Maricopa County Craziness

Andrew Thomas Doesn't Want County Supervisors to Choose His Successor; Plans to Resign to Run for AG


If Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas runs for state Attorney General, as he plans to, he'll have to resign from his post sometime this year. But if he resigns, the Board of Supervisors -- his political enemies -- would get to choose a successor.

Thomas doesn't want them to make that decision: He's trying to prosecute two of the five Supervisors on criminal charges, and he accuses the entire board (and others) of a criminal conspiracy against him. Though some of the charges and allegations are weak, (and all seem politically motivated), allowing the Supes to pick their own prosecutor seems like a process that would be ripe for shenanigans.

It's sort of a no-brainer -- if you were the Supes, would you pick a hardass who might want to see you behind bars or someone you figured would go easy on you?

In a February 8 letter to the board, Thomas says  -- given the current circumstances -- it may not even be legal for the Supes to appoint his successor because of the potential conflicts of interest. Thomas wants to sit down with board members by February 19 to mediate a solution that won't involve him filing another lawsuit.

"While mediation is not legally required, I believe that in this particular situation, it might well be helpful," Thomas writes.

Thomas begins the letter by reminding the Supervisors that he's considering a run for AG and may resign later this year. Ordinarily, he says, the Supes would choose a replacement for him. But in this case, "I have concluded that a serious issue exists as to whether the Board of Supervisors can lawfully appoint my successor," he writes.

If he's right about that, Thomas goes on to say, then the governor probably has the power to fill the vacancy. Or maybe the courts. Or, if none of those options pan out, "the 'holdover provision' of the Arizona Constitution might mean I would remain in office until my successor was elected," he muses.

The county's response: Let's talk after you're gone.

Wade Swanson, director of the county's general litigation services department, writes in a follow-up letter sent to Thomas today that "consideration of a replacement will not occur until after you are no longer part of Maricopa County government."

At least Thomas no longer has to worry about the issue: "You can rest assured that all of our actions will be lawful and ethical," Swanson says.

Listen closely tonight, and you may hear the sound of a new lawsuit being typed up over at Thomas' office...

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern