Romley's Richelieu

Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley's office is accused of retaliating against a former colleague who says top aide Barnett Lotstein sexually harassed her


Liz Sukenic continued to work at the office after the investigation into her allegations ended, but not for long. Almost immediately, she alleges in her letter to the county, "the retaliation then began."

Sukenic claims that, on March 3, Jan Jennings told her Rick Romley no longer wanted her to attend the bimonthly division chiefs' meetings, as she'd been doing since being hired. That day, Jennings also ordered her, for the first time, to provide a weekly activity calendar. A few days later, the office removed Sukenic as its representative on two boards. On March 7, Jennings questioned Sukenic in a terse e-mail about how much time she'd been putting in at the office (Romley earlier had barred Sukenic from working at home anymore).

David Hollenbach
Lotstein is Rick Romley's spinmeister with local media.
Lotstein is Rick Romley's spinmeister with local media.

"Elizabeth got the message loud and clear," her attorney, Amy Langerman, wrote in the letter. "She resigned effective March 9."

In her resignation letter to Jan Jennings, Sukenic wrote, "I have always worked more hours than I was paid for, and this was the first time that anyone has told me that I had to be in the office until 2:30 p.m. I can only wonder why you, Paul and Rick have changed your position so dramatically. . . . Until the time I told you of special assistant Barnett Lotstein's sexual harassment of me, which you then reported, I had received a great deal of praise from you, Paul Ahler and Rick Romley."

Fifteen days after Sukenic quit, she got two letters, both of which appeared to be designed to discourage her from pursuing her grievances against Lotstein and the County Attorney's Office.

One letter came in the mail from attorney Georgia Staton, who said she was representing Barnett Lotstein. It warned Sukenic to stop spreading false statements about her client. That day, investigator Bill Heath personally delivered a letter from Paul Ahler to the Sukenics' home. It started "Dear Ms. Sukenic," instead of the more familiar "Dear Liz."

Ahler denied any retaliation, noting, for example, that Sukenic hadn't been the only employee who wouldn't be attending the division chiefs' meetings anymore. Among other concerns, the letter also refers to "performance problems" Sukenic allegedly had been having in supervising a video production for a local cable channel.

"I understand you are frustrated and angry because your complaint of unprofessional conduct was not sustained," the chief deputy wrote. "You should not, however, allow those feelings to color your perceptions of the treatment that you received as an employee."

Jan Jennings repeats that she doesn't believe anyone retaliated against Liz Sukenic:

"Before the Barnett thing came up, it was clear that there had been some miscommunication up there. Rick was assigning her things that I didn't know about, and she was assigning herself things. Finally, I said to Paul [Ahler], 'Let's be on the same page about what Rick wants Liz to do.' It was just an unfortunate set of circumstances."

Contact the author at his online address: paul.rubin@newtimes.com

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