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LaWall campaign's use of TUSD print shop may cross legal lines

Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall has for years paid the Tucson Unified School District print shop to produce election materials — a practice that may be barred by state law, and that the district said would be halted after TucsonSentinel.com pointed it out.

LaWall has paid TUSD more than $2,500 to print campaign items — including envelopes, letterhead and other promotional items — dating back to at least 2011.

Arizona law bars school districts from using funds, facilities or equipment "for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections."

LaWall did not respond to a request for comment. We'll update this report if we ever hear from her.

The district print shop, which is staffed by employees rather than students, "is self-sustaining and operates on the profits made from the work produced," said TUSD spokeswoman Stefanie Boe.

While the printer does do work for outside groups as well as providing services to district teachers and schools, those groups are generally nonprofits or other local school districts, not politicians, Boe said Monday.

A routine review of LaWall's recent campaign finance report, filed at the deadline last Friday, showed that the Democratic prosecutor had paid the district for printing in July. Examination of previous reports showed that LaWall's political committee had paid TUSD on at least a dozen separate occasions. TUSD did not appear on forms filed by other political candidates that were reviewed.

LaWall's total payments to TUSD are small compared to some of her other campaign promo expenses, which included more than $16,000 to Tucson firm the Gloo Factory for printing and mailing services in just July and August.

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TUSD's Boe acknowledged that the print shop should not be providing work for a politician, although she said "all services were paid for at full price."

"Unfortunately our print shop manager came from the private sector and wasn't aware that he shouldn't be accepting orders from political candidates. We have advised him to immediately stop," Boe said.

"No one outside of the print shop was aware printing services were being provided to a candidate," she said in an emailed statement.

The state Attorney General's Office did not respond to questions about LaWall's campaign payments.

LaWall, first elected as Pima County's top prosecutor in 1996, faces challenger Joel Feinman in the Democratic primary on Tuesday. The winner will meet Green Party candidate Cyndi Tuell in the November election — the Republicans did not field a candidate for the office.

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Jessica Boehm/Cronkite News

LaWall in 2013.

Arizona law bars districts from political activities

A.R.S. 15-511. Use of school district or charter school resources or employees to influence elections

A. A person acting on behalf of a school district or a person who aids another person acting on behalf of a school district shall not spend or use school district or charter school resources, including the use or expenditure of monies, accounts, credit, facilities, vehicles, postage, telecommunications, computer hardware and software, web pages, personnel, equipment, materials, buildings or any other thing of value of the school district or charter school, for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections. Notwithstanding this section, a school district may distribute informational reports on a proposed budget override election as provided in section 15-481, subsections B and C or informational reports on a proposed bond election as provided in section 15-491, subsection D if those informational reports present factual information in a neutral manner, except for those arguments presented as prescribed in section 15-481, subsection B, paragraph 9. Nothing in this section precludes a school district from reporting on official actions of the governing board.

LaWall's TUSD payments

These payments are among those made by LaWall's campaign to the TUSD print shop:

  • 11/29/2011 $215.90 remittance envelopes
  • 1/04/2012 $74.40 envelopes
  • 1/25/2012 $33.60 envelopes
  • 4/10/2012 $164 envelopes
  • 9/04/2015 $322 printing
  • 11/06/2015 $302 envelope printing
  • 1/28/2016 $205 campaign promotional items
  • 2/25/2016 $89.50 envelopes
  • 4/8/2016 $112.25 letterhead
  • 4/25/2016 $214.25 campaign promotional items
  • 4/26/2016 $512.75 campaign cards and envelopes
  • 5/20/2016 $276.50 inserts & envelopes
  • 7/25/2016 $48 printing