And I had been writing uncomplimentary things about Romley and Ortega in this column. On February 7, 1990, this column reported that the state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control was going to close down the Valley's most notorious bar, Club 902.

The shutdown followed an investigative series in this column that explored Romley's hidden financial interest in a saloon infamous for the parking-lot sale of crack cocaine. The coverage also revealed how the police department under Ortega protected Romley's operation. The very next day, February 8, 1990, Joseph Stedino, while wearing a body bug, asked Gary Bartlett if it was possible to meet me.

I thought that was a remarkable coincidence.
²But under cross-examination, Detective Ball said there was no effort by Romley and Ortega to target me because of the columns. Certainly not.

There was just this mysterious tip involving cocaine. And while there might not be any written record of this mysterious tip-we all make mistakesÏthe information certainly had to be investigated.

Let's assume that Detective Ball did not make up this entire story about cocaine at Richardson's to cover Romley's and Ortega's efforts to drag me into AzScam. Let's assume someone passed this garbage about cocaine on to them anonymously. Let's not quibble about whether or not the cops investigate every lunatic lead that comes in.

Fair enough.
Then why wasn't this mysterious tip turned over to a narcotics detective for investigation?

If AzScam wasn't a convenient excuse to silence Ortega's and Romley's critics, why was Joseph Stedino pulled away from the announced targetÏlegislators on the takeÏto pursue a journalist who'd investigated the police chief and the prosecutor?

If AzScam wasn't about politics, why was Joseph Stedino taken away from the legalized-gambling sting to investigate a corporation commissioner whose wife sought a Democratic opponent to challenge Romley?

Last month I asked in this column why Ortega and Romley directed Joseph Stedino to make inquiries about me.

The answers by Detective Ball only keep the troubling questions alive.


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