County Attorney Thomas Says County Request to Investigate Employee is "Hypocrisy"

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas says it's hypocritical that "county management" complains about the attempted prosecution of Don Stapley, yet wanted a county employee investigated for alleged bribery charges.

Kathleen Graf, a former supervisor at the county's air quality department, had been accused of failing to hire the right engineers to review air quality permits, according to a news release (full text below) from Thomas' office. Prosecutors took a close look at the situation and decided Graf hadn't done anything corrupt -- she just needed some extra training.

Thomas takes a swing at the county Board of Supervisors in the news release: "Hypocrisy noted," reads the sub-headline. He claims the supervisors are being two-faced when they and their "consultants" (attorneys Thomas Irvine and Richard Romley) insist that it's a conflict of interest for Thomas to prosecute Stapley. If the supervisors cared so much about conflicts of interest, they should have made the same complaint about the Graf investigation -- but they don't care about lowly employees, just big-shot politicians, Thomas implies in the release.

It seems possible that the conflict of interest existed in the Graf case. After all, if Graf, a supervisor, had been sued by a member of the public over something and was relying on Thomas' office for her defense, she'd obviously feel wary about trusting Thomas' advice if he was also investigating her for alleged kickbacks.

Maybe there is a double standard there, but the news release says the investigation was made at the request of the county's Materials Management Office, and that the Board of Supervisors only received the anonymous tips about potential illegalities. One way to perceive his use of the general phrase "county management" is that he's trying to build a "straw man" argument.

Text of Thomas' release follows:

Investigation Clears County Air Quality Employees

County Officials Asked County Attorney to Investigate Workers; Hypocrisy Noted

County Attorney Andrew Thomas announced today that his office has wrapped up an investigation into procurement practices at the Maricopa County Office of Air Quality and cleared the employees involved.

The investigation was launched at the request of the County's Materials Management Office after the Board of Supervisors and county management received anonymous tips indicating possible unlawful conduct.

In contrast, members of the Board of Supervisors and their hired "consultants" have claimed the County Attorney's Office may not investigate or prosecute indicted Supervisor Donald Stapley because of an alleged "conflict of interest." Yet county management requested this investigation of lower-level county employees in the Office of Air Quality.

Investigators with the County Attorney's Office reviewed records and conducted interviews. They also reviewed volumes of material provided by the Materials Management Office. The information was then submitted to prosecutors. The investigators and prosecutors have both concluded that no criminal charges are warranted.

A former supervisor at the Air Quality Office, Kathleen Graf, was accused of circumventing the process of hiring outside expert engineers to review air quality permits. The outside engineers were needed because the agency was woefully understaffed when it was created in 2006. The County Attorney's Office has concluded that the actions of Graf and those who worked with her were not criminal, and Graf and her employees received no bribes or kickbacks in exchange for awarding contracts.

The report concludes that improved employee training, rather than criminal charges, is appropriate. Thomas stated, "The investigation revealed the need for more oversight of the Air Quality Office."

Thomas added, "County management acted properly in calling for an investigation. It is odd that Maricopa County officials sought a criminal investigation of their employees in this matter and yet claim this office's investigation and prosecution of a member of the Board of Supervisors is an impermissible 'conflict of interest.' I do not understand the argument that our office may prosecute county employees but not county politicians."