The public feud between the county Board of Supervisors and the county attorney's office is getting more personal.
Lawyers hired by the county supervisors want Lisa Aubuchon, the prosecutor in the criminal case against County Supervisor Don Stapley, held personally liable if a judge orders sanctions for Aubuchon's release of a sealed deposition. Minutiae? Hell, yeah -- but far-reaching minutiae -- especially from County Attorney Andrew Thomas' point of view.
For the full background on this development, read New Times columnist Sarah Fenske's March 5 article.
Here's the short version (which is still pretty long):
Don Stapley, longtime county supervisor, gets indicted on 118 criminal counts related to problems with his campaign finance paperwork. County officials go ballistic, claiming (and we can think of plenty of reasons why they might be right) that it's a conflict of interest for Thomas to investigate and prosecute Stapley, who is also his county client. They strip Thomas of the right to handle the county's civil lawsuits and set up their own civil litigation department. Meanwhile, the county sheriff's office -- working in concert with Thomas -- serves a search warrant at the East Valley offices of Conley Wolfswinkel, a developer and sometimes business partner of Stapley's. Wolfswinkel gave a deposition in a different lawsuit last year -- that lawsuit involved attorney Leo Beus, who happens to be Andrew Thomas' lawyer. Beus wants the deposition unsealed, and while a judge was weighing a motion to unseal it, prosector Lisa Aubuchon asks the court to unseal the deposition because it's supposedly needed to help prosecute Stapley. While the judge was weighing Aubuchon's motion, Aubuchon allows the sheriff's office to release a copy of the deposition to Mark Flatten, a reporter with the East Valley Tribune.
So, what's happening now is that the attorneys for the county are making Aubuchon twist in the wind, asking that she be held liable -- and not the county -- for any sanctions the judge may impose for allowing the release of the deposition.
If Aubuchon is forced to shell out thousands of dollars in sanctions out of her own pocket, she may think twice about committing any flagrant fouls in the Stapley prosecution. That, in turn, could give Stapley an edge.
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On the other hand, it could be that Aubuchon is -- intentionally or not -- doing the bidding of Beus and his buddies, as opposed to simply trying to put criminals behind bars.
If you had any doubt -- this is total war.