The Don Stapley Legal Defense Fund had a "fair amount of return" from a recent fund-raising letter, says one of the fund's trustees, Betsey Bayless (above).
But the support for the Maricopa County Supervisor under indictment hasn't come without raising some suspicions. Bayless, like other trustees of the fund, tells New Times she met with deputies recently who asked her questions about the effort.
The trustees of the fund, including lawyer Ernest Baird, grocer Eddie Basha and former Scottsdale City Councilwoman Susan Bitter Smith, have had one meeting so far, during which Bayless says she reviewed the fund's expenditures.
According to the Web site, www.defenddonstapley.com, the mission of the trustees is to:
First, to show our support for someone with an excellent reputation who has dedicated much of his adult life in service to our communities;
Second, to assist with the inevitable and enormous legal fees and costs; and
Third, to encourage others to stand up to intimidation and make a choice.
The site contains links to articles in the Arizona Republic and elsewhere that are critical of Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who has chosen to prosecute Stapley despite an apparent conflict of interest.
The investigation and attempted prosecution of Stapley has resulted in deep divisions between Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio on one side, and Stapley and other county leaders on the other. Moreover, the Stapley flap has led to sweeping criminal investigations of numerous court and county staff members.
Thomas and Arpaio appear willing to try to intimidate nearly anyone who opposes the Stapley investigation -- something exemplified by the questioning of nearly all the Stapley defense trustees. As reported in January, deputies asked former lawmaker Ernest Baird whether he was getting anything in return for supporting Stapley.
As had also been reported, deputies tried to contact Bayless, a former state Secretary of State and now the CEO of the Maricopa Integrated Health System, at her home.
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"I thought it was unnecessary for them to come to my house," says Bayless. "I'm very accessible."
She later met with two "very polite" deputies at her office. They talked about her involvement in the defense fund. She tells New Times she promised the deputies she wouldn't share some aspects of the conversation with anyone else, and she's sticking to that agreement -- though she says it wasn't very "deep."
"I didn't feel harassed. I feel like it was an inquiry," she says. "It was nothing out of line."
Seems like Bayless is being too diplomatic. Before Bayless can "encourage others to stand up to intimidation," she ought to realize this kind of contact by deputies is more than just polite inquiry.