Impeached Gov. Evan Mecham, who was convicted of taking $80,000 from his protocol fund, said he has the envelopes ready to return most of the money to donors rather than to state officials.
Mecham, who faced a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline from state officials to turn over some of the fund, sent a letter to the state attorney general's office, saying the state has no right to the money, currently being held in a bank account.The ousted governor said he will return the funds, most of which were contributed for an inaugural ball, to donors at the rate of 72 cents on the dollar.
The protocol fund was the center of one of two impeachable offenses for which the state Senate convicted Mecham in April, removing him from office. He was accused of illegally lending $80,000 from the fund to his automobile dealership.
In his letter, Mecham cited a statement made by state Attorney General Bob Corbin last fall that the protocol money would be classified as private funds, adding that no agreement ever was made to turn the money over to the state.
Instead, Mecham said he has received several requests from donors asking that their donations be returned since the money cannot be used for the purpose intended.
"We agree with them that that is the proper procedure to follow for the disbursement of the funds in the account which you refer to in your letter," Mecham said. "Accordingly, we have arrived at the pro-rated share belonging to each contributor, after the necessary costs have been calculated, and are prepared to disburse the funds."
In a speech Tuesday to the Tucson Advertising Club, Mecham said he has the letters addressed and ready to send to the contributors, and all he needs to do is put the checks in. Each contributor would be receiving "about 72 cents on each dollar."