Wounded deputy left out of big game with Legislature - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Wounded deputy left out of big game with Legislature

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

Posted: Friday, April 15, 2011 5:15 am | Updated: 4:27 pm, Tue Jun 28, 2011.

I recently spoke with Kristi Marinez, the wife of medically retired Apache County Sheriff’s Office deputy Robert Marinez. On Nov. 6, 2001, Robert was shot twice in the head while making an arrest.

We’re treated with regular reports about the progress and success made by U.S. Rep. Gabriel Giffords following her head wound, but Marinez’s recovery is far from a happy headline.

Kristi told me how her family’s life has changed since her husband was wounded. Her tale was sad and disturbing, their suffering painful to hear.

There is no storybook ending for the Marinez family.

Kristi was extremely concerned about the legislative plans of state House Speaker Kirk Adams and state Senate President Russell Pearce, both R-Mesa, to eliminate the annual pension increases provided to disabled police officers and firefighters — something the Marinezes have come to depend on since Robert was medically retired in 2003. I can’t repeat her words about the planned cuts, but she told me they’re just barely getting by as it is. Right now she’s trying to figure out where to find $2,000 to pay the taxes on their home.

When we first spoke several years ago, she told me she had to drive 150 miles one way three times a week, in a car with well over 100,000 miles on it, to get her husband rehabilitative care. She now only has to drive 75 miles one way when her husband needs treatment. Having that mileage cut in half is a big deal to Kristi.

While thinking of how thankful Kristi was that her trips are shorter, I couldn’t help but think of Adams and Pearce and other legislators whose names have been mentioned in the Fiesta Bowl scandal being chauffeured around the country to watch football games.

The Fiesta Bowl is under investigation for possible criminal, civil, tax code and collegiate football rules violations for its involvement with the Legislature. The scandal is being compared to the 1991 AZSCAM corruption investigation of the state Legislature.

As the Fiesta Bowl spends thousands of dollars lobbying the Legislature and our elected legislative leaders are treated like rock stars — eating good and sleeping in fine hotels like the five-star Ritz-Carlton — the Marinez family isn’t able to afford health insurance from the vendor selected by the Legislature to provide coverage to public safety pensioners.

The Marinezes can’t afford to lobby the Legislature like the Fiesta Bowl to get the help they need, or to even keep the benefits they have. I doubt seriously whether anyone at the state Capitol would even be interested in taking or returning a call from Kristi — or would even remember Robert’s injury.

Until the scandal broke, I’d have bet a week’s pay dozens of state legislators would have been standing in line to take a call from the Fiesta Bowl. No doubt those who traveled and partied on the organization’s dime remember the names of those who rolled out the red carpet for legislators and their families.

That royal treatment has paid off for the Fiesta Bowl: The Tribune carried a report on March 30 that since 2002, nine pieces of legislation have been introduced designed to benefit the Fiesta Bowl.

Sadly, a wounded deputy can’t afford to pay to play with the Arizona Legislature, so no one has introduced legislation to benefit the Marinezes — just to hurt them.

• Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

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