The following is an update of an article published in the April, 2002 issue of The Oracle newspaper.

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Developer-backed group to spend $74,000 on wages, rent
Combating community deterioration for fun and profit
Posted to Monday, April 8, 2002

By J.C. Huntington

According to a budget filed with the IRS last July, Citizens for Positive Growth and Development (CPGD) plans to spend $14,000 over the next two years to rent office space at the Ranch Store Center in Oracle, owned by CPGD members Jerry and Sue Parra. 

Their budget allocates $6,000 for rent this year and  $8,000 next year, a 33 percent hike. 

CPGD's IRS form gives the address of the CPGD office as 1015 W. American Avenue, Room #5, Oracle, Arizona.  1015 W. American Avenue is the address of the Parra's Ranch Store Center.   Sue Parra is a co-director of CPGD.

When asked, via e-mail, about other lease-related items found in CPGD's filing with the IRS, Sue Parra explained that GPDG originally intended to rent office space but then decided against it.  Parra was then asked via an email sent March 15, why the budget allocates $14,000 for rent if CPGD is not renting an office.  As of press time, Parra has not responded.

Despite the fact CPGD told the IRS that their activities would "be conducted by volunteers," GPGD's budget shows the organization expects to spend $60,000 on wages over the next two years. 

CPGD's budget does not indicate who will be paid or say what services will be provided in return for the $60,000.

According to their newsletters, GPGD was formed to "combat community deterioration."

CPGD captured the public spotlight in January when The Oracle reported that Pinal County Supervisor Lionel Ruiz had announced he would not honor a pending lease agreement with the twenty-five-year-old, non-political Oracle Historical Society, but intended to give the lease to the then six-month old CPGD organization instead. 

The Historical Society had signed the lease agreement and given the county a check for the lease payment when Ruiz suddenly backed out of the deal, saying he would award the lease to GPGD.

The The Casa Grande Dispatch reported on February 28 that Ruiz told GPGD that he would award them the lease after the group obtained a 502(C)3 (tax-exempt) status from the IRS.

First page of CPGD's 1023 (click for larger view)
GPGD budget as reported to IRS 3 (click for larger view)
Obtaining tax-exempt status required CPGD to file a 1023 form with the IRS outlining their budget and revealing other details of the organization. CPGD supplied a copy of the 1023 form filed with the IRS to The Oracle as required by IRS rules for public disclosure.

According to CPGD's 1023 form, the organization will receive "a substantial portion of its support in the form of contributions from publicly supported organizations, from a governmental unit or from the general public."

The Arizona Daily Star reported on July 6, 2001 that Robson Communities Inc. and Anam Inc., had given GPGD nearly $7,000 in start-up money and that Oracle resident Bessie Jennings donated $7,000 in office equipment.

Robson and Anam seek to build very large housing projects in Ruiz's district. Jennings is the mother of CPGD founder Elaine Helzer and lives with Helzer and her husband, who is employed by the Pinal Planning and Zoning Department.

CPGD's budget says the organization expects an income of $200,000 over the next two years. GPDG expects the money to come primarily from grants, and the group told the IRS they plan "to work with grant writers and learn to write our own grants." 

In November of 2000, Ed Robson, CEO of Robson Communities Inc., sent a mailer to Oracle residents promising "$5.5 million to Oracle and Pinal County kids" provided the zoning for Robson's SaddleBrooke Ranch was not referred to a vote by a referendum action. 

Last April, Robson employee Denise Ritchey attended a meeting of the Oracle Town Hall and handed out several copies of a brochure from the Arizona Community Foundation. Ritchey explained the Robson money would be made available as grants distributed through the foundation.

GPGD's 1023 form says a secondary source of income will come from donations supplied by ordinary folks. 

A CPGD newsletter, published last October, says the group raised $2,000 in donations during July and August and spent the entire sum cleaning up the Oracle County Park, buying equipment for the Oracle Volunteer Fire Department and for "office expenditures."

The newsletter did not itemize the office expenditures, but reported that CPGD donated "two flashlights and a megaphone" to the fire department. 

The newsletter reported that labor for the park clean up was provided by 45 volunteers, including ten inmates from the Pinal County Jail, and that a bottled water company donated drinking water. Food was supplied by a local pizzeria that gave a "substantial discount on pizza served for lunch." 

The newsletter also had an advertisement asking for contributions. The ad ran above a form allowing folks to select one of several donation levels ranging from "Believer" at $1000 per year, to "Member" at $30 per year.  It would require 200 Member-level donations to pay CPGD's rent for this year.

Last December a political action committee, called Pinal Voters for Planned Development, achieved Believer-level status by donating $1000 to CPGD. 

Helzer serves as the treasurer of Pinal Voters for Planned Development and also serves as co-director of CPGD. 

The two organizations were formed within weeks of each other. CPGD's articles of incorporation were signed by Helzer June 30, 2001. Thirteen days later on July 13, 2001, Helzer signed the statement of organization for Pinal Voters for Planned Development.

Both organizations have financial ties to developers. CPGD was initially funded by Robson Inc. and Anam Inc., and 94 percent of the funds donated to Pinal Voters for Planned Development was supplied by one of the investors in "Land Trust 139," a group backing a project named Rancho Coronado in 1999. 

Rancho Coronado would have encircled Oracle with 4,000 houses, but the backers requested the county rescind the zoning after more than 8,000 signatures were gathered on a referendum opposing it. 

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