Maricopa County Craziness

Law Firm Representing Lisa Aubuchon Bills County $177, 876 in Four Months, Repub Reports

The law firm representing Lisa Aubuchon in the probe of actions by her and her former boss, Andrew Thomas, billed the county $177,876 in four months, the Arizona Republic reports this morning.

After reporters Michael Kiefer (formerly of New Times fame) and Yvonne Wingett published their article yesterday afternoon about Colorado lawyer John Gleason being tailed by private investigators hired by Dennis Wilenchik's law firm, we followed with a short piece detailing how a $966 bill submitted to the county was from the private investigation firm Valle Del Sol.

This morning's Republic updates the story with details from bills submitted by Wilenchik's firm to the county, coming up with the total of $177,876. It turns out that another private eye had been hired: Joseph Petrosino was paid $2,085 for 41.7 hours of work on behalf of Wilenchik's firm. Interesting stuff, for sure.

Mark Goldman, one of the lawyers working on Aubuchon's case at Wilenchik's firm, tells us this morning that not all of the private-eye work was related to the tailing of Gleason.

Goldman complains that the Republic fails to discuss that Petrosino's work "also covered mundane and other benign matters completed unrelated to Mr. Gleason."

Of course, that just makes us wonder who else they had Petrosino tailing.

The real problem, Goldman suggest, is not whether or not Gleason was tailed, but Romley's involvement in the whole mess. Goldman writes in an e-mail:

Shortly after assuming the defense of Ms. Aubuchon, this firm was advised in writing ... by Mr. Romley's ethics counsel, J. Scott Rhodes, as follows:

"Finally, Mr. Romley will wall himself off from any information related to the Aubuchon State Bar matters".

Therefore, the real question is why Mr. Romley has insinuated himself into the investigation of Lisa Aubuchon and most importantly, what materials and records related to the defense of Ms. Aubuchon has he reviewed, especially given the above statement. Furthermore, if Mr. Romley has improperly reviewed such documents and records, has this conduct further compromised the integrity of the investigation of Ms. Aubuchon?

As the Repub reported in its first article on the matter yesterday:

Interim County Attorney Rick Romley confirmed to The Republic earlier this month that Gleason was tailed by private investigators.

"We had information that the Colorado attorneys that were looking into the Thomas bar complaint have been followed by private investigators, " Romley said. "We turned it over to the FBI."

The article also states that Gleason "on Wednesday confirmed he was tailed..."

What's unclear is whether Romley was the original source on the tip about Gleason -- but even if he was, we're not sure if that's insinuating himself into the Aubuchon investigation, or just letting the public know about a questionable expenditure of funds.

The biggest question, of course, is what all of this means for Romley and Thomas in the upcoming primary election on Tuesday.

The minutiae of an ongoing investigation, interesting as they may be to close observers of county politics, could be just background noise to voters far more interested in, say, illegal immigration.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.