The Florence-based sheriffs organization said in a press release that Rios’ permanent home is in the 1000 block of East Mesquite in Apache Junction. Rios said his permanent home is the Dudleyville abode.
The press release also stated that the group filed a lawsuit at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 31, in Pinal County Superior Court, against Rios. According to office of the Clerk of the Pinal County Superior Court, no lawsuit had been filed as of Friday, Aug. 3. The Apache Junction/Gold Canyon News repeatedly asked for a copy of the lawsuit, however, it was never sent. It also submitted questions to the group, per its request, but they were not answered.
Rios told the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon News that the issue of his residency has been raised three or four times during his campaigns—as long ago as 1980.
“It actually started in 1980 when I first ran for House of Representatives,” Rios said.
“I had challenged an incumbent and I beat her, an incumbent from San Manuel. At the time, I had been working in the Valley for DES and had been a student at ASU and went back home. When I beat her, she didn’t like that so she actually filed in superior court in Maricopa County. At that time, we went to court and the judge threw it out. The judge said there’s no basis for a challenge on residency.”
The judge said, “This young man was born and raised in that area, graduated from in that area, he gets his mail in that area,” so he ended up throwing out the case.
“This is something that’s been with me all of my political career because I have multiple residences in Pinal County.”
Rios said he believes this is “nothing more than dirty politics by (Sheriff) Paul Babeu and his cronies to draw attention away from the disgraceful record of the Babeu administration and its blemished record of misusing funds, ignoring budgetary limits and subverting the people’s trust in law enforcement to further partisan politics and political agendas.”
According to Rios, Babeu referred an “anonymous” letter about Rios’ residency to the Arizona Attorney General Office in March 2011.
In January 2012, the AG’s office concluded that all laws on district residency were met. Rios said he’s unsure why the Attorney General took an anonymous letter, but he won nonetheless.
This time around, the supervisor said he finds it interesting that Babeu’s group allegedly filed a lawsuit about the same issue “less than 48 hours before early voting begins.”
“Sheriff Babeu does not like the fact that the Pinal County Board of Supervisors has a statutory obligation to oversee spending, and he does not like the fact that we have blocked his efforts to misuse taxpayer dollars,” Rios said.
“It is outrageous that someone who moved to Pinal County just a few years ago is casting aspersions on a lifetime of service by the Rios family. This issue has been thoroughly examined, most recently by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, and it has been determined repeatedly that we have always lived in the district I represent.”
Rios said he is proud of his family’s service at the state and local level.
“We will not allow someone to issue false allegations in an attempt to divert attention from their own private and ethical shortcomings,” he said.
According to the press release from the sheriffs organization, “After a six-monthlong investigation which proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Pinal County Board of Supervisors member Pete Rios does not live in the district he was elected to represent.”
It said the lawsuit “will force” Rios to “resign immediately or he will be removed from office through the judicial system as required by Arizona Revised Statutes.”
The organization, which is comprised of “many retired members of law enforcement and the citizens for honesty in government,” claims Rios has committed theft and fraud from the Arizona taxpayers for the past 20 years.
According to county Public Information Officer Heather Murphy, Arizona Revised Statute 11-402 outlines qualifications for office.
“Nowhere does it state that the elected official must live, eat or breathe in a certain place,” Murphy said.
ARS 11-402 reads, “A person shall not be eligible for a county office, whether elective or appointive, nor shall a certificate of election or commission issue to any person, unless he is, at the time of his election or appointment, 18 years of age or over, a resident of the state, an elector of the county or precinct in which the duties of the office are to be exercised and able to read and write the English language. The board of supervisors shall be the sole judge of such qualifications, subject to review by certiorari in the superior court.”
By Christina FuocoKarasinski