Best of Fife Vol. II

Fife has done much in — and to — Arizona. We've been keeping track

Best Toadies: Department of Public Safety Brass
Tired of battling with DPS leaders, Symington appoints lapdog Joe Albo to run the agency in January 1995. At Symington's direction, Albo rapidly promotes a former member of the governor's security detail, Charlie Warner, to the No. 2 spot in the agency. DPS morale plummets.

Best Reason to Like Mexicans:
They Appreciate Corruption
Symington tells a Kiwanis Club meeting, "They actually like me in Mexico. I actually get treated like a governor when I'm in Sonora. They even suck up to you."

Best Mexican Connection:
Alejandro Canelos Rodriguez
Symington strikes up cozy relationship with Alejandro Canelos, one of the world's largest produce growers based in the drug-infested Mexican state of Sinaloa. Canelos can't get a permanent visa to enter the United States because he's suspected of drug trafficking by U.S. law enforcement agencies.

No problem. Symington flies on DPS state plane to Culiacan, Sinaloa, and holds private meetings with Canelos in October 1995, one month after a "J. Fife Symington" joins Canelos on the board of directors of a Mexican company called Melones Internacional.

Best Crony South of the Border: Manlio Beltrones
The former governor of the Mexican state of Sonora, Beltrones and Symington exchange mushy letters heaping praise upon one another. Symington and Beltrones have frequent meetings, and Symington's family vacations at Beltrones' Guaymas, Mexico, waterfront home. Beltrones is thrust into the national spotlight when the New York Times reports he has been linked by U.S. law enforcement agencies to narcotics traffickers.

Best King Air: Yours (Fife's)
Immediately after becoming governor, Fife orders DPS to purchase a $1.7 million turbojet aircraft for his use. Fife, a pilot, frequently uses the plane for personal vacations, including trips to Mexico, Texas and California. The plane comes in handy during his 1994 reelection campaign. He takes one of his criminal defense lawyers, Luis Mejia, with him on a flight to the 1997 Rose Bowl.

Best Civil Suit: Resolution Trust Corporation v. J. Fife Symington III
The RTC sues Symington and other bank bigwigs in U.S. District Court in 1991, claiming their actions led to the demise of Southwest Savings and Loan. Three years later, the suit is settled for $12.1 million. Symington pays nothing, but discovery in the case helps the feds nail him later, in criminal court.

Best Indictments in the History of Arizona: Fife's
After years of investigating, the feds indict Fife in June 1996. He is indicted on 21 counts of bank fraud, one count of perjury and one count of attempted extortion. Fife, of course, says he's innocent. Later, two counts are dismissed by a federal judge.

Best Sign That You're Unemployable Elsewhere:
Governing by Trial
Despite the indictments and a three-month trial, Fife refuses to step down from the Ninth Floor. He figures he can run the state in his spare time.

Best Chance Meeting: Felon and Felon to Be
In February, Charles H Keating Jr. and Fife are spotted in the same small store at the same time, standing less than 25 feet apart, and don't see each other--or at least pretend they don't see each other. It happens near 44th Street and Camelback.

The Trial
Best Gasbag: Defense Attorney John Dowd
Fife's defense attorney may look like Julia Child in drag, but there the similarities end. He's gained fame for nailing Pete Rose and George Steinbrenner in the Major League Baseball scandal, but he goes over to the dark side when he defends Keating Fiver John McCain. McCain introduces him to his most profitable client--John Fife Symington III. At the trial, Dowd tries to confuse the jury with his nonsensical blustering. On the courthouse steps, he swears at reporters, insults them and even whacks at one of them.

Best Media Suck at the Trial:
Mark Flatten, Tribune Newspapers

Best Political Suck at the Trial:
State Senator John Kaites

Best Fair-Weather Friend:
U.S. Senator John McCain
Fife and the senator share everything--from hair color (white) to ideology (conservative) to counsel (John Dowd and Jay Smith) to staff (Symington's former chief of staff Wes Gullett came from the McCain camp).

When Republican Barbara Barrett dares to challenge Symington in 1994, McCain publicly chastises her. When his friend Fife goes to trial in May 1997, McCain is supportive. But one can't help but postulate that now that Fife's headed for the Big House, McCain's absence will be noticeable.

After all, McCain has his eye on a different House.

Best Secretary Since Rosemary Woods:
Joyce Riebel
After getting immunity from prosecution for herself, Fife's ex-secretary reluctantly testifies she typed, then hid, Fife's wildly conflicting financial statements under lock and key--and sent them to the appropriate banks at the request of her boss.

Best Hail Marys:
Marydell Pritzlaff and Mary Jane Cotey
Mary Jane Cotey is bumped off the jury because she isn't able to track the material and can't fill out her lunch request form. Marydell Olin Pritzlaff, Fife's mother-in-law, shows no class at all when she punches TV news reporter Lew Ruggiero on the courthouse steps, then sticks out her old tongue at a photographer who captures the unprovoked assault.

Best Reporter Who Deserves a Purple Heart:
Lew Ruggiero

Best Let-Them-Eat-Cake Act: Ann Symington
The first lady writes thank-you notes and doodles during most of her husband's trial.

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