When this latest mudstorm hit the dailies, Symington again was out of town-Washington, D.C., this time. But the cockeyed stories spun by his press aide, Doug Cole, and his chief of staff, Chris Herstam, took the art of spin-doctoring to new and dizzying heights.

When Alvarez was first asked about the New York trip last fall, she said she'd already repaid the Governor. That was answer number one.

When Cole was asked the same question last Thursday, he came up with a different, more convoluted tale. Cole said that Alvarez actually thought her reimbursement check for the New York trip was recompense for a later Washington sojourn with commerce chief Jim Marsh. That was answer number two.

But then it was discovered that Alvarez already had been reimbursed the $268 for the Washington trip. That occasioned answer number three.

Alvarez simply did not remember receiving the $268 check. Of course not: She filed two expense claims for the Washington trip, one with the Commerce Department, another with the Office of Tourism.

Alvarez did so much traveling her first months in office, evidently her head was spinning. So were all the reimbursement checks.

So were all the administration's answers.
I didn't think it possible, but finally Cole pulled out one explanation- answer number four-that truly serves as the scoundrel's last refuge.

There were a lot of secretaries," Cole explained.
You bet. But all the double-dipping of Fife and Annette can't be laid at their secretaries' doorstep. The secretaries don't originate these documents. Cole's latest excuse was like blaming the maid for the missing silverware. Annette finally cut Fife a check to reimburse him for her room charges only last Thursday-nearly a year after Fife and Annette did the Big Apple. Or at least that was answer number five.

We already knew Annette had a lot to learn about international trade. Then we discovered her bookkeeping wasn't so great, either. Indeed, last Saturday-six months after the Republic editorially dismissed Symington's affection for his bumbling aide as much ado about nothing-even the Republic changed course, urging the Governor to toss Alvarez overboard.

Fife obeyed. Alvarez walked the gang plank 48 hours later. Apparently no one could fill Annette's shoes-no successor was immediately named.

But Annette's departure doesn't get Fife off the hook. Hasn't he known all along about these shenanigans?

Surely he knows he paid for Annette's room, and just as surely he knows she didn't repay him. Surely he knows he paid her delinquent taxes with campaign funds, and just as surely he knows Annette never earned" the money as a consultant.

In fact, Fife and Annette's tax fiasco might never have reached the light of day if Symington-a man of great inherited wealth-had simply paid off her tax liens with his own money. Instead, he dipped into campaign finances to get the IRS off his confidante's back. Surely he knows that the state legislature already impeached one Arizona governor four years ago for essentially the same error of protocol.

He also knows he's been too cute by half about the whole affair. It's not a capital crime.

It's just a petty offense.
And a cover-up.
And one too many lies.

KIBITZ AND BITS... v4-01-92

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