Quite a sight yesterday afternoon in downtown Phoenix.
The entire workforce of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office--it numbers in the hundreds--took to the streets (Jefferson, to be exact) as one, and trooped north a block or two to the Orpheum Theatre for a big meeting,
It was new County Attorney Bill Montgomery's way of introducing himself to his new crew on his first full day on the job after taking over from interim County Attorney Rick Romley.
We were busy chatting with our pal, Ed the Hotdogger at the time and didn't try to sneak into the show, instead relying on our myriad sources to suss things out for us. (That smiling fella in the photo, obviously, is downtown fixture and all-around good guy Eduardo Haramina.)
You gotta understand, prosecutors and investigators generally are a cynical bunch by nature, but even more so for many who were present and accounted for during the disgraceful Andrew Peyton Thomas era,
Not that Andy didn't have his fans in the office beyond the obvious suspects including his chief deputy Phil McDonnell, eternal mouthpiece Barnett Lotstein, the frightening Lisa Aubuchon, the formerly respected Sally Wells, and a blogger-with-a-law-license whose name escapes us.
But Andy saw the time as ripe to move up the ladder to become Arizona Attorney General--it wasn't, by the proverbial fingernail--and he resigned to run against the ultimately victorious Tom Horne.
(Believe us when we predict we haven't seen the last of Thomas, either as a future political candidate, an indicted and/or disbarred defendant, or all of the above.)
As an aside, here's a link to our 200 profile of the Harvard Law grad, then on the cusp of assuming office as County Attorney. The name of the story, "Dangerous Mind," pretty much encompasses what we were getting at.
Montgomery seems a kindred spirit of Thomas's in many ways--he's deeply conservative, talks tough on illegal immigrants (which major elected official in Arizona doesn't these days), and is not going to mistake anyone for a civil libertarian.
But the reviews of the guy's speech yesterday to his new troops were uniformally positive.
"If he does what he says he's going do--and that's the right and ethical thing--then things will be okay," a veteran prosecutor told us afterward. "He talked about looking forward, to doing our jobs honestly and fairly, and let everything fall into place, stuff like that. I know--a politician. Rick [Romley] really set the stage for Bill to come in and turn this place around. We'll see."
One top-drawer move by Montgomery, a real coup, has been to convince former Superior Court Judge Jim Keppel to say on board as a high-level advisor.
Keppel is the former head of the criminal division who was a lead prosecutor on the famed AzScam case that involved several money-hungry legislators who broke all manner of laws. He later became a highly respected judge before retiring and returning to help Rick Romley try to clean up what was a dysfunctional, out-of-control office after Andy Thomas resigned.
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Keppel's presence means a lot to us, and we hope it speaks volumes about Montgomery's true intentions.