County Attorney Bill Montgomery Loses Top Prosecutor Jim Keppel to AG's Office

Jim Keppel, a veteran prosecutor and retired Superior Court judge who returned to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office to help out after Andy Thomas resigned last year, spent his first day at his new job yesterday, running the criminal division of the Office of the Arizona Attorney General.  

New County Attorney Bill Montgomery had hoped to keep Keppel in the fold after assuming office late last year (Montgomery beat Romley in the Republican primary and then won easily in the general election),

But that was not to be.

Instead, Keppel recently signed on with new Attorney General Tom Horne to run the state agency's criminal division.

We couldn't get ahold of Judge Keppel this morning (his assistant says he's in "meetings" and we believe her), but we have spoken to several friends of his about the departure.

This much seems clear:

Keppel didn't leave because of any bad feelings toward Montgomery, a neophyte on the job who, at least in these early days of his tenure as County Attorney, has impressed some naysayers inside the office as a cool head who is showing the potential to become a sound leader.

No, Keppel just decided to take a better gig, one with great challenges largely due to budget considerations.

We expect Mr. Keppel to return our phone call when he comes up for air, and if he has anything different to report, so will we.