We thought Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas was acting like his teeth had been pulled out in recent letters to the Board of Supervisors suggesting mediation on an intra-county lawsuit. Turns out he's not totally belly-up.
After suggesting to county leaders that the best way to resolve their dispute was through mediation, and after kindly asking county leaders what they thought of possible mediators, Thomas has returned to a more control-freak approach.
In a court filing today, Thomas states he now wants the court to order mediation because the county hasn't responded within 10 days to his "good faith efforts" to resolve the problem peaceably.
True, Max Wilson, chairman of the Board, wrote Thomas two weeks ago that mediation would be considered, and the county hasn't followed up. But the county seems to be winning the lawsuit filed against it by the county attorney, so the Board has little incentive to rush things in mediation.
In other words, why should County Supervisors bargain for milk when they might end up with the cow? On the other hand, the latest move seems to indicate Thomas believes mediation might avoid an all-out loss.
To top it off, Thomas pads his court filing with a general threat:
An improved relationship is crucial to ensuring that the county's civil litigation matters are handled appropriately and do not result in dire financial and legal conseqences to the county, its employees and its citizens.
We phoned Wade Swanson, director of the county's new general litigation department, for comment. He agreed with our assessment.
"It seems like he's turning his olive branch into a sword," Swanson says. "Thomas knows he's going to lose this lawsuit -- why else would he want a resolution? If he thought he was going to win, he would take this all the way."
The supposed concern for taxpayers is especially disingenous, according to Swanson. Thomas, after all, is the one who filed the lawsuit against the county in the first place.
"What he's really concerned with is his political career," Swanson says. "He knows this mess is hurting him and he needs to find a way out of it."
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Thomas recently won re-election to a second term, but is rumored to be considering a run for state Attorney General in 2010.