Lisa Aubuchon and Rachel Alexander Sue Over Debt They Owe in Lawyer-Discipline Case
Rachel Alexander and Andrew Thomas
The civil complaint filed on July 2 is yet another piece of fallout from the "unholy collaboration" of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and ex-County Attorney, disbarred lawyer and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Thomas.
Thomas, like Aubuchon and Alexander, owes $101,294 "jointly and severally" from the proceedings that cost the State Bar of Arizona far more than that. He'll benefit if they win, but he's not part of the new lawsuit. Instead, he's letting the ladies do the hard work for him.
He and the two women infamously abused their power by filing bogus legal complaints against county leaders, judges and local lawyers, resulting in punishment by the State Bar. Thomas and Aubuchon were stripped of their law licenses. Alexander's license was suspended and still hasn't been reinstated.
Along with Arpaio, the trio is responsible for millions of dollars in legal settlements paid out by the county because of their corrupt acts.
Last year, the Bar association submitted a $554,000 bill for the proceedings and investigation into Thomas, Aubuchon and Alexander. In December, Disciplinary Judge William O'Neil issued a restitution order that requires the three to pay the lower, $101,294 figure.
They can't simply pay a third of the amount each. Under the "jointly and severally" provision of the restitution order, the entire amount must be paid — and if it's not, they are all still responsible for the debt.
It's not that the county hasn't already paid big bucks to defend these former public servants. As the county told Michael Kiefer of the Arizona Republic back in 2012, "the county risk trust paid $931,000 to defend Thomas and $327,000 to defend Alexander" as of 2011," and the county also picked up $264,000 of Aubuchon's defense tab in the ethics case. (UPDATE 7/9 — See below for county update on these figures.)
After all that generosity from the county, Aubuchon and Alexander want the county to cover their remaining Bar debt.
They present a few interesting arguments in their multiple-count lawsuit:
* The women claim that when they were hired as deputy county attorneys, they were "trained and specifically advised" that if the State Bar went after them for alleged ethics violations, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office would pay their bills.
* Bill Montgomery, the current county attorney, agreed to pay the bill for the disciplinary proceedings against Peter Spaw, Alexander's former supervisor, over the same issues as in their cases. In April 2013, Spaw — who worked as Alexander's supervisor in the incompetent attempt to hit various county players with a RICO suit — had his law license put on probation for two years and ordered to pay back $15,000 for the cost of proceedings plus an additional $2,000 in administrative fees. But, according to Aubuchon and Alexander, Spaw didn't have to pay that out of his own pocket. Spaw's a superstar forfeiture lawyer, and Montgomery has kept him around even though Spaw admitted to allegations including conduct adverse to justice, incompetency, negligent supervising and filing a case that had no merit.
* In doing what the disciplinary panel found to be a scandalous abuse of their power, the women say they were only "acting within the scope of their employment" and therefore shouldn't have to pay a dime for their defense.
They're suing for breach of contract, intentional interference with a contract, punitive damages and unjust enrichment; with lawyer Jack Levine, they're demanding a jury trial.
The county defendants acted with an "evil mind," Aubuchon and Alexander allege, refusing to pay the defense bill "solely to punish" the pair for previous litigation against the county and the Board of Supervisors, and to cause them "financial ruin." They're asking for compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney's fees.
Alexander replied to an email seeking comment that we sent to her this morning. But she just wanted to chat about her recent blog post on Thomas' campaign, which mentions a Valley Fever article we wrote about Thomas. We also sent an email to Thomas about the lawsuit and his six-figure debt to the State Bar, but we haven't heard back.
Cari Gerchick, county spokeswoman, is double-checking those previous defense costs for us — the amount already paid by the county may be even higher than the 2012 tally. Bill Montgomery didn't respond to an email.
Someday, the filing of lawsuits stemming from the actions of Thomas and Arpaio may stop.
Cari Gerchick, spokeswoman for the county, sent this info on the county cost of defending Thomas, Aubuchon and Alexander in the State Bar proceedings:
Total amount spent: $1,250,358.49
Aubuchon Bar Complaint Daryl Audilett of Kimble, Nelson, Audilett & Kastner = $3,661.51 Barry Markson of Thomas, Thomas & Markson = $2,735.34 Total paid =$6,396.85.
Alexander Bar Complaint Daryl Audilett of Kimble, Nelson, Audilett & Kastner = $3,661.50 Barry Markson of Thomas, Thomas & Markson = $2,736.34 Scott Zwillinger of Zwillinger, Greek & Zwillinger = $335,331.89 Total paid = $341,729.73
Thomas Bar Complaint Daryl Audilett of Kimble, Nelson, Audilett & Kastner = $3,661.49 Barry Markson of Thomas, Thomas & Markson = $2,736.32 Jeff Leonard of Sacks Tierney = $133.12 Don Wilson of Broening, Oberg, Woods & Wilson = $895,700.98 Total paid = $902,231.91
As to the $264K reported in the Arizona Republic that the county paid for Aubuchon's defense, Gerchick writes that the county attorney's office spent money from its own budget "defending Lisa before she was even charged. The County did not provide lawyers until after the trio was charged with specific wrongdoing."
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.