Maricopa County Craziness

Mary Rose Wilcox Gets Another Loan from Chicanos Por La Causa. Seriously.

It's either the most appalling lack of judgment we've ever seen -- or the most amazing show of confidence in one's ultimate vindication.

Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who faces 36 felony counts for failing to disclose loans from the nonprofit Chicanos Por La Causa, even as that agency received county grants she voted on, announced today that she's receiving another loan from the agency. Seriously!

Now, we have to give her some credit for this one: She's not just disclosing the $165,000 loan, she's actually issued a press release to get the information out there.

But, still ... wow.

The news release stated that the interest rate on the loan is 7.5 percent. It also stated until the criminal charges are resolved, Wilcox will no longer vote on any grants for Chicanos Por La Causa, or CPLC, on the advice of her attorney.

As we've pointed out in blog posts here and here, we think the charges against Wilcox aren't just weak -- they're downright stupid. There appears to be a clear exemption in the law that allows Wilcox to make the votes she did. And there appears to be a clear exemption on the county's financial disclosure that allows Wilcox not to disclose the loans she received. We've said it before, and we'll keep saying it: The legal analysis behind this indictment is sloppy, at best.

But still ... we're amazed/impressed that Wilcox would thumb her nose at the sheriff's investigation to the point where she'd obtain another loan from CPLC while these charges are still hanging overhead.

We talked to Athia Hardt, who handles public relations for Wilcox's lawyer, Colin Campbell. She explained that the Wilcoxes applied for the loan in September. They learned it had been approved in November, but -- once everything began spiralling out of control this month -- were unsure whether they'd actually sign.

"They consulted their attorney, and Colin told them to go ahead and utilize it," Hardt says.

The newest loan reflects an increasing amount of debt for Grant Park LLC, the Wilcox's limited liability company. (They own El Portal restaurant, which also has a new branch at ASU's downtown campus and an ownership stake at a Chili's at Sky Harbor Airport.) "Like a lot of people in the hospitality industry, they are facing economic challenges," Hardt says.

Unlike a lot of people in the hospitality industry, however, the Wilcoxes are facing major scrutiny from the Sheriff's Office. And Chicanos Por La Causa surely has a lot to lose, too. While the agency facing no allegations of wrongdoing, the sheriff recently executed a search warrant and is combing through its files.

But hey, we're sure eventually the detectives on the case would have found the new loan applications anyway. If the Wilcoxes were going to be crucified in the court of public opinion no matter what, who could blame them for going ahead and borrowing the money?

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske