State utility regulator Jim Irvin has offered to resign in exchange for immunity from future criminal prosecution, sources said Thursday.
Sources told Capitol Media Services an attorney for Irvin approached the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office with the deal to vacate his seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission for a promise not to bring criminal charges against him based on anything revealed in a separate impeachment probe being conducted by the state House of Representatives.
Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley said he could not comment on any request for immunity.
But Romley said he would not be inclined to make any such trade, particularly without seeing information developed by Melvin McDonald, the special impeachment counsel hired by the House.
Cheryl Walsh, Irvin’s spokeswoman, said her client told her that lawyers sometimes inquire about options.
But she said Irvin never authorized anyone to make such a deal and that one of Irvin’s attorneys denied offering to trade Irvin’s post for immunity.
Walsh, however, would not answer questions about whether Irvin had offered to resign if the impeachment probe is halted and information gathered by McDonald is sealed.
"In our mind, any type of settlement negotiations would be made with the expectation that these would be held in confidence,’’ she said.
The House has launched an impeachment probe centered on whether Irvin acted improperly by actively lobbying on behalf of one of two companies that were making bids to acquire Southwest Gas four years ago. The Corporation Commission would have had to vote on any deal, which never was made. A jury last year concluded Irvin acted wrongly and imposed a $60.4 million damage award against him in a civil trial.
Judge Roslyn Silver, who presided over that trial, later said the evidence showed Irvin "abused his privileges as a corporation commissioner.’’
Since that verdict, calls have mounted for Irvin, a Republican, to resign. Those have included members of his own party and other commissioners. Walsh conceded Irvin has been concerned about the effects of an impeachment, particularly on his wife, Carol.
Her activities during her husband’s civil trial last year have become part of the focus of McDonald’s investigation, with a federal judge in that case saying there was evidence that both had attempted to commit a "fraud upon the court’’ by providing falsified evidence.
"I can tell you that Jim has been very troubled that his wife has been brought into this,’’ said Walsh.
McDonald’s report, due within days, will detail whether Irvin has committed malfeasance, high crimes or misdemeanors, the constitutional grounds for impeachment.
Rep. Steve Tully, RPhoenix, who leads the House Judiciary Committee, declined to comment on any talks with Irvin’s counsel.
But Tully said he would never agree to keep McDonald’s findings confidential. House Minority Leader John Loredo, DPhoenix, said even if Jim Irvin were to resign the report should be made public so voters can have that information should he ever seek office again.
The fraud on the court issue relates to documents produced during last year’s trial purporting to be notes Carol Irvin took three years ago containing comments by Jack Rose, Jim Irvin’s codefendant at the trial, that Jim Irvin was innocent of any wrongdoing.
The notes were later discovered to have been made just weeks earlier.
McDonald also is investigating whether Jim Irvin harassed commission staff member Jim Fisher for disclosing his activities in the Southwest Gas case. Fisher and Jim Irvin settled out of court, but state law makes it illegal in some circumstances for state officials to retaliate against employees for disclosing public information. And McDonald is exploring Jim Irvin’s intervention in a commission investigation into the activities of a brother of a campaign worker.
Calls have mounted for Jim Irvin, a Republican, to resign.