Ah, it's like disgraced, disbarred ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andy Thomas never left office.
Granted, our current county attorney Bill Montgomery is no prince of darkness, yet.
But give him time, as he is currently duplicating his forerunner's abuse of power, by seeking to silence the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors' lone Hispanic member from participating in discussions on the racial-profiling case Melendres v. Arpaio and in any vote on a possible appeal.
See Also: Montgomery, the Republic, and Arpaio Want Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox to Zip It on Melendres Joe Arpaio Still Wants to Racially Profile Latinos: His Lawyers File Notice of Appeal in Melendres Joe Arpaio's Andy Thomas-Like Stooge Bill Montgomery Moves to Silence Mary Rose Wilcox on Melendres
Today's was the first hearing in Wilcox's legal attempt to beat back a threat from Monty, sent to her in the guise of a letter advising her that she has a conflict of interest in Melendres.
As I've already pointed out, she doesn't have a conflict, as she does not stand to gain financially from Melendres.
Wilcox is not a party in Melendres, you see.
Moreover, the plaintiffs in Melendres are not seeking damages. Part of what they wanted, they've already got: a federal judge's order to Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his underlings to halt the racial-profiling of Latinos.
Monty claims Wilcox is in conflict because he has appealed her settlement with the county for damages done to her during the bad old Thomas days, when Thomas ginned up scores of bogus felonies on her, some of which used the same conflict of interest statute that Monty is using.
But Monty's lame legal argument is hooey because the cases do not affect each other.
Monty knows this, but he is doing the bidding of Arpaio, who wants Wilcox's voice on the BOS silenced, even though, as a Democrat, she's outnumbered 4-1 by Republicans likely to vote to appeal Melendres.
Wilcox has filed a claim in superior court asking for a declaratory judgment, stating that Wilcox does not have a conflict and can participate without fear of being indicted.
If found guilty of a violation, Wilcox could be removed from office.
In the county's Old Courthouse before Judge Dean Fink, Stephen Tully, the counsel representing the MCAO, indicated that he would be making a motion to dismiss, essentially stating that, so far, nothing has happened on which the court can render an opinion.
As to the claim that Monty's letter constitutes a threat, meant to keep Wilcox out of discussions, Tully said that Wilcox "could ignore it," though he admitted, "there's some risk in that."
Wilcox's attorney Colin Campbell told the judge that, according to what he had been told, Montgomery had addressed the issue during a discussion group session at the State Bar of Arizona's convention, held this week at the Biltmore.
Montgomery was supposedly asked what he would do if Wilcox decided to disregard his letter and participate. Monty's reply, according to Campbell's source, was that Montgomery would conflict the case out to an independent prosecutor.
(If true, I hear Dennis Wilenchik is available...)
The lawyers then dickered over when to file motions and replies, with Tully mentioning that he was "jammed up" one week, where it would be difficult to meet a deadline.
Campbell pointed out that every delay was significant, as the parties in Melendres are supposed to file a draft consent decree in mid-August, so the BOS would likely discuss the case by then.
"Mary Rose is the only Hispanic on the Board of Supervisors," said Campbell. "If she's not allowed to participate, her constituents have no voice."
Campbell indicated that it was his client, not Tully, who was "jammed up" by what the MCAO was doing.
"We need a resolution," he told the court.
In the end, a schedule was agreed on, with oral arguments set for July 19. In the meantime, Fink encouraged both sides to meet and try to resolve the issue.
Deputy County Attorney Tom Liddy was on hand, conferring with Tully. Outside the courtroom, I asked Liddy why the county attorney wasn't content with a 4-to-1 advantage on any possible Melendres vote, and instead was trying to silence Wilcox.
Liddy denied that the county attorney was trying to shut Wilcox up, and referred me to Monty's office for further comment. But I continued to walk next to Liddy and politely ask questions, when this old dude in a suit interrupted.
"We don't discuss litigation with the media," he snapped.
I asked who he was, and he identified himself as Doug Irish, chief of the MCAO's civil division.
"So when you're doing the people's business, you can't discuss it with the people?" I asked Irish.
"Don't get cute with me," Irish shot back.
"I'll get cute with you if I want to, sir," I replied, with a chuckle.
Irish was not amused and kept his mouth closed as I rode down in the elevator with him, Liddy and Tully. I wondered aloud why they would want to quash Wilcox's First Amendment rights, but received no reply.
Later, when I caught up with Campbell, he had no problem speculating on the motivations involved.
"We know from past history that the sheriff has tried to stop Mary Rose from talking on public policy issues that are critical of his department," he said.
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"Obviously, in the Melendres case, the way Judge Snow has ruled is quite critical of how the sheriff has run the department. So this seems to us like a continuation of the sheriff's efforts to try and silence her voice and the Hispanic community's."
And not just the Hispanic community's voice. For anyone in this county who voted for Paul Penzone or Dan Saban for sheriff against Arpaio, Wilcox is the only person on the BOS with the steel to criticize or oppose Joe. She is the only representative of the opposition to Arpaio on the BOS.
Which is why the powers that be want her conflicted out of the eventual vote and any discussions on Melendres.
Note: I've asked the MCAO's spokesman Jerry Cobb for a response to Campbell's claim regarding statements made by the county attorney at the state bar's convention. If he responds, I'll post his reply in an update.