Thomas: Put Stapley prosecutor on agenda - East Valley Tribune: News

Thomas: Put Stapley prosecutor on agenda

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Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 7:07 pm | Updated: 1:16 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office is taking one more crack at persuading the county Board of Supervisors to ratify the appointment of special prosecutors to investigate Supervisor Don Stapley.

Chief Assistant County Attorney Sally Wells asked the clerk of the board in a letter Wednesday to place the item on the board's Nov. 4 agenda, otherwise "the county attorney's office will have no alternative than to consider legal options."

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Barnett Lotstein, spokesman for the county attorney's office, said there are several legal options, including a lawsuit and having his office conduct the investigation itself.

The board was going to consider the special prosecutor appointments at its Oct. 21 meeting, but the agenda item was pulled after the board's attorney questioned the legality of hiring nonresidents and concluded the county attorney wasn't following proper procurement policies. There was also a question on the source of funding for the prosecutors, two of whom are from Washington, D.C., and one is a retired deputy county attorney.

Lotstein said the board's attorney used faulty legal arguments to persuade the board to pull the agenda item.

Lotstein said the strongest argument to put the request back on the agenda is that County Attorney Andrew Thomas and his predecessor, Rick Romley, have hired 14 special prosecutors with the board's approval dating back to 2001. The board simply rubber-stamped those prosecutors, Lotstein said.

It wasn't until Stapley was under investigation that the board raised any issues, Lotstein said.

Cari Gerchick, a spokeswoman for the board's legal office, said the request won't be on the Nov. 4 agenda because proposed items had to be submitted by Oct. 19.

The next available meeting is Nov. 18, Gerchick said.

"It's too early to know if it is going to be on the (Nov. 18) agenda," Gerchick said.

Thomas got a 118-count indictment against Stapley in December alleging he didn't disclose financial information he was required to as an elected official.

Thomas and the board have been in a power struggle since.

In order to quell allegations of a conflict of interest, Thomas referred the indictment in April to the Yavapai County Attorney's Office and said that office would handle all future investigations and prosecutions involving the county management or board.

The Yavapai County Attorney's Office dismissed the case in September after a judge dismissed almost half of the counts in the indictment. The case is on appeal.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office arrested Stapley three days later on allegations of campaign fraud and theft, but no charges were filed and he was released on his own recognizance.

The Yavapai County Attorney was prepared to take the case, but the office lacked resources and was going to farm it out to a special prosecutor.

That's when Thomas announced he was going to hire Joseph diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing, high-profile Washington, D.C., attorneys who have prosecuted assassins, spies and terrorists.

They were going to be the decision-makers in the most current investigation while James Rizer, a retired deputy county attorney who prosecuted dangerous gangs, would be working locally.

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