Goddard's Office Denies Conflict in Advice Letter to Court on Sheriff's Investigation; AG's Lawyer is Named in Racketeering Lawsuit

The private attorney who represents the state Attorney General's office against claims of bribery by the Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is also named in the flimsy -- but serious -- federal racketeering lawsuit launched by the sheriff and county attorney.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

​Yet on Wednesday, the AG's office advised the Superior Court on how to handle the Sheriff's Office investigation into the planned construction of a new court tower, even though the private attorney -- Ed Novak -- is named as a conspirator in the racketeering lawsuit, which centers on the court-tower investigation.

Presiding Judge Barbara Mundell, also deemd a conspirator by Thomas and Arpaio, asked the AG's office for the advice after detectives began knocking at the homes of court staff over the weekend.

The chief of the office's financial division, Mark Wilson, wrote to Mundell that the court should tell employees they can do what they want -- talk, or don't talk. Employees can ask the detectives to come back during working hours, but should be mindful of interrupting court activity. "Employees should be cautioned that if documents are requested," they shouldn't give the deputies any court documents, Wilson wrote.

At the least, this seems to give Thomas and Arpaio more grist for their mill: Attorney General Terry Goddard could be perceived as interfering with an investigation of his lawyer.

Now, we have major doubts that some of the county's top judges, politicians, managers and lawyers operate as an evil cabal, but we figured the question should be raised about whether giving such advice could be a conflict of interest.

When it comes to getting answers about the goings-on in Maricopa County these days, of course, you have to be willing to step inside the rabbit-hole.

At first, Anne Hilby, Goddard's spokeswoman, told us she couldn't comment about Wilson's "piece of advice" to Mundell.

Huh? We first learned of the advice by reading the Arizona Republic yesterday, which mentioned near the bottom of a story about Mary Rose Wilcox's attorney that the AG's offfice had "issued an opinion ... that nothing forced employees to satisfy these requests for interviews."

Hilby explained yesterday afternoon that it wasn't an official "opinion," but she couldn't say any more about Wilson's letter, or even acknowledge its existence, because it was considered a private communication between a client and an attorney. (The Superior Court is one of the AG's clients). She added that her office didn't release the letter to the media.

We don't give up that easily, and Hilby decided to ask her superiors for a comment. She called back later: "The leadership of the office feels that as Mr. Novak is a co-defendant in the civil racketeering case only, there is no conflict of interest," she said. "It's a separate case from matters in which he represents our office."

Perhaps this just shows the Valley's legal community is a small world.

After all, Novak, (at right), the immediate past president of the State Bar, even used to represent the Sheriff's Office. Specifically, Novak helped Arpaio sue the county over the alleged defamation of his chief deputy, Dave Hendershott, who had been criticized by county leaders after he retired and got re-hired for the same job.

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