The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting has been honored with six awards by the Arizona Press Club for its 2017 coverage of Arizona’s civil asset forfeiture program, cushy relationships between construction companies and school district officials, Arizona’s tax carve-outs, the pending shut down of a coal-fired power plant and how state universities hide their lobbying expenses.
AZCIR’s investigation into Arizona’s civil asset forfeiture program, which discovered lax oversight and missing data, was awarded 1st place for public safety reporting in both the community and statewide categories. The judge, Orlando Sentinel reporter Naseem S. Miller, praised AZCIR reporters Emily L. Mahoney and Agnel Philip for their “watchdog reporting, use of public documents and good writing to shed light on an issue that could have been easily missed.”
The December 2017 exposé on the handful of construction companies and architects who largely fund tax-increase campaigns for school districts and then win millions of dollars in contracts from those same districts was awarded 2nd place in the community investigative reporting category. The story was a partnership between AZCIR and KJZZ, and was written by Evan Wyloge and Carrie Jung. Judge Danny Robbins, an investigative reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, wrote that the story “was well done in that it revealed both the big picture and drilled down into what had occurred within several different school districts.”
A project with AZCIR and Huffington Post on the devastating effect that the planned closure of the Navajo Generating Station will have on the tribal community and Native American employees who depend on the coal-fired power plant was awarded second place in the community public service journalism category.
Reporting by Jim Small and Evan Wyloge on the $13 billion in Arizona taxes that go uncollected through a variety of carve-outs was honored with a 2nd place award for community government reporting. Judge Alec MacGillis, a political and government reporter for ProPublica, praised the story for its detailed accounting of how the state’s budget for critical services have been “crimped by deliberate reductions in tax revenue.” ” Crucially, the article explained that these reductions are the result not only of traditional tax-rate cuts, but an array of ‘exemptions, deductions, allowances, exclusions or credits’ doled out to industries and special interests,” he wrote.
AZCIR’s coverage of the Arizona State University Foundation’s opaque tax filings that raised more questions than answers, and its follow-up on how ASU and the University of Arizona use their foundations to pay lobbyists as a way to hide the costs, earned reporters Charles T. Clark and Jim Small a second place award for community education reporting. “Few topics are more important than transparency, and this story tackled that issue with gusto,” wrote New York Times investigative reporter Brian Rosenthal, who judged the category.