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ONLY THE ROTTEN SMELL IS REAL

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Last week, the Arizona Republic uncovered a juicy story about Leckie. Appearances suggest that Leckie had connived with another Symington favorite, the Coopers & Lybrand accounting firm, so it would win a $1.5 million bid to run Project SLIM back in 1991.

None of this seems surprising. After all, they were all old teammates. John Yeoman, the Coopers & Lybrand official that Leckie contacted, had been Symington's campaign treasurer and his personal accountant. Leckie was Symington's right-hand man.

Fortunately for the Symington gang, Leckie, the governor's chief of staff, had been strategically placed on the contract selection committee.

Did it matter to Leckie that he and the nine other members of the committee had taken an oath not to contact any of the applicants during the election process?

What do you think?
So last week when the Republic ran its story, it also ran a log of Leckie's phone calls showing that he actually had the effrontery to make his calls directly to Yeoman both at his home and office within minutes of important meetings held by the selection committee.

Coopers & Lybrand's original bid had been for $1.97 million. After Leckie called his pal, Coopers & Lybrand dropped its bid by a whopping $400,000 and walked away with this plum state contract.

Poor Leckie. What did he ever stand to gain if Coopers & Lybrand got the contract? Symington's fingerprints seem to be all over this one. We can bet, too, who exposed this deal. It had to be one of the losing bidders who went about doing their own detective work. They lost money and they didn't want Symington to think he could get away with it.

As usual, you can depend on Symington for a fanciful twist. He gets himself all puffed up and announces that he will hold an impartial investigation of the matter.

But instead of passing the investigation on to the Attorney General's Office, Symington takes a giant leap. He passes the matter to the County Attorney's Office and into the lap of Rick Romley. Who cares that Romley's office is unequipped to handle the case? Actually, that's better for everyone involved.

It doesn't matter to Symington that state statutes clearly call for him to bring the matter to the Attorney General's Office.

Symington says he doesn't trust Grant Woods to run the investigation. He considers Woods to be a political enemy. He's right about that. But then again, anyone with a conscience should be Symington's political enemy.

But since when do the thieves of the world decide which police agency they will hire? The last time I saw Symington declaim in this area, he was boasting he would give up golf and spend the rest of his life investigating the RTC.

Anyone who catches Symington in a lie becomes his lifelong enemy. The list keeps building as Symington keeps talking.

Fortunately, a suit filed in California against Coopers & Lybrand holds many of the secrets remaining in the contract-awarding matter.

It was filed by a former marketing manager for Coopers & Lybrand, Ronald Vincellette of Paradise Valley. Vincellette claims he deserves the commission for landing the SLIM contract.

Are you ready for this?
Coopers & Lybrand is refusing to give Vincellette his commission, maintaining the firm won it as a result of information it got from Leckie.

Here's another surprising development. Until now, the depositions in this California civil case have been sealed at the request of Coopers & Lybrand's lawyers.

They told the judge that if anyone reads the depositions, they will learn Coopers & Lybrand's "trade secrets."

By now we already know two of their trade secrets. One is named Fife Symington. The other is George Leckie.

Is it any wonder that Symington wants Romley investigating the case rather than Woods? Romley and Symington have become a dynamic duo.

If Symington is indicted while there is still time for Woods to jump into the race, Woods will run for governor. If Woods jumps ship, Romley will run for attorney general.

This story concludes as it began. We have still another slick Symington deal to reward his friends and cronies. And once again, we have the picture of a sitting governor backed into the corner by his own misdeeds.

I wonder if there is anyone who feels the slightest bit of compassion for J. Fife Symington III.

Everything about his role in public life has been phony from the start. This is the smooth-talking Harvard man who would bring the acumen of a businessman to the governor's ninth-floor office.

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Tom Fitzpatrick