Feathered Bastard

Tom Horne's Alleged Mistress Carmen Chenal Resigns Post as Assistant Attorney General

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The AG investigator Meg Hinchey came across evidence of alleged campaign finance violations by her boss, as well as other allegations.

When a cover-up began and suggestions were made that Hinchey's file be destroyed or deep-sixed, she turned over what she had to the FBI. (Hinchey is currently suing for retaliation against her because she blew the whistle on her boss.)

Despite a lot of shoe leather spent on the part of the FBI agents looking into the mess, the U.S. Attorney's Office passed on indicting Horne. So did Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, though the MCAO pursued civil campaign finance violations, a case that fizzled due to Monty's incompetence.

The football is now with the Arizona Secretary of State, who may be farming the case out to another county attorney in the near future, in accordance with a law just passed by the Arizona Legislature.

During its investigation, the FBI caught Horne making a lunchtime run to Pita Jungle for takeout with Chenal, and then on to Chenal's apartment. During this excursion, Horne had a minor fender-bender with a parked car but didn't leave a note.

The supposed affair, the rendezvous, and the fender-bender were all made public when the County Attorney's Office released the FBI's case file on Horne.

The AG eventually pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor vehicular hit-and-run and paid a $300 fine.

It's safe to say Chenal-gate was the result of Horne's trying to keep his relationship with his employee hush-hush. (Horne's married, natch.) Horne was so paranoid that he had Hinchey interview scores of employees as well as rifle through state phone records on the hunt for my cell phone number.

So stupid, and such a waste of time and money. But that's what you get when you hire your alleged mistress to a state job paying $108K. No doubt, Horne's hoping that Chenal's departure will make this less of an issue during his re-election campaign.

It may, but only slightly. People might forget about it in the interim, but his opponents certainly will remind folks when the time is ripe. And all they need do is use what's in the public record.

(Note: It's worth mentioning that both Wilenchik and his wife Becky Bartness each gave $840 in 2010 to Horne's campaign for AG, a total of $1,680 for the pair. Additionally, Wilenchik has had Horne on his talk radio program "Legal-ease" at least six times over the years. Will be interesting to see if Wilenchik's firm scores work as outside counsel for the AG's office. According to the AG's PIO, Wilenchik has not done work for the AG under Horne, yet.)

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons