Maricopa County Craziness

Phil MacDonnell, Andrew Thomas' Top Deputy, Wants to Be Maricopa County Attorney -- But So Do 12 Others

So who thinks they could be a better county attorney than Andrew Thomas, who resigned the post to run for Attorney General? Anyone? Anyone?

Okay, that's probably a bad way to phrase the question. Anyone clearly would be better. But "anyone" is not necessarily a licensed attorney ... and not every local attorney, surely, would be willing to take on this onerous job.

Fortunately for the Board of Supervisors, however, there are 13 people who are lawyers, and are willing -- and who are serious enough to have submitted their applications by today's deadlines.

Perhaps the most surprising name? Phil MacDonnell, who served as Thomas' number-two guy.

We write "surprising" because MacDonnell, a lawyer at Jennings Strouss, was brought in by Thomas to essentially run the office's day-to-day operations back when Thomas first took office. He's served in that position ever since: Through the aborted investigations into supervisors Stapley and Wilcox, the botched New Times affair, the silly court tower investigation, the failure of Operation MACE.

Even though MacDonnell's fingerprints aren't smeared directly on those cases, unlike those of the office's third-in-command, Sally Wells, it's hard to believe the County Supervisors (who were harassed to the point of near-insanity by Thomas and who ultimately choose his replacement) aren't looking for a drastic change from the status quo. MacDonnell surely scored some points with one recent high-profile demotion, but it's hard to believe that will be enough to remove the taint of Thomas on his resume.

The idea of that taint could also doom Bill Montgomery, who also applied for the job. Montgomery was the GOP's candidate for Arizona Attorney General in 2006 and has been working as a deputy county attorney under Thomas. Some county observers believe that he -- and, oddly, not MacDonnell -- was supposed to be Thomas' hand-picked successor. (Since Thomas isn't taking our phone calls, we'll have to take their word for it.) Whether or not it's true, that perception may hang 'round Montgomery's neck like a milstone.

Other candidates have a better shot. The odds-on favorite, as New Times' Paul Rubin has reported, is surely longtime county attorney Rick Romley, who ran the office for two decades before "retiring" in 2004. But the supervisors have appointed a committee of five attorneys to help screen applicants, so nothing -- and we mean nothing -- a given at this point.

Other names to keep an eye on? Andrew Pacheco and Michael Bailey both ran against Thomas in the GOP primary in 2004; both might conceivably win support. And Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn was once believed to be the supervisor's favorite. But Dunn is by trade a divorce attorney, which some people don't believe is an ideal resume for the county's top prosecutor.

We've pasted the complete alphabetical roster below. We're told that the selection review committee meets for the first time Wednesday; we'll keep you posted when we know more.

Bailey, Michael

Beckstead, Jason

Dunn, Boyd

Lynch, Cleve

MacDonnell, Philip

Montgomery, William

Mulleneaux, Christine

Newman, Harold

Pacheco, Andrew

Pierce, Justin

Romley, Rick

Shannon, Lisa

Thompson, Joel

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske