Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell has announced her plan to launch an investigation into Sunshine Residential Homes and its purported connection with Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs (D) and the Department of Child Safety (DCS). Mitchell conveyed her decision in a letter addressed to Mayes on Tuesday, which was obtained by ABC15. This marks the second probe into the alleged connection after the state’s Democratic attorney general, Kris Mayes, announced an investigation previously.

Sunshine is a state-contracted group home for foster children, funded by taxpayer dollars to care for some of the state’s most vulnerable. Last week, The Arizona Republic reported that Sunshine had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to both Hobbs’ inaugural fund and the Arizona Democratic Party.

Also last week, Mayes announced her criminal investigation into an alleged “pay for play” scheme, following a report by The Republic. She also sent letters to Mitchell’s office and the state’s auditor general, requesting that they suspend their own investigations into the matter. Mayes argued that these additional probes would be inappropriate and could “jeopardize the integrity” of her office’s investigation. Mitchell replied on Tuesday in a letter to Mayes, emphasizing the need for transparency and stating that her office would prosecute the case if necessary, ABC15 reported.

“I want to be clear: This is not an accusation against you or the many fine employees in your office,” Mitchell’s letter read, in part. “We are in a time when people are increasingly distrustful of government. Your insistence on being the sole investigator in this matter will greatly contribute to people’s distrust but also to their belief that nothing can change.”

State Rep. David Livingston, R-28th District, has asked Mayes to recuse herself from the investigation due to concerns that she would not be able to properly investigate a member of her own party. Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee, a Republican, requested Mitchell, also a fellow Republican, to conduct her own investigation to ensure objectivity, ABC15 added.

Tommy McKone, a rep for Sunshine Residential Homes, issued the following statement to ABC15:

Sunshine Residential continues to remain committed in caring for the population they have served for several decades in Arizona — troubled and vulnerable youth receiving the resources necessary to thrive. Sunshine Residential has always been steadfast in their commitment and partnership to the State of Arizona and remain committed to do so going forward while cooperating fully with any inquiry by any investigative agency.

According to a report from Arizona Central, a home operator partnering with the Arizona Department of Child Safety has received a substantial increase in state funding, while pay raises for other providers have been denied. Over the past year, the Arizona Department of Child Safety has approved a 60 percent increase in Sunshine Residential Homes Inc.’s daily rate for child care.

The outlet reported this amounts to “potentially millions of dollars more going to the company at taxpayers’ expense.” The CEO of the company, Simon Kottoor, was part of Hobbs’ inaugural committee, and Hobbs praised the company while campaigning for governor. As Arizona DCS renegotiated its contracts with home providers, Hobbs and her husband attended a private event at the mansion of the CEO of the company.

Last week, Mayes’ office announced that it will open a criminal probe into Sunshine. The investigation comes at the behest of Republican State Senator T.J. Shope, who asked Mayes to investigate a potential “pay-for-play” scheme. “The Criminal Division of the Attorney General’s Office is statutorily authorized to investigate the allegations and offenses outlined in your letter,” Mayes’ office wrote in a letter to Shope. “To that end, the Attorney General’s Office will be opening an investigation.”

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