Marana may face recall, referendum
Petitions for the recall of the Marana Town Council and for a referendum were drawn last week by a citizen opposed to the annexation and rezoning last month of the proposed Willow Ridge development.
Marana Town Clerk Jocelyn Bronson said Doug McVie, an environmentalist and neighbor living near the planned Willow Ridge development at Cortaro Road and Camino de Oeste, drew the petitions and was provided with estimated signature requirements for both referendum and recall elections.
McVie did not return phone calls seeking comment. At the April 20 Marana town council meeting in which the Willow Ridge rezoning was unanimously approved, McVie had objected to the development and characterized it as being incompatible with the Marana General Plan and Pima County environmental studies.
Willow Ridge developers Mike Carlier and Raul Piña are planning about 200 homes and a commercial strip on land that several environmental organizations claim is an important wildlife corridor and ecologically-valuable stand of ironwood forest.
Other neighbors filed a lawsuit April 20 in Pima County Superior Court to stop Willow Ridge claiming the area was improperly annexed.
Bronson said the recall petition would require between 60 and 70 signatures for each council member in order to hold the recall election. A referendum to potentially reverse the annexation or rezoning would only require about 31 signatures to make the ballot.
Signature requirements are based on voter turnout from previous elections.
Marana Town Manager Mike Reuwsaat said he thought discussion of recall or referendum was "premature" and noted the project would still have to gain approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because it lies in the critical habitat of the endangered cactus feruginous pygmy owl.
Marana prison warden quits
Gil Lewis resigned April 30 as warden of the Marana Community Correctional Treatment Facility, a post he had held for seven of the 10 years the minimum security prison has been in operation.
Lewis, who said he's a deeply religious man, cited his faith as contributing to his decision to resign as head of the private prison operated by Management & Training Corporation at 12610 W. Silverbell Road.
"I've been out there for seven years doing all this stuff and I got tired and needed a change," Lewis said in a phone interview last week. "I needed to find myself again with God."
Lewis had consistently drawn praise from community leaders for his operation of the prison, which never had an escape or major incident during his tenure.
Lewis and had, however, been named in an employment discrimination complaint filed by former prison employee Mike Jacobson last year with the civil rights division of the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
Jacobson claims he was wrongfully terminated while on medical leave for treatment of Hepatitis C he believes he may have contracted at the prison.
Jacobson said he was notified April 30 by the civil rights division that the complaint had been dismissed, but he expects to appeal the decision and planned on filing a lawsuit against Lewis and MTC.
Lewis and Carl Stuart, communications director for Utah-based MTC, said Jacobson's complaint did not play any role in Lewis's decision to resign.
"I wasn't made aware of any particular reason for his leaving. He certainly served well for us and I guess it was just a personal decision on his part," Stuart said.
John Shanks of MTC's corrections division has been appointed interim warden until a full time replacement is chosen, Stuart said.
The prison, which opened in 1994, houses approximately 500 inmates charged with DUIs or substance abuse related crimes.
Crime in Catalina plummets
Property crimes in the Catalina area dropped substantially last month after the arrests of five men on various charges, a Pima County Sheriff's Department deputy told the Greater Catalina/Golder Ranch Council April 27.
In a March 10 story in the Northwest EXPLORER, PCSD officials had predicted burglaries, auto thefts and larcenies could drop by as much as 85 percent in Catalina following the arrest of the men.
"Basically, these guys are responsible for a ton of auto theft, a lot of burglaries, a lot of larcenies and a lot of drug and alcohol-related crimes. But the one that really affects the community up there is the property crimes. We've arrested them all multiple times," PCSD Lt. Don Kester said in an interview in March.
Deputy Michael Moseley told the council that the burglary rate, which had averaged about 10 incidents per month and had run as high as 20 break-ins in one month, had dropped to only two in the previous 27-day period.
Some of the men arrested had been charged with auto theft, which had been a chronic problem in the Catalina area, Moseley said.
There had been no reports of auto theft in the previous 27 days and only two cases of larceny, Moseley said.
"All property crime rates are running way below average since the arrests," Moseley said, prompting applause from the 35 residents who attended the council meeting.