Pat Cantelme and Duane Pell, the firefighters whose friendship Bartlett claims has caused him to be persecuted, say that they know him only glancingly through Democratic functions, and that he was not involved as a private investigator at the time of Cantelme's indictment. (The charges against Cantelme were dropped.) There is no such thing as a close alliance" between Gary Bartlett and the firefighters union, they say. I have never had a beer with Gary Bartlett, socialized with him or employed him," says Cantelme.

To state fire marshal Pell, a former member of the Phoenix City Council who has officed near Bartlett and was thus introduced to Stedino during the early days of AzScam, Bartlett is a blowhard" who was always trying to introduce Pell to someone or other. He was always saying, `I've got somebody I want you to meet.' I was always unavailable." Pressured into service on the day he met Stedino, Pell paid so little attention to Bartlett and his friend from Reno" during their brief visit that he didn't recall having met Stedino until that fact was made public through police transcripts. Former governor Rose Mofford says she has known Bartlett in Democratic circles but has never worked in his campaigns or assisted" him with anything. Is he a close friend? He is an acquaintance. I don't have that many close friends," she says. Her knowledge of him is so vague that she isn't even sure whether he has ever been elected to public office. (He hasn't.)

It is such a surprising and uniform group of responses that Bartlett is asked to explain himself. He arrives for this next interview with the familiar air of a long-lost friend, as though he and the reporter whom he hardly knows have a history that extends back years. You look so beautiful in red," he tells her heartily.

He is told of his friends'" denials, and appears not so much defensive as earnest and confused. He doesn't back down a bit. Pat knows I investigated his cocaine case. He just forgot," he says. Alan Stephens not only was my campaign manager, but I have been to his home, they have been to mine. If I wanted to, I could probably dig up the records where he got paid."

As for Mofford, Bartlett suggests the reporter contact Karen Scates, Mofford's former aide, and ask her about the breakfasts he and Mofford and Scates have had together. (When contacted, Scates says no such breakfasts have occurred, and that she does not remember ever having had any other sort of conversation with Bartlett. She does not remember seeing Bartlett at the governor's office, either. In all the time that I have known Rose, Bartlett is not a person who was on her call list, which was a basketball-sized Rolodex," she says.)

All the deflections he has used are weak ones, and Bartlett doesn't do much else to defend himself. He says he can't provide any written corroboration of his claims, such as pay stubs for Stephens, because all his records are in storage." Asked to back up his reasons for filing his taxes late-the criminal charge on which he is awaiting sentencing-he cannot lead the reporter to the accountant who eventually filed the returns, who Bartlett says knows the real story. He says accountant Robert Stevenson has moved offices and he has lost track of him. (Stevenson is eventually located at the same address where he was subpoenaed last year in connection with Bartlett's trial, but says he is prohibited by law from commenting on circumstances surrounding his client's tax returns.) Most of all, Bartlett will not provide the names of additional business associates, close friends or family members who can vouch for him because he doesn't want them dragged into the spotlight, he says. He proclaims that nothing in the world is as dear to him as his children, in particular; he is very close to them. And he will never again speak to the reporter if she tries to involve them in this story because of the harm to them that could result.

As for his friends, he says, I didn't win the primary election for state treasurer in '78 because I didn't have any friends. I didn't get to be a judge because I was a bad guy. I didn't get where I am without friendship, and you are not going to get me to give it up.

I am not going to allow my friends or my family to be destroyed to satisfy you or the courts, because I truly fear that the county attorney would go after them."

He fears it, but the thought also makes him brighten suddenly, having realized why his political friends are being so vague about knowing him: They are protecting themselves. Tell them Gary Bartlett says, `Attaboy!' I believe that if you wrote a glowing article about me and you put Alan Stephens' name next to mine, he would not come off looking positive in the eyes of the county attorney," he says triumphantly.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Deborah Laake