Denials can be telling. Certainly, this is the case with Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's denial of wrongdoing, in the wake of attorney Tom Ryan's dropping his bunker buster of a complaint on Horne's office.
The document, which Ryan filed dramatically on Monday with the Arizona Secretary of State, alleges that the AG's executive office has been doubling as Horne's campaign headquarters.
It's based on a sworn affidavit from whistle-blowin' ex-AG staffer Sarah Beattie and a trove of campaign-related documents, e-mails, opposition research and other goodies allegedly created and/or sent to others on the taxpayer's dime.
Yesterday, Horne issued a response to the accusations. The reply is lawyerly, and inadvertently damning.
It's as if he's saying, in a very Bill Clinton sort of way, "Look, we didn't break the law, but if we did, it's not really against the law."
By itself, that cache of documents reveals the political brothel Horne's made of his high public office.
Regarding the claim in Beattie's affidavit that Horne instructed her to delete a campaign-related e-mail he inadvertently sent to her state e-mail account, Horne essentially admits to a cover-up.
"You cannot control what emails you receive on your state computer," writes Horne. "It is written in the policy & procedures that if any employee receives an inappropriate political email, they are to delete it and instruct the sender not to send any more emails. So if Ms. Beattie was told to delete an email, it is because that is what our office instructs employees to do. Records requests are answered from a central computer memory, so deletions at individual computers cannot hide anything and are not intended to."
Is Horne admitting that he ordered Beattie to delete the e-mail? I asked his spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham just that question.
She replied: "As per our written policy, yes."
Thing is, what Beattie described both to me, when I interviewed her last week, and in her affidavit, is an orchestrated effort to use personal computers and e-mail accounts so as to avoid detection. No public records, no evidence that campaign work is being done on state time, which is illegal.
Horne was not abiding by policy. He was attempting to hide his possible violations of the law.
He did the same back in 2011, when he suggested to retired Judge Jim Keppel, then chief of the AG's criminal division, that the investigative file of AG investigator Meg Hinchey, who had been probing a leak in his administration, be removed from her state computer.
During the FBI's investigation of Horne, Keppel told FBI agents that Horne talked with him "about seeing that [Hinchey's] report doesn't leave the office," telling Keppel that he wanted "everything on the investigation taken off her computer."
It's important to note that the AG's own handbook addresses the malicious destruction of public records, citing Arizona statutes that make it a class 4 felony to destroy all or part of a public record, and a class six felony to tamper with a public record.
Covering up evidence of possible crime, however, reaches into a Nixonian realm of illegality.
Horne will reply that the deleted e-mail was never a public record to begin with. So it doesn't count.
Sounds like a child making up rules to a game as he goes along.
His statement regarding records requests being "answered from a central computer memory, so deletions at individual computers cannot hide anything and are not intended to," is highly disingenuous, at the very least.
Recently, I requested all of AG legislative liaison Brett Mecum's e-mails for the month of February, only to be told that it was too late, those records had not been retained.
Indeed, Grisham informed me that, "According to our Records Retention Policy...all AGO emails are automatically purged after 34 days."
Horne is well aware of this rule. And he knows that after 34 days, the deletion becomes "permanent," at least to public records requests.
At some point, the law must trump "policy." Otherwise, Horne could claim that AG policy requires AG employees to destroy any evidence that they might be violating the law.
Which is fine if you're a criminal masquerading as a public servant.
Regarding the "Border Patrol" notebook containing Horne's master list of people to hit up for cash, Horne admits to both its existence and that it was kept at his state office.
"The stolen notebook was stored at the AG's office, but used at an offsite location," Horne maintains.
Why was the notebook kept at the AG's office? Why did Beattie have access to it during office hours? How was that notebook created? Did Horne make notes on it while in his state office? Were copies made of parts or all of it at the office, as Beattie said?
The notebook itself may have been a public record when Beattie misplaced it. It certainly is now.
Additionally, it was then, and it is now, evidence of alleged crimes committed by the state's highest law enforcement official.
For instance, Meg Hinchey removed her investigative file and turned it over to the FBI. Would you call that theft?
Only in Horne's bizarro world is preserving evidence of lawbreaking considered to be "theft."
Horne insists that: "All significant campaign work, including meetings, is done at an off-site location, at lunch time, or after work."
Then he offers a loophole big enough to fly a Malaysian airliner through:
"During scheduled breaks for hourly employees, or hours in excess of 8 hours for salaried employees, the time is their own and employees taking time out of their day to look at emails, pay bills, call their spouse or check on their pet is perfectly acceptable in any profession and industry. If individual staffers took personal time outside of their 8 hours to review emails or make personal phone calls, there is nothing illegal or unseemly about that."
Horne also states:
"Hourly employees (such as Ms. Beattie) are entitled to a 15-minute break twice a day, and to a lunch hour. Salaried employees, such as the Executive staff in question, are entitled to flexible time as long as they work 40 hours per week. This is reflected in the time sheets that employees turn in every two weeks. The State has no right to dictate to them that they cannot open or write emails on their own devices on their time."
This conveniently allows plenty of leeway for AG employees to moonlight for his campaign on state time.
See, even if they broke the law, it really wasn't against the law, was it?
Don't buy Horne's twisty logic. Refer instead to the guidance from his own solicitor general's office on how to obey state law on this subject. That memo, issued last year, is unambiguous:
"Although public officers and employees may engage in certain types of political activity, no public resources may be used for this purpose. No public employee may participate in any political or campaign work while on the public's time, use public facilities, materials, and equipment for political or campaign activity, or travel at public expense for non-public purposes."
Then there's Horne's defense of organizing his re-election effort at his Wednesday meetings.
"There is a weekly calendar meeting that is held on Wednesdays," writes Horne. "The purpose of this meeting is to inform the Executive team of the Attorney General's calendar so that announcements, appearances and interviews may be scheduled accordingly. There is no way to avoid calendar conflicts without having entries for political events on a separate calendar which is not prepared using state equipment."
Translation: Nothing to see here, move along.
But take a look at exhibit 10, pages 34-37 from the documents that accompany Beattie's affidavit. Here we have the agenda of a Wednesday meeting dated August 28, 2013, with political events marked in "deep blue."
Almost all of the activity is political, and it's not just discussing Horne's participation, but the participation of state employees as well. Some of the events are fundraisers. There are indications of what is expected of employees, notes as to what Horne is to talk about, contact persons, and a column indicating whether or not Horne has approved it.
As far as "calendar conflicts," there are few, because there are so many campaign events versus office-related activities.
This one agenda, covering about six months of activity, also belies with its wash of azure Horne's contention that, "The idea that a campaign was conducted from AG offices is vacuous because the campaign hasn't really started..."
Regarding other documents disclosed on Monday, Beattie's story is confirmed by the numerous e-mails in the exhibits, which should not have been sent on government time.
There are also the documents apparently crafted during work hours, such as Horne's "17 achievements," which outreach director Kathleen Winn demands Beattie finish in one e-mail sent at 2:14 p.m. on a Tuesday, telling her, "Top priority, stat," and then a couple of days later, "No kidding on this."
Other parts of Beattie's story have been confirmed by Horne's camp: Horne's longtime gal-pal Carmen Chenal, no longer with the AG's staff but still very much a part of the campaign, herself confirmed to me via e-mail the scouting trip to Molina Fine Jewelers, which Beattie details in the affidavit.
And AG flack Grisham has confirmed Winn's use of a government vehicle to attend a campaign meeting.
Shadowed by this mountain of evidence, his own slithering, left-handed confessions, and the confirmation of parts of Beattie's account by some in his employ, Horne hurls insults at both Ryan and Beattie, relating Beattie's one-time, supposed "emotional crying fit," and lying outright about her lawyer.
"What is ironic, and will most certainly come out, is that in her short time with the AGO, this office bent over backwards to accommodate Ms. Beattie's many requests," states Horne. "Now, guided by her `attorney,' a known political hack who regularly attacks Republicans, and recently offered to defend (pro bono) the dark money group attacking me, Ms. Beattie is clearly being exploited."
Beattie appeared calm and self-assured during our chat, and didn't strike me as being "exploited." Also, Ryan, who is by no means a "political hack," is defending Beattie pro bono, just as he offered to defend a group of conservative Republicans, wrongly being sued for defamation by Horne.
Horne ultimately dropped that suit against the Arizona Public Integrity Alliance, mainly because he knew Ryan would defend the group like a banshee for free.
AZPIA walked away not having to pay more than its own attorney fees, while offering a flat apology for a mistake in an ad that had already been corrected.
The group continues to agitate against Horne's corruption to this day.
See, Horne is incapable of understanding a man like Ryan, who has defended former county GOP chair Tom Liddy against a defamation suit brought by political sleazemeister Constantin Querard, exposed the Olivia Cortes scandal during the recall of former state Senate President Russell Pearce, and challenged the seating of nominal Democrat Carlyle Begay to replace Jack Jackson in the Arizona State Senate.
Ryan is driven by a thirst for justice, and so occasionally takes pro bono cases, though I know he likes getting paid. Who doesn't?
I also know that he spent more than a week preparing the document he presented to the AZ SOS on Monday, on his own dime, and in the interest of the public good.
When I asked Ryan about Horne's jab at him, he had a typical Ryan reply.
"Yep, I read his response," Ryan said of the AG. "I grew up as one of nine rough and tumble Irish brothers. Horne is going to have to try a whole lot harder than that to hurt me."
Statement from Attorney General Tom Horne:
"All of our employees are expected to work 8 hour days, and do, as is reflected in their weekly time sheets. In fact, many of them work well over a 40 hour work week. Some volunteer to do campaign work on their own time, as is their first amendment right. All significant campaign work, including meetings, is done at an off-site location, at lunch time, or after work.
Several people will testify that at an off-site meeting, Ms. Beattie had an emotional crying fit over the fact that her hours were being watched. Her bitterness apparently stems from the fact that she was expected to work eight hours on legitimate state business.
What is ironic, and will most certainly come out, is that in her short time with the AGO, this office bent over backwards to accommodate Ms. Beattie's many requests. Now, guided by her "attorney," a known political hack who regularly attacks Republicans, and recently offered to defend (pro bono) the dark money group attacking me, Ms. Beattie is clearly being exploited.
Sorry, I have to interject here: Horne is lecturing people on ethics and political fundraising ("dark money group")? Are you kidding me? Horne?
In a political season, this entire sideshow reeks of desperation, opportunism and political games and the truth will come out. In the meantime, I will continue focusing on real issues such as drug cartels, consumer protection and keeping Arizona safe."
In her short work history (Beattie is 25) she has a habit of turning on employers when she leaves:
Mike Hellon: "Sarah Beattie left the McCain campaign on bad terms. She made a claim for overtime. Although no one in the campaign thought there was any merit to the claim, a political decision was made to pay it to avoid any political embarrassment."
Kevin Demenna: "When Sarah Beattie left my employment, I was told by a number of people that she claimed I had pushed my religion on her.That was never the case."
These are the two lamest attempts at impeaching someone's character I think I've ever read. Of course a Republican didn't want to pay overtime to an employee. Duh. Pushing your religion? Please, go whine about it in church or wherever you worship.
Ms. Beattie's AGO supervisors were properly and appropriately strict in enforcing the rule that no one could be compensated for anything except state work, and there were a number of weeks in which she received less than full salary because she worked less than 40 hours for the state.
Hourly employees (such as Ms. Beattie) are entitled to a 15-minute break twice a day, and to a lunch hour. Salaried employees, such as the Executive staff in question, are entitled to flexible time as long as they work 40 hours per week. This is reflected in the time sheets that employees turn in every two weeks. The State has no right to dictate to them that they cannot open or write emails on their own devices on their time.
Some Responses to Claims:
Entire Campaign is run out of AG's Office: The idea that a campaign was conducted from AG offices is vacuous because the campaign hasn't really started and there has been nothing significant to do that could have been performed during work hours. The only activities during this early period are:
*Petition signatures: This is done at events in evenings and weekends. There is no way to obtain signatures during work hours.
*Emails: The Horne campaign paid outside firms $2500 per month to do these.
*Fundraising: This is done by Tom Horne who had no help from anyone except Sarah Beattie who volunteered to do that. Employees at the off site location will testify that Sarah Beattie went with Horne many times to the offsite location after hours, which is where Horne made his fundraising calls.
Brett Mecum also did a few isolated tasks and was careful to do them only at lunch or after work.
Yeah, Mecum got busted handing off a political complaint to the SOS on his, um, "lunch hour." Of course, Mecum denied that he filed any such document, before he knew he'd been caught by a security cam doing so.
"Working" on State Time: During scheduled breaks for hourly employees, or hours in excess of 8 hours for salaried employees, the time is their own and employees taking time out of their day to look at emails, pay bills, call their spouse or check on their pet is perfectly acceptable in any profession and industry. If individual staffers took personal time outside of their 8 hours to review emails or make personal phone calls, there is nothing illegal or unseemly about that.
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Fundraising Notebook: The stolen notebook was stored at the AG's office, but used at an offsite location.
Ms. Beattie worked only Two Hours per week: If Ms. Beattie only worked two hours per week on official work, this means she lied every time she filled out her time sheets. Her supervisors made sure this was not the case, and that she was only paid for time for the state, and received a salary deduction when her hours for the state were insufficient.
Cucinelli Fundraiser Invitation: Sarah Beattie borrowed Brett Mecum's laptop to write the invitation. Two employees distinctly remember her doing so. Because she often worked 7:30 to 3:30, this was apparently done on her own time, after he willingly loaned her his laptop.
Calendar Meeting: There is a weekly calendar meeting that is held on Wednesdays. The purpose of this meeting is to inform the Executive team of the Attorney General's calendar so that announcements, appearances and interviews may be scheduled accordingly. There is no way to avoid calendar conflicts without having entries for political events on a separate calendar which is%