October started with what felt like endless Tucson summer, but by month’s end, we were starting to enjoy the kind of weather that reminds us why we love our place on Earth. All the while, the People’s Office continued our work to make Pima County a safer and healthier place to live by forming new partnerships and strengthening existing ones, getting out in the community, and taking part in an epic public safety event. And we won a couple of really cool awards from a local organization. Read on for more about what we’ve been up to, your October Monthly Newsletter has arrived!
In keeping with the People’s Office’s Core Value of “Communication and Transparency,” County Attorney Laura Conover put out a call to area reporters offering each a 30-minute sit down to discuss whatever topics were on their inquisitive minds.
Both print and television journalists took advantage of the opportunity to meet with Pima County’s top law enforcement official in the “Ask Me Anything” sessions in early October.
The interviews proved to be a great way to discuss topics such as our public records policies, decisions made by the office on high-profile cases and pending decisions yet to be made.
An interview with Telemundo gave Laura a chance to exercise her Spanish language acumen, while all providing information that better informed news consumers throughout Pima County.
PCAO was honored to have a pair of communication projects from 2022 be recognized by the Public Relations Society of America – Southern Arizona chapter on October 24th in downtown Tucson. The PRSA Impact Awards included recognition of our work to address the deadly opioid overdose epidemic through the public awareness campaign “Make the Call,” as well as our “Year Two Review.”
“Make The Call” was recognized as the best Public Service Announcement, while the “Year Two Review” was a winner in the Annual Report category. And fresh off winning those two awards, we are releasing the next phase of “Make the Call,” and working toward releasing our “Year Three Review” before the end of this year.
Building on the momentum of the awards PCAO just received, our communications department released this NEW PSA as part of our “Make The Call” campaign that same week to promote the use of Narcan to prevent overdoses in our community. It features Bryan Hamilton a Tucsonan who battled addiction, and now he’s helping others recover. We have added part 2 of the “Make the Call” campaign PSA to our social media pages. The video is available in both English and Spanish in 30 and 60-second clips.
The Arizona Prosecuting Attorney’s Advisory Council (APAAC) acknowledged in October what our Civil Division attorneys already knew, that Deputy County Attorney Javier Gherna is a sharp and up-and-coming lawyer. Javier was selected for the Arizona Public Lawyer 2023 Rising Star Award. We thank Javier for his hard work on behalf of the people of Pima County, and APAAC for sharing this recognition with the whole state.
Speaking of Mr. Gherna, he was among a group of PCAO folks who represented the Office at the University of Arizona’s Student-Athlete Career Night on campus.
He joined Victoria Chavarria, Jeff Amlee, and Shelley Bunting from PCAO at the event, where we were looking for junior and senior-year student-athletes to join our team. They met with students pursuing an array of undergraduate degrees about internships, volunteer opportunities, and jobs. They had a table of PCAO swag to share with the student athletes, because everyone likes free stuff.
Laura had the pleasure of visiting with veteran radio personality Bill Buckmaster and guest host Dylan Smith, editor and publisher of the Tucson Sentinel, on KVOI 1030 “The Voice,” where she caught listeners up on some of the top stories from the Legal Services Building.
They discussed PCAO’s developing adult Restorative Justice Program, the officer-involved shooting case of Ryan Remington and current crime trends in Pima County.
Later that same day, Laura joined Dr. Da’Mond T. Holt on 106.3 “The Groove” to talk about the Fresh Start Expo later in October, as well as the Restorative Justice program and other topics.
Laura calls it the most important public safety event of the year.
The Fresh Start Expo was held on Saturday, Oct. 21 and this year it drew some 1,500 Pima County residents looking to take advantage of a one-stop legal expo where they had the opportunity to move beyond past violations and restore their pre-conviction rights.
The event, which was started in 2019 by Dr. Da’Mond T. Holt, has grown significantly each year, bringing all facets of the criminal justice system in Pima County under one roof at the Tucson Convention Center.
Judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and legal assistants staff the event to meet the legal needs of residents for certain offenses, including expungement of marijuana-related convictions based on Proposition 207, which legalized recreational marijuana in Arizona.
In addition to the legal services, at least 50 vendors showed up to offer information and guidance on access to housing, employment, education, and counseling, as well as free clothing and haircuts to prepare them to make that fresh start in life. People showed up until the end of the event and received directions and contact information on how to handle their cases after the event.
As part of our commitment to continue moving forward with our core values of integrity and respect in our community, we have made changes to our website. It’s a way to recognize those who were on these lands in Southern Arizona before us, those who are here now and future generations. We have written a land acknowledgment to honor local tribes and added it to a prominent area on the front page of our PCAO website. Be sure to check it out and read it.
Students from Flowing Wells High School spent four hours shadowing PCAO attorneys in October, bringing their pens, pads, and youthful curiosity about the legal profession and the criminal justice system. Vicki Otto served as the guide for the group of seven female students. We appreciate Pima County Superintendent of Schools Dustin Williams for supporting and coordinating this experience for students.
Meanwhile, PCAO’s Director of Communications Shawndrea Thomas was selected to be an Honorary Base Commander at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. The two-year assignment helps connect the base with the community and vice versa. Shawndrea is assigned to the 355th Mission Support Group, where she will work with Col. Casey Bartholomew and his team.
Shannon Welsh from our Major Crimes Bureau was just inducted into the University of North Carolina-Greensboro Athletics Hall of Fame!!! Shannon was the 2006 SoCon Women’s Soccer Player of the Year, 2006 Tournament MVP, and three-time All-SoCon first-team awardee!! Go Shannon congratulations!!!
Veteran prosecutor Mark Diebolt was also recognized by his high school alma mater, Sahuaro High School, for his lifetime achievements. Before becoming an ace attorney, Mark was an outstanding football player and wrestler at Sahuaro, with honors including Flowing Wells Tournament Champion, Division 1 Champion, and Arizona State Wrestling Champion in the 138-pound class. Congratulations, Mark!!!
The PCAO Community Newsletter is published and distributed monthly.