Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles wants the public to know that a group of prosecutors he fired a few months ago were never suspected of any crimes.
The unusual email blast sent to reporters and others today is intended to clarify a January 2nd email that "may have left the mistaken impression" that the prosecutors were involved in an embezzlement case he mentioned in the same January email.
Jim Knupp, the Pinal County Attorney's Office spokesman, tells New Times that the office had received a notice of intent to sue related to the January email. Knupp wasn't able to immediately provide the document; we'll update this post when we get it.
The new email mentions six of 16 fired employees by name:
"My January 2, 2013 News Release was not, in any way, intended to convey that Paul Ahler, Kristy Perkins, Stacey Heard, James Heard, Neil Miller, Susan Crawford or any of the other attorneys I dismissed have ever been suspected of any improper or illegal activity. All of these individuals are devoted public servants whose integrity should not be questioned. I regret any confusion that may have been created from my January 2, 2013 News Release."
It's easy to see from the January email how someone could have gotten the wrong impression. Voyles wrote back then, " "We are currently investigating theft that occurred within the office. While the individual remains innocent until proven guilty, the former management failed the citizens of Pinal County by allowing this theft to go on for an undetermined amount of time and for an undetermined dollar amount."
One way to read that sentence is the way Voyles intended it -- the theft occurred at least in part because managers weren't paying attention. Another way to read it is that one or managers knowingly allowed the theft to go on. Voyles just needed a better editor.
Someone on the fired list -- who's probably on that short list of named former prosecutors in the latest email -- apparently feels defamed.
James Walsh, former Pinal County Attorney, told the Arizona Republic in January that Voyles' stated reasons for the "Pinal County Massacre" exaggerated the problem and tarnished the fired employees' reputations.
Walsh said the investigation to which Voyles had referred concerned "potential irregularities in the handling of restitution payments and associated fees" and that the employee had resigned after Walsh initiated a criminal investigation and prepared to put the person on leave.
In other words, according to Walsh, the problem was solved before Voyles took office in January.
"There was no other financial irregularity in the office, and anybody who says there is is lying," Walsh told the Republic. "This has got to stop ... he doesn't get to lie about people, and he doesn't get to lie about the work that was done before he came in."
It's unclear if the investigation into the allegation was ever completed, or if anyone was prosecuted. We're expecting to hear back from Knupp on that, too.
On the next page, see the two emails in their entirety:
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First, the January 2nd email (borrowed from www.santanvalley.com):
After a tumultuous ending to what appeared to be an otherwise peaceful transition, Lando Voyles, the newly elected Pinal County Attorney stated, "During the duration of my campaign I pledged to strengthen criminal prosecution against violent offenders that require mandatory prison time by holding people accountable."
Lando continued, "The personnel changes enacted over this transition are paramount to changing the culture within this office."
Lando agreed that some of the dismissed individuals deserve credit for a good career in prosecution and was disappointed by the recently failed cooperation between his transition team and other departments within the county.
Lando stated, "This failed cooperation made this a less than desirable transition. However, the obstacles placed before me could not prevent me from my resolve to change the deep rooted culture, within this office, of releasing violent offenders. Some of these changes became necessary and apparent after meticulous interviews and reviewing employees' work product."
Lando further stated, "Aside from the deep rooted lackadaisical style of prosecution, this office was in complete disarray from mismanagement."
Lando argued that an investigation of embezzlement within the office demonstrates this mismanagement.
"We are currently investigating theft that occurred within the office. While the individual remains innocent until proven guilty, the former management failed the citizens of Pinal County by allowing this theft to go on for an undetermined amount of time and for an undetermined dollar amount."
This will be Lando's basis for his upcoming request to the Board of Supervisors for a Director III position who will manage all of the money within the office and report directly to Mr. Voyles.
The Director III will determine if an external audit is necessary. Based on this mismanagement, Lando mentioned, "All of those in management positions above the individual who is suspected of theft could not be allowed to remain employed in my office."
Lando ended by saying, "I expect honesty and demand accountability."
Next, the May 24 email:
Voyles Clarifies Press Release Regarding Former Pinal County Attorney Prosecutors
FLORENCE, AZ (5/24/13) - On January 2, 2013, Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles issued a News Release related to his transition into office.
The News Release announced personnel changes, including the dismissal of Pinal Deputy County Attorneys, which were enacted during the transition. In addition, the News Release informed the public of possible embezzlement within the office that Voyles pledged to investigate.
In the days that followed the News Release, it became apparent that the reference to the embezzlement investigation may have left the mistaken impression that the former Pinal Deputy County Attorneys may have played some role in the possible embezzlement or might be subjects of the investigation.
In order to clarify his message, Voyles announced today, "My January 2, 2013 News Release was not, in any way, intended to convey that Paul Ahler, Kristy Perkins, Stacey Heard, James Heard, Neil Miller, Susan Crawford or any of the other attorneys I dismissed have ever been suspected of any improper or illegal activity. All of these individuals are devoted public servants whose integrity should not be questioned. I regret any confusion that may have been created from my January 2, 2013 News Release."