Longform

A Secretary's Revenge

Page 4 of 8

"The idea that I've got a cushy lifestyle because of my parents is not the case," says Carey.

When Carey left Colorado to come to Arizona State University because of the school's wrestling program, his father refused to contribute a dime to what he perceived as the waste of out-of-state tuition fees.

Carey worked full-time as a bartender at Bobby McGee's to support himself.
He worked additional hours on weekends in the fields of Chandler, harvesting decorative wheat. Used by interior designers, the six-foot stalks have to be cut by hand prior to dying.

Rob Carey was never lazy.
But neither has he careened through the kind of hairpin turns that aged Deborah Vasquez far more than the nine years that separated them chronologically. He had never been a desperate, working single parent.

His orbit was more controlled, and full of choices made that had reaped reward.

His grades were good enough to get into law school and, once enrolled, he also picked up a business degree on the side.

In his spare time, he entered into land syndication with his father and made a killing.

Some guys are like that.
To Augherton and others who know Carey well, the real question is why Deborah Vasquez went to work for someone "like that," someone who made no effort to hide who he is, and who did not share her baby-saving fantasies.

Vasquez began working for Carey in December 1993. Almost from the first moment, her personal life corkscrewed into the dark.

Over the holidays, her boyfriend's mother went odd.
"It happened Christmas night," said Vasquez. "She was acting very, very strange. He noticed she was eating with the wrong hand.

"So he took her to the hospital Christmas night."
It was a brain tumor.
When the mother died, the devastated boyfriend left all of the terrible associations of Arizona behind and moved to California.

Looking back, Vasquez is resolute, even noble.
"He moved to Los Angeles, and I made it clear, 'I understand that you need to go, that you can't be here. And so if you decide to go, I'm not sure I'll still be here waiting for you.' He tried, I mean, we had talked about getting married for a long time."

Part of the problem was that her boyfriend had never been a parent, and he had difficulty, according to Vasquez, accepting the chaos that comes with children; the pets, the noise, the illnesses.

Somehow, she convinced herself through four difficult years of their relationship that there was hope for the two of them.

"But it was becoming clear to me, because of everything I was going through emotionally, I really didn't think it was fair to even ask him to try.

"To be honest, it really, really hurt to lose him. But it doesn't seem fair for me to ask anybody, especially someone who's had a life where they've only had to worry about themselves, it didn't seem fair to ask anyone to try and step in and help."

Though Vasquez's account has taken on the dignity of a recollection cleansed by time, when the split first unfolded, she told her colleagues at work a fuller tale of heartbreak.

Sherri Van Horsen sat across from Vasquez at work and remembered the breakup.

She testified at a hearing on Vasquez's unemployment benefits about numerous instances when the former secretary's turbulent life affected her work for the worse.

"She had a boyfriend whose mother had recently passed away," says Van Horsen. "She helped the boyfriend eliminate the estate, you know, basically getting things together for sale. After that, the boyfriend left her for another girl and went to California."

If it was difficult to go home to a certain emptiness at night, Vasquez found it no easier to come to work. Everyone in the office noticed that she badmouthed her boss incessantly. Part of it was frustration.

Vasquez believed Carey ought to reorient the Attorney General's Office to benefit kids, and she believed it without the slightest pang of doubt that her expectation might be inappropriate.

She never accepted a simple reality of Arizona law. State statutes allocate juvenile crime to local prosecutors; that is, county attorneys.

Violent kids were a problem. She worked for the attorney general; therefore, in Deborah Vasquez's mind, the attorney general should do something about gangs.

She turns indignant when recalling Carey's attitude on the subject.
"He used to tell me that his priorities were not my priorities," Vasquez says when describing Carey's shortcomings.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey