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Carmen Chenal Overwhelmed as Tom Horne Pulls an Andy Thomas on Redistricting

It's worse than I thought regarding Carmen Chenal, confidante of Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who followed Horne from the Arizona Department of Education, where she served while Horne was state Superintendent, to the AG's Office.

As I detailed in my July 14 column ("Horne Hired Carmen Chenal 'Cause . . . She's His Goombah"), Chenal's main qualification for a post in the AG's Office is being Horne's bud.

If she weren't, it's unlikely she ever would have scored such a prestigious gig, much less one that pays $108,000 a year and places her in charge of foreign extraditions of dangerous fugitives.

Chenal, who practiced construction law, was suspended by the State Bar of Arizona in 2005 for various ethical lapses. She applied for reinstatement in 2010, and after a hearing at which Horne, then AG-elect, declared she would have a job in his new administration, she was reinstated and placed on probation.

Chenal had worked at the ADE under Horne, despite her suspension, her record of personal bankruptcy, and a DUI charge that was busted down to reckless driving.

She also labored as a political operative for Horne, helping him to beat ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas in the Republican primary for AG by a mere 899 votes.

Keep those 899 votes in mind, as they will help explain Horne's other shenanigans.

Upon being sworn in as AG, Horne hired Chenal, overlooking her history and that her license to practice law had not yet been reinstated. Once that second hurdle was overcome, she was made an assistant attorney general, and her salary bumped up.

Now I'm informed by Horne's flack, Amy Rezzonico, that Chenal's duties in the AG's criminal division are much more extensive than just overseeing foreign extraditions.

Rezzonico recently explained via e-mail that Chenal's job assignment also mandates that she "identify, investigate, and prosecute complex fraud cases in the Superior Court of the State of Arizona."

She said: "[Chenal] drafts indictments, motions, responses, legal memorandums, and pleadings for filing in various county Superior Courts. She is also charged with prosecuting criminal cases (which would include presenting cases to the state grand jury)."

This Chenal situation not only implicates Horne in an unusual arrangement on behalf of an amiga, it also taints the entire criminal division, her immediate supervisor, Ted Campagnolo, and former Judge Jim Keppel, who oversees the division.

Making your boss happy is par for the course in any working environment, public or private. But when an individual with Chenal's record is granted such responsibilities as dealing with grand juries and fugitives from justice, it calls into question everyone in the chain of command.

Many people, particularly in comments to my column, suggested I was hinting at an inappropriate relationship between Chenal, who is single, and Horne, who is married.

I am not. Chenal's employment at the AG's Office is troublesome enough without such an insinuation.

ANDY'S GHOST

Horne is an intelligent man, a former Democrat born in Canada to parents who reportedly emigrated from Europe to our 51st state because they were fleeing the Nazi menace.

In fact, Horne is one of that endangered breed, the moderate Republican. He even talks wistfully of having participated as a young man in Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous 1963 March on Washington.

Which makes him suspect in the eyes of his now-fellow GOPers, many of whom preferred the rancidly partisan red meat that Andy Thomas dished out to them, both as County Attorney and on the campaign trail in his failed attempt to become the GOP nominee for AG in 2010.

As mentioned, that was a battle that Horne barely won. Thomas' witch hunts against the County Board of Supervisors, sitting judges, and others may have given pause to those Rs who cast ballots for Horne, but for the rest, it was reason to elevate Thomas to the top law enforcement official in the state.

Criminalizing perceived partisan behavior is a classic right-wing tactic. In Thomas' case, however, he overreached, even venturing into alleged criminal behavior himself. This has led directly to the current State Bar proceedings against him and his two top henchwomen, former deputy county attorneys Rachel Alexander and Lisa Aubuchon.

The Bar trial began September 12, and Thomas, notably, did not bother to attend opening day. If a sense of shame and impending doom has taken hold of the ex-prosecutor, so much the better.

Thomas was a true believer, pursuing vendettas against political enemies in traditional far-right fashion. Horne, not so much.

But the AG looks to finish his political career in the governor's chair. To do so in a virulently red state such as Arizona, he must shore up his right flank and prove to GOP doubtful that he has some Thomas in him — hence his forays into using public office as a tool of partisan warfare.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons