Feathered Bastard

Bill Montgomery Screws Up Tom Horne Complaint, Judge Recommends Dismissal

There is one thing to keep in mind while reading about Administrative Law Judge Tammy Eigenheer's recommended dismissal of the civil case involving allegations of campaign-finance impropriety by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne:

Horne still has his supposed mistress Carmen Chenal on the AG's payroll to the tune of $108,000.

I mention this because that tawdry piece of original sin is likely to get lost in the weeds during the discussion of Eigenheer's ruling, issued Tuesday.

See also: -Arizona AG Tom Horne's Sex Scandal Scuttles Gubernatorial Bid -Tom Horne May Triumph in Court, but Don't Count on a Win on Election Day -Bill Montgomery Believes Law He's Enforcing Against Tom Horne Is Unconstitutional -Bill Montgomery Loses in Petition to AZ Supreme Court on Medical Marijuana

Eigenheer found that Horne should be allowed to slide because the proper process for a campaign-finance complaint was not followed by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

Starting in 2011, Horne's office became the target of a massive FBI investigation, one in which scores of AG employees, donors to Horne, campaign workers, and Horne's family members were interviewed by the feds.

The FBI involved the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. And Horne himself was tailed by FBI agents.

Out of this morass came allegations of coverup, coaching witnesses, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice. However, no criminal charges were ever filed by either the U.S. Attorney's Office or the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

In September, Montgomery forwarded to Bennett an investigation into whether Horne had engaged in illegal coordination in 2010 with Business Leaders for Arizona, an independent expenditure committee headed by Kathleen Winn, a former Horne volunteer who is now Horne's outreach director at the AG's office.

During the 2010 general election, BLA raised more than $500,000 to fund an attack ad against Horne's Democratic rival Felecia Rotellini. Some say the ad tipped the election in Horne's favor.

After Bennett reviewed the investigative file, he sent the matter back to Montgomery with a reasonable cause notice, finding that there was evidence of coordination, in violation of state statutes.

In doing so, Bennett chose Montgomery to enforce Arizona campaign-finance law, based on a new law that said the SOS could select outside counsel in place of the AG.

On October 11, Montgomery declared Horne and Winn to be in violation and ordered them to pay back BLA's donors the money BLA had spent. Horne and Winn immediately appealed to the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings.

But Eigenheer ruled that, according to statute, Bennett should have made his probable cause finding to the AG's Office. The AG then would have had to declare a conflict of interest (obviously) and choose a different law enforcement agency to handle the matter.

"Because the Secretary of State did not have statutory authority to refer the matter to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for civil enforcement," writes Eigenheer, "the Maricopa County Attorney's Office did not have the legal authority to issue the order requiring compliance."

She continues, "Thus, as a matter of law, the order requiring compliance is void . . . which requires dismissal of this matter."

Winn was ecstatic when I called her for comment. Which is as it should be, as she and Horne potentially could have been on the hook for up to $1 million each.

"I'm happy that the court ruled that my due process wasn't followed, because it wasn't," she told me. "This was the right ruling for this judge to make, though this issue might not be over."

Indeed, ABC 15 and the Associated Press are reporting that Monty's office is promising to appeal.

Perhaps Monty could take a remedial law class so he doesn't screw this one up, too.

Or better yet, spare us all the agony and drop it. At this point, it's no more than legal masturbation, something, admittedly, Monty excels in.

Truly, this case suffers from hypocrisy on steroids.

For instance, Montgomery recently testified before the state Legislature, saying that he believes the very law with which he has been pursuing Horne is in fact unconstitutional.

Not to mention that in 2010 Montgomery benefited from Sheriff Joe Arpaio's campaign finance largess to the tune of more than $500,000 when he was running in the GOP primary against then-interim county attorney Rick Romley.

Arpaio bought ads and sent out mailers bashing Romley, while at the same time actively campaigning for Montgomery, often with Montgomery.

When asked about this last year, Montgomery claimed that was different, because there was no alleged coordination between his campaign and Arpaio. (Though Arpaio did get dinged with a civil fine on the mailers.)

As for Horne, he and his supporters like to point out that he was considered a contender for the governor's office before the mean ol' FBI went poking its nose into his business, giving Bennett and Monty, both aspirants to higher office, ammo to use against the AG.

Which brings us back to Horne's alleged mistress, Carmen Chenal, who continues to be an Assistant Attorney General with a six-figure salary paid for by taxpayers.

The FBI never would have had a reason to look into the AG's bottomless pit of iniquity if Horne had not ordered an internal probe seeking a presumed dime-dropper in his office whom he believed was feeding me with info about Chenal.

Horne's investigator Meg Hinchey uncovered what she believed to be evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Horne.

When it seemed that Horne or members of his staff might seek to destroy public records or otherwise suppress the information Hinchey had found, Hinchey went to the FBI.

(Note: Hinchey is currently suing the AG, claiming retaliation and a campaign of lies meant to destroy her.)

This entire Rube Goldberg-like scenario was set in motion because Horne did not want me writing about his close relationship with Chenal, one that dates back to his days at the Arizona Department of Education, where he also employed Chenal in a position she was unqualified for.

Ironically, hard evidence of that affair (no pun intended) popped up as the FBI was dogging Horne and witnessed a rendezvous between the pair, involving a stop for takeout at Pita Jungle before heading over to Chenal's apartment, where Horne had a minor fenderbender, a misdemeanor hit-and-run, which is still pending before Phoenix City Court.

This entire episode has forced Horne to abandon any hopes for taking up residence on the 9th Floor of the Capitol's Executive Tower. Instead, he's been spotted out at gun rallies, getting the necessary signatures to run for re-election in 2014.

At this point, I think I'm just aggravated at having to write further about any of this noxious bilge. I'm already on record as saying I doubt anything will come of either the civil case or the criminal traffic case.

And there are far more odious machinations afoot here in Sand Land than the Horne travesty. Specifically, Montgomery's discriminatory charging practices against the undocumented.

I agree that Horne's having his alleged mistress on the state payroll is corruption, corruption that Horne cared a lot about hiding, considering the internal probe he ordered in 2011, and its disastrous consequences for him.

But there's a Grand Canyon-size gap between anything Horne's done in this scandal and the cruel persecution of undocumented Latinos that drags on, day after day, like some interminable, hateful anti-Hispanic pogrom implemented by the Montgomery-Arpaio regime.

The voters can deal with Horne at the ballot box next year. Or not.

But when it comes to the evil being done by the MCAO in regards to innocent people who only wish to work and stay with their families, there is no comparison. None. It dwarfs almost every other issue locally, and demands our righteous indignation and action.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons