlier this year, according to town records.

A sometimes controversial figure in Marana, Westfall and his small trucking concern have surfaced in four EXPLORER news stories since 2000:

Marana officials failed for almost five months to forward for prosecution charges leveled against Westfall that he threatened the life of a 65-year-old road worker in May 2000.

According to MPD reports, Westfall was involved in an argument with KE&G Construction foreman Bill Campbell over road construction occurring in front of Westfall's business on Ina Road.

After Westfall reportedly threatened to kill Campbell, Campbell called Marana Police and Westfall called Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton Jr.

According to the MPD report, Campbell claimed Westfall said "he was friends with the mayor and would have our construction shut down."

Sutton, who admits a friendship with Westfall and who according to town records received a $300 contribution from the businessman for his 1999 mayoral bid, allegedly called and advised Hein during the argument.

Hein, in an interview after the incident, said he contacted Chief Smith to have officers sent out to Westfall's business.

Sutton, in an interview in September 2000, said he also discussed the case with Smith after the altercation between Westfall and Campbell.

"I talked to the chief after the incident just to see what happened… we talked about it because this is a small town and and (we talk about) most things that happen where the police go out, even the minor things. And the chief knows Westfall, too. He's very well known in Marana," Sutton said.

The police report containing Westfall's alleged threat lingered at MPD until June 20, 2000 despite inquiries from Campbell to the MPD about the status of the case.

The Westfall case was forwarded to the Marana Town Prosecutor's Office a week after the EXPLORER filed a public records request for the report, where it remained until September 2000, when the newspaper filed a second request for the report.

Marana Town Attorney Dan Hochuli then forwarded the case to Oro Valley's municipal court for prosecution, saying he wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Campbell dropped the complaint against Westfall after the case was transferred.

Between April 2000 and March 2002, Westfall's trucking business was paid $103,522 for hauling materials at the town's airport without having to go through the bidding process mandated by state and town regulations, according to town records.

In February, the Arizona Department of Transportation Department's Aeronautics Division suspended reimbursements to the town of state and federal grant money used for the airport construction projects. The state questioned the lack of any sealed bids for the $75,000 worth of work awarded to Westfall's company, but reinstated the payments despite the fact the town was unable to produce documentation that procurement regulations were followed.

Westfall was paid an additional $23,000 from the town's general fund for a town road project at the airport which also was not put out for competitive bidding, and which the town kept no record of beyond copies of payments made to Westfall.

Westfall's trucking company dumped tons of smoldering trash, brush and debris in the Honea Heights neighborhood of North Marana April 23, sickening residents and sending a 3-year-old boy to the hospital after he suffered an asthma attack.

Westfall's company reportedly was contracted by the town to clear a privately-owned lot at 13846 N. Sandario Road for use as additional parking for the town's Independence Day celebration July 4.

The debris collected from the lot was allegedly illegally burned before being transported to a town-owned lot in the 12000 block of West Sandy Road, where it was dumped.

Marana officials said they had planned to use the debris as fill for a low-income housing project planned in the area. Marana received a warning, but no citations, from the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality for the burning and dumping of the debris.

Westfall has also worked to pass a controversial annexation and significant land use change for New West Materials' sand and gravel pit located on Avra Valley Road near Interstate 10.

Although Westfall is not employed by New West, his trucking concern contracts with the mining firm and he participated in informational meetings with town officials and residents of the Happy Acres/Milligan Acres subdivisions that lie across the street, according to New West officials.

The annexations and land use change were needed to allow expansion of New West's operation, which may add a asphalt batch plant on the property, is opposed by many of the Happy Acres residents.

Westfall, who last year spearheaded a failed attempt to have the mayor and council collect a salary for their unpaid, elected positions, also sent letters to Marana, Oro Valley, Flowing Wells and Metro Water's water utilities, soliciting interest for a proposed effluent recharge project that would go into the quarries left by New West's sand and gravel mining operation.

With a managed recharge project in place at the pits, a percentage of the effluent flowing in the Santa Cruz River that seeps into the ground can generate water storage credits for the water utilities. Under state regulations,

those credits allow the operators to pump more ground water, or the credits can be traded or sold.

The Marana Town Council was scheduled to consider approving a development and mining plan for New West's project at the Aug. 20 council meeting, which occurred after the EXPLORER's press time.

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