An Accounting Nightmare

Coopers & Lybrand leaves governor in "worst of all worlds" legally; but quick removal from office seems unlikely

Not only did Symington lie to Citicorp about not having a December 31, 1990, financial statement; Coopers & Lybrand now is admitting that Yeoman helped Symington lie, having prepared a draft of the deceptive letter Symington later sent to Citicorp.

The stunning admission binds Symington and Yeoman together in an effort to defraud Citicorp. And that admission yet again corroborates accusations leveled against Symington in the criminal case.

Legally and financially, Symington is in deep trouble. But it is unlikely he will leave office anytime soon.

Despite the vast amounts of evidence of the governor's public and private malfeasance, the word "impeachment" is scarcely mentioned in the state's mainstream media. There is little in the way of leadership at the Legislature; Senate president John Greene and Speaker of the House Mark Killian have both decided not to seek reelection. And the Republican-controlled Legislature appears to be lurching even further to the right--and closer to the suddenly archconservative Symington--than it had been before the primary election earlier this month.

A recall effort is under way, but it clearly has not taken off as its sponsors hoped.

With impeachment and recall only dim possibilities, Symington's chief criminal attorney, John Dowd, has pursued a three-point strategy: Delay the case, deny the charges and accuse the prosecution of unfair tactics.

"The fact that this information [the Coopers & Lybrand settlement] was released during the pendancy of this important criminal litigation will be brought to the attention of the court," Dowd complained in a press statement released Friday.

"Any insinuation that Fife Symington engaged in wrongdoing with his former accountant is totally false," he added.

Symington's political consultants joined in the public relations fray, claiming that "Democratic" federal prosecutors were waging a political war against Arizona's squeaky-clean Republican governor.

"If the public believes, as I believe, that this is a political prosecution, [Symington] should have no trouble maintaining his political standing," Charles Coughlin, a former Symington aide and a chief fund raiser for the governor's legal defense fund, told a Valley newspaper.

If the state's main political forces appear to remain in Symington's corner, so do many of its business powerhouses.

In fact, some of the very lenders Symington allegedly defrauded of millions of dollars are remaining awkwardly quiet on the sidelines of his criminal and bankruptcy battles.

Bank One, First Interstate Bank and Citicorp, all of whom do significant business with the state government, have yet to make one public statement of concern about their dealings with the governor--dealings that have cost them a combined $8 million.

"I'm surprised they haven't been more active in the [bankruptcy] case," says Dake.

It seems unlikely that they will become any more active until Symington goes to trial in criminal court. That trial will not begin before spring, and it could be delayed months beyond then.

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