A memo distributed last week by Pima Town Manager C.B. Fletcher to Town Council members and staff with the subject line “Law enforcement investigations” has prompted a lot of unanswered questions.
The Sept. 7 memo said that anyone, including law enforcement officers, who seeks “documents, photos, property, records or anything” in the care of the Town of Pima can’t get them unless they’ve obtained a warrant or a court order.
When asked Thursday what prompted the memo, Fletcher initially said he just wanted to issue it and described the contents as “standard procedure.” When asked if unconfirmed reports about an FBI investigation are true, he replied, “I can’t comment on that.”
Fletcher clarified the memo, saying residents seeking routine documents will still have access to those in accordance with Arizona Public Records Law. He said he was primarily concerned with whomever might be seeking the town’s computers because they are “valuable pieces of equipment.”
Taking the memo at face value, Arizona First Amendment Coalition attorney Dan Barr called it an “abomination” that flies in the face of the open records law, which was passed in 1901, before Arizona became a state.
“I’ve been doing this 36 years and I’ve never heard anything as idiotically bizarre as that,” Barr said of the memo.
Council member Sherrill Teeter said the memo came as an “utter surprise” to her. When asked about an FBI investigation or if reports about a state Attorney General’s Office investigation are true, she replied “I can’t answer those questions right now.”
“As a matter of course, the FBI does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations,” FBI spokeswoman Brooke Brennan said Friday.
Vice Mayor Dale Rogers and council member Lucas Hoopes did not return calls or emails seeking comment, but council member Deborah Barr said she is not aware of any investigations.
“If there’s something there, I assume I’ll be told,” Barr said.
Barr said it was her belief that all matters pertaining to former Town Manager Sean Lewis had been resolved so, “I don’t have any idea what anyone could be investigating.”
Nothing Lewis did warranted a federal investigation anyway, Barr said.
Lewis, who was hired in July 2017, resigned Aug. 5, after narrowly keeping his job in May when a preliminary audit revealed he had failed to turn in some receipts and had failed to properly document others.
A final audit report revealed the town’s credit and debit cards had also been used for personal reasons by Lewis.
Teeter and Hoopes called for his immediate termination. He resigned the night a vote was to take place on his termination.
According to minutes from the town’s special meeting Sept. 9, the council voted to hire Thomas Nicholas as Lewis’ replacement.
Fletcher said late Monday morning he was waiting to hear if Nicholas was going to accept the position.