Longform

THERE GOES THE "JUDGE"DID AZSCCAM RUIN THE CAREER OF STEDINO SQUEALER GARY BARTLETT? DID GARY BARTLETT EVEN HAVE A CAREER

Page 2 of 3

Although he made a couple of runs at justice of the peace, Bartlett never ran for major office again, despite all that his success in the primary seems to have meant to him. Susie Bartlett remembers that her husband had realized his record couldn't stand up to scrutiny. They were starting to uncover things," she says. It was embarrassing for the family, and I think he began to realize that he would not be able to do politics successfully."

This doesn't mean he shied away from public service, however. In the mid-Eighties, he was asked to investigate an allegation that the police chief of Guadalupe had falsified his resume: Bartlett parlayed the opportunity first into warm relationships with some members of the Guadalupe Town Council, and then into an appointment as town magistrate at the hands of his newest fans.

This was a part-time position paying $24,000 a year that, according to observers, Bartlett strove to greatly enlarge. Apparently he saw himself as the tireless rouster of crime and graft in Guadalupe, a small enclave of Hispanics and Yaqui Indians that lies between Phoenix and Tempe that is considered to be the poorest incorporated community in Maricopa County.

Bartlett says, The police chief was allegedly raping teenage girls, dealing in coke and other hard drugs. The police lieutenants were running houses of prostitution. I am the one that discovered all that."

Others say that these allegations were never proven. The record speaks for itself: None of the allegations got to first base, as far as I know," says Guadalupe town attorney Ted Jarvi. And Bartlett certainly knew how to find the courthouse and other agencies, and he could have filed them." (Asked to provide documentation of Guadalupe's bed of corruption, Bartlett promises to dig up an old report he made to the town council. Instead, he delivers to New Times' offices copies of his old contract for town magistrate and a few photocopies of newspaper clippings that do not appear to relate to Guadalupe at all.)

Jarvi isn't quite correct that nothing was proven, however. Bartlett successfully demonstrated that police chief John Guerra had lied about his qualifications, and proved another instance when police planted drugs on a suspect. Two police officers, one of them Guerra, were indicted on the latter charge and were removed from their posts.

The other thing that happened is that Bartlett alienated a great many members of the town council by trying to throw his weight around: The relationship turned into a power struggle of petty charges and countercharges that kept Guadalupe and Bartlett in the news. Members of the town council accused Bartlett of thinking he was a white god," and he was ultimately suspended. Even today, six years after Bartlett's contract finally ran out (he was still on suspension at the time), Guadalupe politicos accuse him angrily of absconding with about $250 in town travel money that he should have refunded. The claim even resulted at the time in an indictment of Bartlett for theft that was soon dropped by the County Attorney's Office for lack of evidence.

To most Arizonans, it was a minor struggle of small-town willfulness and scandal, but Bartlett may have regarded it as his finest hour. Guadalupe is a cancer on the mouth of humanity," he says. ÔEven after all they have done to me in Guadalupe, I'm still glad I was there. I think I showed them for a period of time what it should be like." And anyway, he had been vilified by only a few, he says; the majority of those in Guadalupe loved him: They sincerely appreciated the attention and the interest. There was respect. When I would go up to their houses, they would kiss my hand."

After his Guadalupe period ended, Bartlett continued with his private investigations and process-serving. He says that he dreamed of getting into lobbying because of his wide network of contacts. This was the employment history of the man Joseph Stedino met in a Phoenix bar, a history that could have been easily unearthed with a few telephone calls, if Stedino or anybody in the County Attorney's Office had bothered.

Lo and behold, here comes a guy through the front door with a broad on each arm and a bag in his hand like my Samsonite that I carry, and everybody yelled, `Judge,'" Stedino has remembered. That first night Bartlett told Stedino what he will tell anybody else, given the chance: I'm tight with Rosie [Mofford]. She got me my judicial appointment. I've got friends at the legislature. I can get a lot done. Keep in touch with me."

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