Pressure Tactics

You won’t believe what GOP officials are pulling now to try to keep Senator Jack Harper from discovering the truth about a local election!

"I'm not going to lie to anybody," he told me. "If they ask me under oath, I'm going to tell them."

I have talked to sources close to Harper who say he told them that Weiers offered him a job with the Republican party during the meeting last June -- a meeting that also included a discussion about Harper's dropping his investigation.

The Ethics Committee will not be hearing what Harper has to say about any "quid pro quo" for dropping the District 20 probe. The committee's Republican majority voted 3-2 on January 16 to drop Brotherton's ethics complaint.

That leaves it up to Goddard or Charlton to send an investigator over to Harper's office and get a sworn statement about what he says transpired.

Weiers is now taking aggressive steps to bury the matter.

Harper says that on Thursday, January 19, Weiers personally demanded that Harper ask for a retraction from New Timesof the following statement that I wrote in last week's column ("Ballot Boxing"):

"Sources told New Times that Weiers may have offered Harper a favor last June to back off from his investigation. Weiers denies making the offer, but Harper tells me he's willing to swear under oath that it occurred."

Harper says he refused to comply with Weiers' demand.

"What the Speaker's office wants is me demanding a retraction. It's not going to happen!" Harper says. "[Weiers] is asking me to discredit you so they can try and say everything you have written is a lie."

But Harper's refusal to seek a retraction did not stop Senate Communications Director Nick Simonetta from telephoning me the next morning, January 20, and telling me that Harper wanted a retraction. At that time, I had no idea what had transpired the day before with Harper and the Speaker.

I told Simonetta that if Harper wanted a retraction he should contact me himself. I also told Simonetta that I had every reason to believe that what I wrote was true because it was based on numerous interviews with Harper and other sources.

I then interviewed Harper and learned that the Speaker himself had demanded the retraction and that Harper had said no way.

A few hours later, I called Simonetta back and asked him about the status of Harper's supposed request for a retraction.

Simonetta said Harper was still insisting that the retraction be issued.

"I'm saying on behalf of Senator Harper . . . as a member of the staff of the Senate, that Senator Harper wishes to have that statement retracted because he didn't make it to you."

I told Simonetta, who was joined on the phone interview by Weiers' press secretary, Barrett Marston, that Harper had declared to me earlier that day that he wasn't requesting any retraction.

"I'll talk to the senator about that," Simonetta replied. "It's hard for me to believe anything you're telling me."

Well, Nick, it's pretty difficult to believe a word you're saying when you claim Harper wanted a retraction when Harper himself says he doesn't want one.

As for the underlying issue in all this -- whether elections are being conducted fairly in Maricopa County -- the obstructionists are now saying there is nothing to be gained from looking at the ballots, and, besides, they may be damaged or unreadable.

Maricopa County elections director Karen Osborne told Harper's committee recently that the ballots could have been ruined by the "200 degree heat" inside their concrete storage locker. The ballots, by the way, are apparently being stored illegally because they are not in the County Treasurer's safe, as required by state statute.

County Attorney Thomas testified before Harper's committee that he is opposed to inspection of the ballots because he does not think much of Jones' report.

Senate President Bennett is offering no help to Harper. He has refused to even provide a Senate attorney to assist Harper in obtaining a court order to get Thomas to release the ballots.

I have heard that the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is poised to jump into the fray on Harper's behalf.

But, with or without the ACLU's intervention, AG Goddard or U.S. Attorney Charlton should find out what Harper has to say about Speaker Weiers' pressure tactics as a first step toward discovering what all these GOP officials are hiding from us.

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