Arizona Executive Clemency Board Meltdown: Two Members Resign, New Director Named

The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency suffered a meltdown this month, with two of the five members resigning, and accusations of mistreatment by one.

As the Arizona Republic reported yesterday, Jesse Hernandez, the board's chairman and executive director, abruptly resigned from on August 16 from his post without explanation.

New Times has discovered that another board member had resigned the week before, and we've obtained his short, but bitter-sounding, resignation letter.

Mel Thomas, the former warden of Arizona State Prison-Phoenix West, wrote a short letter to Brewer on August 5: "Effective immediately I tender my resignation from the Board of Executive Clemency. I can no longer endure the way me and my fellow Board Members have been treated."

Quick background on this rush to leave the clemency board:

Thomas and Hernandez are two of three new members appointed in a much-criticized move last year by Governor Jan Brewer. Seems the clemency board, which rarely granted clemency, was far too lenient for her. So, she encouraged three long-term members to quit and installed three new people to replace them. The Republic's editorial board wrote in a May 12, 2012, opinion column that the "stunning mass firing" indicated that Brewer "dislikes granting forgiveness to convicts that she will stack the board with (presumably) anti-clemency hard cases."

The new members included:

* Thomas, a former 21-year employee of the Arizona Department of Corrections and employee of the private-prison firm Geo Group, which in 2005 combined with Correctional Services Corp.

* Hernandez, GOP consultant, ally of Russell Pearce and director of a Hispanic Republican group that supports SB1070.

* Brian Livingston, retired cop and former director of the Arizona Police Association.

Obviously, a fountain of mercy in that bunch, right?

But back to Thomas' curious letter. "No longer endure?" Sounds like being on the board was pure torture.

A source close to the board who asked to remain anonymous tells us that the source of misery for Thomas and others at the clemency department was Hernandez, and now that he's gone, a major problem has been resolved.

We can't verify that. Andrew Wilder, the new spokesman for Governor Brewer, refused to return phone calls on Tuesday. Hernandez didn't respond to a voice-mail message and we couldn't get in touch with Thomas. Brian Livingston, the board's new chairman and executive director, wasn't available for comment.

If you've ever wanted to work a relatively high-paying job where you can put your feet up and do nothing, and you're a right-winger preferably with a strong background in law enforcement, Brewer may be looking for you.

Next page for Thomas' handwritten resignation letter:


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