The head of the Maricopa County NAACP is accusing two members of the state Board of Regents of having conflicts of interest. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer explains.
The Reverend Oscar Tillman said he sees a problem with Dennis DeConcini and Anne Mariucci serving both as regents and as board members of Corrections Corporation of America. It recently got a contract to build and operate a 1,000 bed prison for the state potentially worth nearly $24 million a year.
Tillman said the share of the state budget for prisons is increasing while there's less for higher education. He acknowledged that shift in priorities was approved not by the regents but by the Legislature. But, he argued the key is money. "You're going around the back door, giving the legislators money for prisons," Tillman said. "I don't know too many people that are giving legislators money to help them get more money for the schools and its colleges."
Mariucci denied she has a conflict saying, "in fact, I would go further to say that privatizing prisons and defraying the capital costs away from the state that the private sector can provide in a private prison contract creates more money for education." Mariucci went on to say, "it's not a conflict in my mind. I look at it as the opposite of a conflict wherein it's mutually complementary and it's a win-win for both industries."
Dennis DeConcini, a former U.S. senator, also said there is no conflict.