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Investigation underway in Hobbs group home scandal

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(The Center Square) – There is now a criminal investigation underway by Attorney General Kris Mayes’ office into a group home company’s donations to Gov. Katie Hobbs and the state Democratic Party.

The Arizona Republic reported that Sunshine Residential Homes donated roughly $400,000 to Hobbs, including to her campaign and inauguration, as well as to the state Democratic Party, but questions arose when the Department of Child Safety raised their daily pay rate per child by around 60%, which is $149 to $195. This came as other homes were getting their asks for more funds rejected. According to the outlet, the company will be complying with the investigation.

After the story broke, Senate President Pro Tempore T.J. Shope sent a letter to Mayes and Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell saying that the situation can “only be described as a pay-to-play scheme” involving the company, DCS, and Hobbs’ office. He said that it could involve violations of several laws ranging from bribery, fraud schemes, conflict of interest, and illegally spending state dollars.

In a statement, Shope referred to the allegations as a “disgusting abuse of taxpayer dollars to further her political career.” ABC15 Arizona reported that the company is already under scrutiny for the death of a 9-year-old boy with diabetes who was in their care.

“Knowing Arizona’s Governor and the Arizona Democratic Party are providing preferential treatment to a facility alleged to have engaged in negligence leading to the death of a child is unconscionable,” the senator stated.

Both Mayes and Mitchell’s office issued responses on Thursday, as Mitchell also received a letter from Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix, on the matter. Mitchell said there will be a meeting between her office and the Arizona Auditor General to “serve as the procession office” while the Auditor General investigates.

“My chief deputy is scheduling a meeting between the Auditor General’s staff members who will conduct the investigation and assigned staff from my office,” Mitchell wrote.

Meanwhile, Mayes’ office Chief Counsel of the Criminal Division, Nick Klingerman, said they are obligated to investigate.

“The Criminal Division of the Attorney General’s Office is statutorily authorized to investigate the allegations and offenses outlined in your letter. To that end, the Attorney General’s Office will be opening an investigation,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Senate President Warren Petersen said the story raises numerous concerns with Hobbs, a former social worker.

“Arizonans deserve to know how their elected officials are spending their money, and this case raises a major red flag with what’s happening behind closed doors on the ninth floor,” Petersen said in a statement. “With the state in the middle of a budget shortfall, and with what appears to be a pay-to-play scheme now exposed, the Legislature has a lot of questions we will be seeking answers to from both the Governor’s office and DCS. Our citizens deserve better. Rest assured, we will continue to serve Arizonans as the check and balance against any abuse of power displayed by our Executive and the agencies under her administration.”

The governor’s office said they are confident that the administration will be cleared.

“Just like past investigations instigated by radical and partisan legislators, the administration will be cleared of wrongdoing,” they told The Center Square in a statement on Friday afternoon. “Governor Hobbs is a social worker who has been a champion for Arizona families and kids. It is outrageous to suggest her administration would not do what’s right for children in foster care.”

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