Burke to "Take a Good Bit of Time Off," Praises Staff in Letter; State AG Tom Horne Commends "Working Relationship" With Burke's Office

The suddenly former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke told his staff in a letter this morning that he planned to "take a good bit of time off" before deciding his next move.

Burke also praised the work of his office for its response to the January 8 Tucson massacre and other accomplishments, including "significant outreach and training in Indian Country." (Scroll down for full text.)

The longtime chief of staff for former Governor Janet Napolitano, Burke was appointed to U.S. Attorney in September of 2009 after a stint as a senior advisor for Napolitano in her current job, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary.

Meanwhile, state Attorney General Tom Horne says he's not exactly sorry to see Burke go, but that their offices had shared an "excellent working relationship" -- for criminal cases, anyway.

As for the impact on the civil cases that pit Arizona versus the federal government, which is represented locally by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Horne says he'll have to wait and see who turns out to be the next head fed.

On the medical marijuana front, for example, the new U.S. Attorney for Arizona could give "sufficient assurances in writing" that state workers wouldn't be prosecuted for overseeing a dispensary program, Horne says he would reconsider the state's lawsuit.

The new U.S. Attorney could also conceivably take a harder look at the federal civil and criminal investigations into Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his office.

Here's Burke's letter:

All -

After much deliberation, I have tendered my resignation to the President.

The work in every corner of this office - your work - has been significant and impressive. When I first came to this office a decade ago as a line AUSA, I knew this was an excellent office that did important work. Over the past two years, my respect has grown as I have witnessed our accomplishments, from prosecuting federal crimes, to the Virtual Rule of Law Unit, the Civil Rights Unit and the Community Outreach that has gone along with it, to the significant outreach and training in Indian Country.

In January, we were hit with the devastating news that in our own District, our former colleague and respected Chief Judge was murdered during the first assassination attempt against a Member of Congress in more than 30 years. Staff in Tucson and Phoenix was on the investigation within minutes, and a complaint was filed within 48 hours.

During this most challenging time for all of us, our office's response to that horrendous tragedy has been nationally lauded.

My long tenure in public service has been intensely gratifying. It has also been intensely demanding. For me, it is the right time to move on to pursue other aspects of my career and my life and allow the office to move ahead.

I plan to take a good bit of time off before deciding on my next step.

Ann Scheel will serve as Acting United States Attorney, under the Vacancies Reform Act and by virtue of her position as First Assistant. I thank Ann for agreeing to assume these responsibilities until the Attorney General or the President makes an interim or permanent appointment.

Please forgive me for not speaking with each of you personally. This office is filled with incredibly bright and hard-working people who are dedicated to improving our communities and our country. Thank you for what you have done, and all that you will continue to do.


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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.