UPDATE: On October 31, two days after this story was published, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office said "as of today Close is no longer employed at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office," but did not respond when asked for further details.
Original article, published October 29, follows:
Earlier this year, Caron Close left her job as Scottsdale city prosecutor after an investigation found she had bullied her employees so severely that some resigned. At least one of those employees filed a notice of claim with the city over mistreatment at the office.
Now, Close is working for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. She started September 23 and "is currently assigned to do part-time court coverage," said MCAO spokesperson Amanda Steele, declining to give specific details about Close's duties.
It's unclear just who hired her for the county agency. The new county attorney, Allister Adel, took office on October 3. The previous county attorney, Bill Montgomery, resigned to take a seat on the state Supreme Court on September 5. So, it's possible Close was hired by either Montgomery or Rachel Mitchell, who assumed the county attorney role for a few weeks in between Montgomery's resignation and Adel's appointment.
Steele did not respond when asked who hired Close. She also did not respond when asked why the office chose to hire Close, given the allegations against her.
In March, the city of Scottsdale conducted an internal review into Close's leadership after receiving complaints from employees. The review found that Close had created a toxic work environment and frequently berated and humiliated employees, gave preferential treatment to others, and behaved in a passive-aggressive, controlling manner. She had been the city prosecutor for 21 years until she retired this year.
Three employees told investigators that they left the city prosecutor's office because of Close.
City Attorney Bruce Washburn met with Close to discuss the results of the review, at which point Close chose to retire.
Employees say Close's retaliatory behavior often scared them out of reporting her to the human resources department.
On one occasion, Close loudly berated an employee at her desk in front of others, telling her, "You need to stop talking so much. You're driving everybody crazy."
Staff at the city prosecutor's office also accused Close of allowing favored employees to bully others and of lowering morale. Once, she allegedly refused to reprimand an employee who allegedly used city resources to insult another employee — instead, she reprimanded the person who had been insulted.
Twelve employees told investigators that Close gave her favored employees preferential treatment, including making exceptions to the dress code for them and where they could park.
Former assistant city prosecutor Jennifer Paetkau filed a notice of claim in January 2018 alleging she had been forced out of the office after disclosing a disability to her employers. Paetkau sought $369,740 in damages.
The Scottsdale Progress reported that Paetkau had been asked to leave in October 2017 after she raised complaints about Close to human resources.
Paetkau began working for the city in 2014 and received glowing performance reviews. But after she disclosed her disability to Close, Paetkau says Close began treating her in an aggressive and confrontational manner.
Close claimed Paetkau was inserting herself into "office matters that did not concern her," according to a report from the HR department obtained by the Scottsdale Progress. That led to a one-on-one meeting between Paetkau and Close in which Close angrily berated Paetkau. Close did the same weeks later during another meeting and later threatened to fire Paetkau "if things didn't change," according to the notice of claim.
Then Close changed Paetkau's timecard in September 2017, forcing Paetkau to use vacation time when she had not intended to, Paetkau claims. The Progress reported that the lead HR analyst confirmed Close had altered the timecard.
The following year, on Aug 29, 2018, the Scottsdale City Council approved a $80,000 payment to Paetkau to settle her claims.
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