Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard is campaigning for Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross through a recorded phone message while his office investigates whether a mailer featuring Manross violated campaign finance laws.
That alleged conflict of interest is cited in a complaint filed Tuesday by the campaign committees of four Scottsdale mayor and council candidates, including Manross' opponent, Councilman Jim Lane.
Attorney general's office spokeswoman Anne Hilby said even though there is not a conflict of interest, Goddard had previously removed himself from the investigation of a Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce mailer that features Manross and three other candidates.
Hilby said when Goddard agreed to do the "robo-calls" for Manross about 10 days ago, he had a discussion with the criminal division chief, who is overseeing the review of the chamber mailer. The determination was there was not a conflict of interest because the review is whether the chamber acted appropriately, not the mayor or her campaign.
"But to avoid any concern or even the appearance of impropriety, (Goddard) was removed from the decision-making chain of command," Hilby said. "He has not and will not be involved in any of those decisions."
Hilby said Goddard has also endorsed Scottsdale Councilwoman Betty Drake, who is featured in the chamber mailer.
Manross said when she asked Goddard to record the message, she also asked him about a potential conflict to make sure there wasn't a problem.
"He said he knows the law and has done that for many, many people and he said it was OK," Manross said.
Lane, who is running against Manross in the Nov. 4 runoff election, said he believes Goddard's action is a conflict of interest.
"And that's the indication we've gotten legally, that it is," Lane said.
The latest complaint was signed by the campaign chairmen for Lane, Lisa Borowsky and Nan Nesvig, as well as candidate Tom Giller.
These four candidates, along with four others no longer in the race, in August filed the complaint about the chamber's mailer. Since then, former write-in mayoral candidate Bill Crawford removed his name.
Goddard's office is reviewing the complaint that alleges the chamber violated campaign finance law because it advocated for the support of candidates without forming a political committee and reporting donations. The attorney general's office has not made a ruling. The mailer was sent by the chamber's Scottsdale Campaign for Economic Development 2008-09, not the Manross campaign.
The four-page glossy mailer sent before the Sept. 2 election used color photos to highlight four candidates - Manross, Council members Drake and Ron McCullagh and council candidate Suzanne Klapp - that the chamber says supports its economic policies. These are the same four candidates the chamber had previously endorsed. The chamber has said the complaint lacks merit.
Chamber President Rick Kidder had no comment on this latest complaint.