Tucson public demonstrates displeasure with Rio Nuevo

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Leaders of the controversial Rio Nuevo Project got a thorough ringing out by the public Monday night, just as one group is demanding a criminal investigation by both the state and federal government into where the millions of dollars went.

It was the first time taxpayers got a chance to voice their anger and frustration since the release of the Rio Nuevo audit a month ago.

The room was packed. In the audience were members of the Tucson tea party Patriots With a copy of the letter they sent to the FBI and State Attorney General's Office, demanding an investigation into possible crimes committed.

"There are now citizens screaming for FBI investigations and state attorney general investigations," said Tucson taxpayer James Kelly.

Tucson Tea Party Patriot Ally Miller is one of those citizens.  Her group helped draft this letter.

"We believe there is the potential that there is criminal conduct," said Miller.

Because of that belief citizens packed into Monday night's public hearing. One by one, they slammed the Rio Nuevo board for accountability, "Where is the money?  Can you guarantee no criminal activity took place?  Damn it, taxpayers are fed up...."

The Rio Nuevo audit was released on October 28, but taxpayers remain unsatisfied with the answers, or lack of answers, they feel they're getting.

"The general consensus is lets sweep this under the rug, close the door on this chapter and move on.  And to me, that's unacceptable and puts us at risk of losing the Tiff money," said Tucson Tea Party Patriot Sherese Steffens.

Which is exactly why Councilman Steve Kozachik says council and Rio Nuevo need to show they're on the same team.

"Let's show the legislature and taxpayers that these 2 bodies can work together," said Kozachik.

Taxpayers say they hope something will change but after 10 years and $230 million wasted, they're not optimistic it will. They say it may be time to pull the plug.

"I'm telling you if we don't see some progress, if we don't see these west side projects funded-- I don't care where you get the money-- I'm prepared to go up to Phoenix and ask the governor and legislature to disband this board," said Tucson taxpayer Lillian Lopez-Grant.

The state's auditors were on the panel Monday night And they did answer questions, but they say there's no evidence of criminal misconduct on behalf of the board.

They added that launching a full length forensic audit of Rio Nuevo would cost at least $1 million.