Personal Foul

Jim Irvin should give up using taxpayers' money as a political football

In this job, it's difficult not to maintain a mental "coaches' poll" of the state's top scumbags.

Sociopath Sheriff Joe is a perennial powerhouse in the dirtbag BCS. Former bishop Tommy "Speed Bump" O'Brien has the strong running game and defense necessary to challenge for the title. Russell Pearce, Dave Hendershott, J.D. Hayworth, the Bidwills, Fife Symington, Jeff Groscost and Dick Mahoney are always vying for a major Bastard Bowl bid.

But this year, thanks to a relentless offensive game and a never-say-impeach attitude, there's a new Miami of Miscreants in the state. His name is Jim Irvin, and he has just earned himself the top spot in the Scumbags of Arizona poll.

Jim Irvin
Jim Irvin

Last week, facing impeachment by the state House of Representatives for being a scumbag, Irvin resigned from his position as an Arizona Corporation Commissioner.

Wonderful news. Don't let the state line hit you in the ass, Jimbo.

But instead of quietly retiring to the Cayman Islands, where they play his brand of financial football, Irvin decided to stay in Arizona and make more of a mess for the people of Arizona.

Specifically, he says he's going to sue the state to recover the $579,000 in legal costs, as well as the $60 million in punitive damages, that he incurred in court for being a scumbag. He claims he shouldn't have to pay those fees because he incurred them while working so gosh-darn diligently for the state.

(Irvin's attorney didn't return my calls for comment.)

Court costs would have been more, but the state -- meaning you -- has already paid $4.5 million to defend him. (How many new teachers is that?)

The civil case against Irvin stems from the egregious attempts in 1999 by Irvin and his top aide, Jack Rose, to derail the purchase of Southwest Gas by a company called Southern Union. Irvin and Rose instead attempted to coerce fellow California and Nevada regulators to block the Southern Union deal in favor of a less lucrative offer by the Oklahoma company Oneok.

It turned out Rose stood to make millions in consultant fees if the Oneok purchase could be forced upon Southwest by Western regulators.

Southern Union sued and Irvin eventually took the biggest hit. A jury slapped Irvin with $60 million in punitive damages for his behavior. Jurors said they wouldn't have leveled such a hefty fine if Irvin had agreed to resign.

Funny that Irvin is now trying to strap the state with that $60 million tab that came about because he refused to resign back when any decent human being would have resigned.

But Irvin's Southwest Gas dealings are just the tip of the dung heap. Indeed, Mel McDonald, the excessively competent former U.S. attorney hired by House leadership to investigate Irvin for impeachment proceedings, explored four other charges against Irvin in his report, which he'll complete and give to legislators in the next week. Irvin's resignation has failed to deter McDonald.

When Mel McDonald explores, heads roll. Unlike Southern Gas' attorneys and the sleepy folks at the U.S. Attorney's Office who declined to prosecute Irvin after the jury's findings, McDonald got Rose to speak openly for his investigation. McDonald questioned Rose for three days. On the third day, Rose came without his attorney.

"It was a very frank, open discussion," McDonald tells me. "It was very enlightening."

In laymen's terms, that means "very damning." As Irvin and his attorneys got wind of the frankness of Rose's testimony, they began looking for a deal with McDonald.

You know, if Jimbo resigns, maybe Mel could just save himself the trouble of writing up that report for the Legislature.

No deal. McDonald's report will be public record.

"We want the public to see this report," McDonald says.

By resigning, Irvin not only avoids the public lashing of impeachment, he avoids the coup de grâce of Arizona's impeachment protocol -- what is known as "The Dracula Clause."

Basically, if legislators find somebody reaches a certain level of scumbagness, that person can be blocked from ever running for public office again in Arizona.

McDonald and others, including a surprisingly courageous bloc of Irvin's fellow Republicans, want the report completed to give Arizonans a sort of de facto Dracula Clause. If Irvin runs for office again, voters can read the report to understand what a batty blood-sucking king of the politically undead he is.

McDonald's report will shed light on charges that Irvin's wife, Carol, forged notes submitted to the civil court in which she detailed an alleged 1999 telephone conversation between herself and Rose. Her notes detail Rose telling her that he used her husband as an unwitting stooge in the Southern Union deal.

Funny thing is, when Southern Union attorneys said they planned to subject the notes to forensic tests, Carol Irvin admitted she wrote the notes the night before they were presented in trial in 2002.

At that time, she told the court she was just copying the notes from the 1999 originals to make them more legible.

At that time, Jack Rose, who took the Fifth in that case, wasn't around to refute her testimony.

Voilà! Now he is. Let the party begin.

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