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  • Auditor General completes review of County 2020 elections grants; has no concerns

    Mar 30, 2022 | Read More News
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    The Arizona Auditor General today released a report of a special audit of private grant monies used for Arizona’s 2020 elections by Pima County, Maricopa County, and the Arizona Secretary of State. The report states that the Auditor General found nothing of concern relating to Pima County and its use of private grant money to support a safe and secure 2020 election.

    The Arizona State Legislature required the Auditor General to conduct the special audit pursuant to a law passed at the end of the 2021 session. The law requires the Auditor General to report on private grant award dollars received and expended for 2020 elections. Pima County used only one private grant for the 2020 election, $950,000 from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life. Notably, even though nine Arizona counties received the same private grant for the same purpose, the Arizona State Legislature only targeted Maricopa and Pima counties in the 2021 session law requiring a special audit.

    The Center for Tech and Civic Life received $350 million for its COVID-19 Grants Program from the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation established by Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook (now Meta), and his wife Priscilla Chan. The funds received were part of $400 million the Zuckerbergs donated for election safety across the country in 2020. Their donations became embroiled in the hysteria of conspiracy theories swirling around the election of President Joe Biden. Supporters of former President Donald Trump falsely claimed the Zuckerberg grants were used to tilt the election toward Biden, denying Trump his supposed victory.

    The Legislature in 2021 subsequently barred the state and all its governmental subdivisions that conduct or hold elections from receiving private grants for such purposes.

    The Auditor General’s report noted that, “Pima County spent all $950,446 of private nongovernmental grant monies it received as allowed by grantor, spending $941,408 on personnel costs for hazard pay for the 2020 elections.”

    The hazard pay expenditures by Pima County covered personnel costs incurred by both the Pima County Recorder’s Office and the Elections Department for full time and intermittent workers. Pima County sought the grant for hazard pay because the COVID-19 pandemic was peaking in the region during the 2020 election and there were no vaccinations available at that time; and there had been threats of violence against election workers.

    “We are grateful for the brave Elections workers who put their lives at risk to ensure our democracy continued despite a global pandemic. They served the public during a time when basic safety protocols were rapidly changing and the number of COVID cases in Pima County was climbing,” said Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cázares-Kelly.

    “Hazard pay was used to acknowledge and account for the increased risk to the health, wellness, and personal safety of our elections workers, and to account for their grueling schedules. We are grateful for the Center for Tech and Civic Life Grant, which allowed us to appropriately compensate our elections workers for their heroic work.”

    Cázares-Kelly was elected Recorder in 2020, replacing F. Ann Rodriguez, who worked with the Pima County Elections Department to apply for the grant.

    Pima County has strict procedures for the application, acquisition, and use of grants for County programs. Grants awarded to the County are overseen by the County’s Grants Management and Innovation Department, which conducts continuous financial management and compliance oversight of grant funds to ensure they are being used appropriately and adhere to the terms and conditions set by the grantor.