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Rick Romley Brings Back Old Motto and Faces to Office; Plans to Address Legal Conflicts


Rick Romley had several interesting announcements today at his news conference, besides slamming a proposed law that some believe would turn Arizona into something resembling Nazi Germany of the 1930s.

Here's the lowdown on the staff changes:

*Paul Ahler will be returning to his role as Romley's chief deputy.

*Carol McFadden will return as Romley's executive chief.

*Superior Court Judge Jim Keppel will resign from the bench and join the County Attorney's Office as Romley's governmental liaison.

*Bill FitzGerald returns as Romley's spokesman.

*Romley wants Cindy Nanetti to be his special assistant, but she hasn't said yes yet.

*Bill Montgomery, a deputy county attorney who's running for county attorney (as is Romley), will resign his position with the county by April 30.

In a minor bit of theater, FitzGerald switched out the seal on the podium being used by Romley. Gone is Thomas' motto, "Let Justice Be Done." The new motto, which was Romley's old motto, is "To Improve the Quality of Community Life."

Romley said he hopes to tone down the anger in the community over county infighting, as well as the rancor between the County Attorney's Office and other county agencies that existed under Thomas' regime. He's met with court staff and the Board of Supervisors several times to help heal the wounds. He's also set up a meeting with other elected officials around the Valley.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio hasn't gotten back yet on an offer to do lunch, Romley said. However, Arpaio's chief deputy, Dave Hendershott, has contacted Keppel for a possible sit-down talk, he added.

Admitting he has a legal conflict of interest because of his previous work for the supervisors, Romley talked of a plan to waive that conflict so that he and his staff can hash out possible settlements for the many lawsuits filed by county officials against each other over the last year or so.

To that end, Romley said he has hired local attorney Scott Rhodes to be his "Chinese wall" in potential ethical and legal conflicts. The first question for Rhodes will be whether Romley can legally negotiate with the board on the lawsuits, given his legal conflict. One pending suit, for example, was filed by Thomas in his quest to force the board to give back the office's civil-litigation division, which was taken from Thomas following the 2008 indictment of County Supervisor Don Stapley.


If it turns out that Romley is barred from handling the lawsuits, Romley said he'll give the cases to another county attorney or to the state attorney general. 

Financial issues will be another priority: Romley said he's disturbed by the fact that his office is "millions of dollars" over its budget and that it never once exceeded its budget during his 16 years in office.

"Some difficult decisions need to be made," he said. "These are going to be austere times."

The spending of RICO money by his office -- and by the office as it was run by Thomas -- and the general fund will be scrutinized in audits scheduled to start in a few weeks, he said.

If anything improper is found, he said he''ll turn over the info to state or federal prosecutors.

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