MCSO Detectives Question Former State Bar chief counsel Bob Van Wyck, Alleging He “Intimidated” Ernie Calderon, Who Backed Andrew Thomas in a Bar Probe

An attorney who recently left a top spot at the State Bar of Arizona says Maricopa County sheriff's detectives recently questioned him in Flagstaff about his alleged "intimidation" of another lawyer with close ties to Andrew Thomas.

That attorney, Bob Van Wyck, says he was baffled by the unannounced visit of the two MCSO detectives, and thought at first that they had knocked on the wrong door.

"They said they needed to speak with me about a, quote, 'incident' involving me and [former State Bar president and Arizona Board of Regents member] Ernie Calderon and some supposed intimidation by me," says Van Wyck, a former State Bar president and Superior Court judge.

"I didn't know what in God's name they were talking about. I've known Ernie for more than 10 years, worked with him closely on several matters, and we've never had a cross word."

Before moving to Flagstaff in December, Van Wyck had been at the epicenter of an ugly brawl between Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and the county's judiciary and media (specifically, this newspaper).

Several parties, including the State Bar itself, filed complaints in late 2007 and early 2008 against Thomas and an ally, private Phoenix attorney Dennis Wilenchik, alleging serious ethical breaches and other problems.

Van Wyck says he learned during his interrogation that he supposedly had "intimidated" Calderon after Calderon filed an affidavit in May 2008 on Thomas' behalf with the Arizona Supreme Court after the bar began its investigations.

Calderon concluded in that five-page affidavit that all the complaints against Thomas lacked merit.

For his efforts, Calderon billed Maricopa County for $11,904, or more than $2,000 per page, according to a spreadsheet provided the county's finance department. That was a small chunk of the $185,461 collected by Calderon and Associates in fiscal 2008 for legal work performed for Maricopa County, which was three times what the Phoenix firm had billed the county during the previous year.

The Thomas camp also collected affidavits from several other attorneys during its defense, including one from legal ethics professor Geoffrey Hazard, who described Van Wyck's actions during the controversial process as "unprofessional."

The affidavits were attached to a "special action" that Thomas' high-priced team of private attorneys filed with the high court, in which they specifically complained about Van Wyck and asked the court to transfer the investigations elsewhere.

Though the Supreme Court rejected Thomas' request, the Bar later did remove its then-chief counsel, Van Wyck, from overseeing the Thomas disciplinary cases. The Bar then appointed retired judge Rebecca Albrecht to take over as an "independent investigator."

Just last week, Albrecht dismissed the remaining complaints against Thomas, citing a lack of evidence. The complaints against Dennis Wilenchik are pending.

Van Wyck says that after quitting the State Bar (he says he is legally proscribed from talking about the circumstances), he resolved to put Phoenix behind him.

He moved to Flagstaff and hung up a shingle advertising a one-man firm specializing in the areas of ethics advice, representation of lawyers, and family law.

Last month, Van Wyck says, he took a call from someone who claimed to be a former client. He didn't recall the name but scheduled an appointment. But instead of an ex-client, he says, it was the two sheriff's detectives, dressed in plainclothes and flashing their badges.

The detectives, Van Wyck says, were courteous. For the record, he says, they did not read the former judge his Miranda Warnings against self-incrimination.

They immediately wanted to know about a call he'd made to Calderon after the pro-Thomas affidavit became public last year.

"I said, 'What?' Van Wyck recalls. "It was the oddest thing. I had absolutely no idea that they would drive all the way up here in regard to this."

Van Wyck says he did call Calderon's secretary shortly after reading the pro-Thomas affidavit "to see if he could speak to me about his analysis, so I could take it into consideration. It was just an incredibly routine phone call."

He says Calderon never returned his call, and that was that.

"I never spoke with Ernie about any of this Thomas stuff, before, during or after, and I told those [detectives] that," Van Wyck says. I was like, 'You guys drove 2 1/2 hours up here to interrogate a citizen about something that can't possibly have any ramifications of any kind. It doesn't even catch a civil issue, much less criminal."

As for Ernie Calderon's recollection of the events? Well, he didn't return two phone calls from New Times.

Shortly after Calderon published his opinion on complaints against Andrew Thomas, the Bar's governing board decided not to re­appoint him to the American Bar Association's House of Delegates after his four-year stint. Only four Arizona attorneys serve as delegates each year, and the appointment is considered prestigious in legal circles.

Ironically, Van Wyck says he sided (and still does) with Thomas' philosophical quarrel over the State Bar's current disciplinary structure.

"The perception problem that the Bar has is that its policy and disciplinary functions are set up so they can influence the other," he says. "In Arizona, you can have a 'probable cause' panelist sitting in a case who also is on the Board of Governors, which can look bad. The ABA model seeks to avoid that, and I think that's a good idea."

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9 comments
Kmallen53
Kmallen53

IT is not hard to believe they would drive that far.... I helped my niece move out of her house, because her ex boyfriend had beaten her up. Anyway ex was no longer living there but she was afraid he would show up, so i got a few ppl together and went and moved the stuff. Had the key from the property owner and permission. A man showed up asking about tools, told him they were on a truck to my house, he went to my house and retrieved them. A week or so later, I wake up with a deputy in my house and demanding to know where a person with my name was. I told him here what can I do for you. Long story short he drove from Wickenberg and I live in Glendale, 3 times to question me about stealing some tools. They were returned and I didn't steal them. He said I was not authorized to move my nieces belongings. I said I was acting as a moving agent in her behalf. He kept arguing with me about how I was not authorized. He said my nieces ex called and reported the tools stolen. I told him they were not even his tools and the owner of the tools got them back immediately. He continued to drill me. I said I'm done, either arrest me or were done. He swung me around and cuffed me I told him good take me to where ever we have to go because I am done with you. I sat in the car, on a Saturday morning about 7:00 am for 5 minutes and he came back and said lets go. I believe there was no intent I am not arresting you!!!! so yeah they will do that

lieh
lieh

thom ass is guilty as sin, up to old tricks as ever, corruption in maricopa county. the Feds need to clean house. !!

AZ Abuse of Power
AZ Abuse of Power

from above: "'You guys drove 2 1/2 hours up here to interrogate a citizen about something that can't possibly have any ramifications of any kind. It doesn't even catch a civil issue, much less criminal."

Sounds like another arpaio/thomas driven witch-hunt to us! Once again abuse of the taxpayers dollars in a financially strapped county and state while they hunt down their enemies. It's disgusting.

concerned citizen
concerned citizen

Good work exposing the depths of where arpaio/thomas will go to retaliate and get rid of those who oppose them. Van Wyck you deserve better. Stay safe good man we will watch this since you are another one that can be added to "enemies list" .

Arizona State of Fear
Arizona State of Fear

david saint, you truly described the situation thomas has created and perpetuated. Our society and the future of Arizona look grim when people are used as PR pawns and innocent lives are destroyed for a "vote", a "conviction" and to grow the obscene fees of lawyers, to grow the mass industrial prison complex - Arizona #4 largest percentage of state budget going to incarceration. Then ask what incarceration does to society, the destroyed families, children's lives and the future. We are creating MORE criminals, not less, since there is no money for rehabilitation. Arizona is warehousing human beings while those who abuse power and are allowed to operate above the law contribute to the demise of the taxpayers dollars.

thomas and arpaio have found groups of people to prey upon who are not allowed to have a voice, can be controlled and silenced, while they collect their millions from the Federal government to perpetuate their hatred and power at the expense of vulnerable people in our society. Arizona should be ashamed of itself to sit back and do nothing.

david saint
david saint

while i agree with tommy somewhat, the fact still remains that Thomas's tenure has been filled with inconsistancies, retaliations, and conflicts of interest..why would this be any different? The fact that he is allowed to abuse his authority daily, give his old boss millions upon millions in tax dollars, and prosecutes innocent people and not guards that kill inmates is frightening and disturbing. But that he was just re-elected is the worst part because that tells me that either people think this is acceptable, or that they just dont care. Either way, the walls we have built over the years to improve the measures of justice and punish those that abuse their power (ask mike nifong) seem to be falling a brick at a time daily with no end in sight around here. When are those that are charged with upholding the law, justice, and Constitutions going to respect their oaths? When are they going to be held to the same standards that we citizens are held accountable for? Call me crazy, but i still believe in an America where EVERYONE is treated as human beings, respected as individuals and not preyed upon as a PR tool, and the traditions and values that made this country so great will continue to carry on to the next generation..but at this rate the outlook doesnt look good.

TommyC1
TommyC1

Just a thought. It's entirely possible McIntyre may be telling the truth, yes - an anomaly for MCSO. It's likely the 'detectives' were deputies assigned to the County Attorney as investigators. I doubt Van Wyck asked them about their assignment or their supervisor. They likely were sent their by thomas or one of his miscreants. Now if you were to ask arpaio if he knew about it....

TommyC1
TommyC1

As the worm turns.... arpaio and thomas just can't screw with enough people to keep them happy. With all the turmoil they have already caused you would think they would sitting back, drinking scotch and smoking Honduran cigars. But no, someone sent two deputies to Flagstaff for an interview because thomas is upset with this guy and Calderon is getting cut out of his pork barrel work. Maybe Calderon should get out there and stump for clients, huh?

 
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