Maricopa County Craziness

Andrew Thomas to Renew Push for Special Prosecutors Next Week; May Ask for Fast Ruling on Previous Lawsuit


Image: James King
David Eisenberg and Victoria Toensing, at a news conference in October.

The next step in Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas' push to hire special prosecutors will likely be a request for an expedited ruling in a lawsuit that addresses the matter.

Thomas wants the special prosecutors to review criminal allegations levied against County Supervisors Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley, but has been stymied amid accusations that he's abusing his power.

On Wednesday, Pima County Judge John Leonardo dismissed charges against Wilcox and kicked Thomas off the case, stating that the county attorney had a conflict of interest.

However, the judge also stated in his ruling that Thomas "may appoint" a special prosecutor -- as long as Thomas can't fire the person or have anything further to do with the case.

Wade Swanson tells us today that Leonardo's word on that point isn't really that clear.


And his position -- that Thomas does not, in fact, have the right to appoint a special prosecutor of his choosing -- so far seems to be holding up. After Swanson rejected Thomas' first request for a special Board of Supervisors meeting to discuss the appointment, no judge swooped in to help Thomas.

Last night, Thomas' office suggested that James Rizer be named the special prosecutor. He's a longtime deputy county attorney with a great reputation, but as Swanson says, "They've already involved him."

Back in October, Thomas named three special prosecutors he wanted to have appointed: Two high-profile lawyers from Washington D.C. and local lawyer David Eisenberg.

Eisenberg dropped out early, citing a potential conflict of interest, and Thomas replaced him with Rizer.

Rizer partially reviewed the Wilcox case before the Supervisors decided not to allow to Thomas to appoint any special prosecutors.

Now, Thomas is asking again for a special board meeting to be convened -- this time on Wednesday -- so he can make the appointment.

Barnett Lotstein, one of Thomas' chief advisors, tells New Times that if Wednesday passes without action from the county, the next step will be to ask Ruth McGregor -- the "special master" assigned to the county squabble by the state Supreme Court -- if she could hurry up and rule on a January 29 petition for special action in the matter.

Nothing like a bit of suspense to keep a story interesting.



UPDATE 3/1/10 -- Issue of special prosecutors is assigned to a Yuma judge.

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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