You don't have to be a lawyer to see that the Maricopa County Attorney's Office messed up part of its response to county management over the issue of hiring special prosecutors in the case against Don Stapley.
The technical flub, which we'll detail below, seems especially embarrassing for County Attorney Andrew Thomas because of the cocky rhetoric he and his staff used to insult county barristers.
First, some background:
Last week, the county Board of Supervisors stopped County Attorney Andrew Thomas from hiring the special prosecutors he wanted to go after Stapley, one of five elected Supervisors.
Thomas needed the Supervisors to approve the three prosecutors, who included two high-profile, expensive lawyers from Washington D.C. At the recommendation of County Manager David Smith, Board Chairman Max Wilson removed the approval item from the Supervisors' agenda, which had the effect of killing Thomas' plan.
At the time, Smith stated several different legal reasons why it wouldn't have been proper or legal for the Board to approve the hiring, as we detailed in a previous blog entry.
That led, on Friday, to Thomas' office releasing a counter-analysis that purported to blast the legal reasoning of Smith and Wade Swanson, the county's head of litigation. As mentioned in the updates of the above-linked blog post, part of the argument hinged on warring interpretations of decades-old opinions from the state Attorney General.
To figure out who's right on that front, you probably do need to be a lawyer. But Thomas was confident enough Friday with his office's counter-analysis to state in a news release that the county's legal arguments were "bogus." One of Thomas' top aides, Barnett Lotstein, told New Times last week that Swanson had all the legal prowess of a first-year law student and that his debate points on the special prosecutors issue were "incompetent."
Even if that's true, Thomas' legal advisers also come off looking like rookies on this one.
Thomas' counter-analysis states that on October 6, the office received a letter from Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk about the Stapley case. (Smith also verifies the October 6 date of that letter).
Polk told Thomas in the letter that her office "is no longer handling any criminal investigations by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office involving members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors." Only after getting that official word, the analysis states, did Thomas select new special prosecutors.
Yet that timeline is incorrect.
Thomas announced he had selected the prosecutors October 5, the day before receiving Polk's letter.
See the problem? We're supposed to trust Thomas' opinions about procurement contracts and residency requirements -- but he can't even figure out what day he puts out a news release.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Click here for Thomas counter-analysis of the legal reasoning presented by Board lawyers as to why the Board wouldn't take a vote to approve or deny the special prosecutors. Click here for the county's response to the counter-analysis.
One final note:
About 3:15 p.m. today, Deputy County Attorney Rachel Alexander tweeted a note about a post she apparently wrote for her blog, Intellectual Conservative. The post's headline and text support Thomas' position that the Board's refusal to approve the special prosecutors is based on "bogus claims."
Our question: Is it Alexander's day off, or are taxpayers funding Alexander's Monday afternoon blogging on behalf of her boss?