By Sarah Fenske
Former County Attorney Rick Romley, a Republican who endorsed Andrew Thomas in 2004, announced today that this year he is endorsing Thomas' opponent, Tim Nelson, instead.
In a sharply worded statement released at a press conference in front of Thomas' office, Romley, a 16-year veteran of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, criticized Thomas' "competency and judgment." He also cited the increasing number of cases the office is losing at trial, the arrests of New Times' executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, and Thomas' habit of using RICO funds for self-promotion.
But Romley explained that his most serious concern is the way Thomas has polarized the community.
"During my lifetime, I have never seen our community so divided and at odds," Romley told the assembled press gaggle. "Today, a type of McCarthyism exists in Maricopa County and this is partially due to Andy Thomas.
"Our community is becoming more polarized than at any other time in recent history. Take for example the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office's continual threats against other agencies that disagree with him. Rather than working through problems with them, he instead chooses to fight with them. Police Chiefs tell me that the Maricopa County Attorney’s relationships with their police agencies are at an all time low. People are fearful that they may be prosecuted, and many have, just because they choose to speak out against policies that they disagree with. And, people are fearful that they are being targeted just because of the color of their skin."
Romley said he can't give the names of any of the police officers or deputy county attorneys who've contacted him. "Does anyone disagree that there may be retaliation if I give you specific names?" he asked. "But I give you my word: They have called me. And they have expressed serious concerns."
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Tim Nelson has now received endorsements from every prosecutor to run an office here in the last two decades, from former U.S. Attorney Jose Rivera to former attorney general Grant Woods -- also a Republican who, like Romley, endorsed Thomas in 2004.
Thomas' office issued a press release claiming that Romley "has worked for years to undermine Thomas and intimidate his supporters." The release notes that Thomas has been endorsed by Georgia Staton, a Democrat who once ran against Romley for county attorney -- an odd note that only puts the "endorsement gap" between the two men into starker relief.
By the way, still no response from Thomas' office on the statistics released yesterday that show a marked increase in the number of cases that the county attorney's office has lost at trial under Thomas' leadership.