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Mayes warns against ‘parallel investigations’ in Hobbs group home debacle

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(The Center Square) – Attorney General Kris Mayes is asking Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell to take a step back from possibly investigating an alleged “pay for play” scheme involving Gov. Katie Hobbs and Sunshine Residential Homes.

Mayes’ criminal division has an investigation open, but the Auditor General’s Office and Mitchell are also coordinating a possible investigation after the auditor general reached out to Mitchell’s office.

“It would not be appropriate or in the best interest of the state to conduct parallel investigations into the same matter. Furthermore, a separate process conducted by the MCAO could jeopardize the integrity of the criminal investigation that my office will now proceed with,” Mayes, a Democrat, wrote in a letter to Mitchell, a Republican, on Friday.

Mitchell’s office told The Center Square on Monday morning that she “is reviewing the letter at this time.”

The Attorney General told both the county attorney’s office and the Auditor General’s office that she will be in contact if necessary, but said it is not needed at this time.

“While your office is statutorily authorized to examine records and conduct audits at the direction of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, at this time, the assistance of your office is not needed by the Attorney General’s Office for our investigation,” she wrote in her letter to the Auditor General Lindsey Perry.

The investigation launched by Mayes last week hinges on a story from the Arizona Republic that highlighted that Sunshine Residential Homes, a group home company, donated roughly $400,000 in total to Hobbs’ campaign, inauguration fund, and the Arizona Democratic Party.

The group home then received daily pay rate per child increases of roughly 60% by the Department of Child Safety, leading to questions about whether or not they got the increase due to the donations. Senate President Pro Tempore T.J. Shope wrote to Mayes after the story broke, which is what triggered the investigation.

The Republic issued a clarification about the timeline of the check, and they also added details to the story that other places also received a rate increases if they had an existing relationship with DCS, but questions still loom about the basic premise of the story.

“Just like past investigations instigated by radical and partisan legislators, the administration will be cleared of wrongdoing. 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,” Christian Slater, a spokesman for Hobbs, told The Center Square on Friday. In response to the story updates, Slater tweeted that “two critical aspects of this story have been proven false.”

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