The Daily Agenda: Resignations Are All the Rage

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RIP, Olivia Cajero Bedford (left)

Allister should focus on Allister … George W. is focusing on Doug … And the interns are focusing on their pronouns.

Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel’s office continues to unravel as evidence against her sobriety and ability to do the job continues to pile up.

On the heels of last week’s media tour attempting to salvage her reputation comes a tale of two employees at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

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First, Communications Director Jennifer Liewer tendered her resignation Thursday with a letter imploring Adel to stop using her team to defend herself over her “sobriety and leadership.”

“As I have repeatedly conveyed, I believe the best use of the communications team is to communicate about the work of the office — not in defending the county attorney individually,” she wrote.

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More turmoil at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Communication director resigns citing concerns over @AllisterAdel’s “sobriety and leadership.” Calls the situation untenable.

Read her resignation letter here. Story coming soon @azcentral

— Robert Anglen (@robertanglen) February 11, 2022

Liewer was one of the few competent
public-facing people in that office and Adel’s decision to toss her out of the building for speaking truth to power shows a vindictiveness unbecoming of her position, the Republic’s Laurie Roberts wrote. She called on Adel to resign. Liewer — a longtime communications professional and ally of Adel’s who was among her earliest hires and has stood by her side through a string of scandals in the past two years — offered a three-week notice. But Adel had security escort her out instead.

When you’re perp-walking your top communications person out of the office, you know you’re in trouble. 12 News and The Republic each had stories up Thursday evening within five minutes of each other saying Liewer was escorted out.

And speaking of the lack of competent people in the office, ABC15 investigative reporter Dave Biscobing is working on a new series about judicial misconduct and his first piece is a doozy.

It turns out one of Adel’s top prosecutors, Erin O’Brien Otis, was formerly a judge who joined her employees in cruelly mocking the people who had the bad luck to appear in their courtroom with threads of demeaning, sexist and racist emails and graphic memes.

It got so bad that one of the staffers who watched the bullying and did nothing is emotionally scarred. She sat down for an interview with Biscobing and said she doesn’t think Otis was ever held accountable.

“I was afraid of her — I had a great career there,” the employee said. “I’m ashamed of myself for not coming forward sooner. I always tell my kids that if you watch somebody be bullied and you do nothing, you’re as bad as the bully.”

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As a judge, Otis escaped discipline from several investigations, and was allowed to resign while still under investigation. Typical for the legal profession, where the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct largely acts in secret and the State Bar claims it doesn’t know anything.

The judge left the bench and was hired by Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel in 2020 to be a high-level prosecutor in the capital case unit.

Here's former judge / prosecutor Erin Otis's full statement to @ABC15.

— Dave Biscobing (@DaveBiscobing15) February 12, 2022

The thing is, much like disgraced and imprisoned
baby-selling County Treasurer Paul Petersen, no matter how bad she is at this job, it’s practically impossible to fire her. But not only did she slink off the bench into a high-powered position as a prosecutor in Adel’s office, she spent months haggling over pay while judging Adel’s cases. That’s a huge conflict. And Biscobing is hot on the case.

The people of Maricopa County deserve a competent county attorney who surrounds herself with ethical people when making decisions about who is innocent and who lands in prison.

There are already threats of a recall campaign against her from liberal groups like Mass Liberation (whose campaign tagline is “fuck around and get recalled”).

But demanding a competent county attorney shouldn’t be a partisan issue. If she won’t resign, serious people need to think seriously about the options. Allowing Adel to bumble through the job for another two years would be a disservice to the public, the office and to Adel herself.

Today is Arizona’s birthday, and it’s also Rachel’s birthday! And it’s Valentine’s Day. That makes it a perfect day to make a local journalist’s day by subscribing to this newsletter and becoming a paid supporter.

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The will he/won’t he should end soon: The list of prominent Republicans encouraging Gov. Doug Ducey to jump into the U.S. Senate race expanded to include former President George W. Bush, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, former Vice President Mike Pence and Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin reported yesterday. Ducey again played coy about whether he’d enter the crowded Republican primary, which lacks a clear frontrunner. As we’ve said before, Ducey’s time to announce is running out, so if he does jump in, it’d have to be very soon. The establishment Republicans who are urging him to join the race know that, too, which is why we keep reading about this.

How to make your fake documents look real: One of the fake slates of electors who signed onto documents claiming Trump won Arizona in 2020 (not the one that included state GOP leaders, candidates and elected officials) used the official state seal without permission, the Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl reports. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs referred the improper use of the seal to Attorney General Mark Brnovich 14 months ago, but Brnovich hasn’t said whether he’s investigating. He has previously said that people concerned about the fake electors should contact the Department of Justice instead of him.

Alternate realities: Cochise County’s rejection of nearly $2 million in pandemic aid made the New York Times on Friday. The health care workers at the Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee, which has been overwhelmed by patients multiple times during the pandemic, spoke out about the rejected funds since it was first covered in the local paper and said the move perpetuated misinformation about the pandemic. One of the supervisors who rejected the funds, Peggy Judd, told reporter Jack Healy that her family treated their COVID-19 infections with orange juice that had ivermectin in it.

“‘We’re those people,’ she said in a telephone interview, coughing occasionally — a lingering sign of the infection,” Healy wrote.

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We looked at the list of bill update stories today and sighed:

  • A marathon session of the Senate Government committee culminated in a host of election law changes moved through the process based on little to no evidence

  • The Request to Speak system seems to be moving at a pace faster than glacial on Sunday, and we don’t want to jinx that, so that’s all we’re going to say about the slow pace

  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to block electricity competition

  • A state version of the earned income tax credit has Ducey’s backing, but it’s unclear if the Legislature will play ball

  • Another year, another failed attempt by lawmakers to stop Apple and Google from making their app stores exclusive

  • There might be some wiggle room on the school spending limit cliff, argues the Republic’s Robert Robb, who thinks a limit of some sort should stay in place

  • U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva told Ducey he doesn’t approve of the executive budget’s plan to increase the Department of Corrections’ spending

Let me be perfectly clear. The election official in Cochise County, Arizona does not support a "test" audit. Nor was I asked about it or consulted about the process. The Recorder's Office does not conduct elections. The Board of Supervisors does. Which is why…

— Lisa M. Marra (@LisaMarra) February 13, 2022

Don’t talk about summer yet:
Applications for groups that want to participate in the summer camps Ducey announced in his State of the State — which focus on reading, math and civics — should open soon, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Kyra Haas and Nick Phillips report.

Fiscal conservatism: U.S. Rep. David Schweikert’s campaign committee agreed to pay a $125,000 fine over campaign finance violations that the campaign agreed broke federal laws, the Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger reported after the Federal Election Commission disclosed the agreement last week. The campaign committee also filed corrected reports. Schweikert previously paid a $50,000 fine as part of a House ethics investigation and hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyers fees.

They also like the word “invasion”: The GOP candidates for governor would all act differently than Ducey and the federal government on the border, and several said Brnovich’s opinion on activating the Arizona National Guard could be used in their administrations, the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda reports. Meanwhile, some leftover wall-building supplies the feds aren’t using are headed to Texas, which plans to try to build its own wall, the Arizona Daily Star’s Danyelle Khmara reports. No such luck for Arizona yet, though lawmakers are working on it.

Keeping lawyers in business: The Free Enterprise Club wants to boot the voter referral on last year’s tax cuts from the ballot, saying the group that gathered the signatures made mistakes in the process that disqualify the referral from appearing before voters, Capitol Media Services’ Howie Fischer reports. Whatever happens in this case will likely end up before the Arizona Supreme Court.

One way to increase applicants: It’ll be easier for students to get into Northern Arizona University now. The college reduced its entry requirements to remove foreign language and accept more math, the Republic’s Alison Steinbach reports. The changes come as NAU’s enrollment dipped the past few years.

From “let’s go Brandon” to this: If you watched the Super Bowl from Tucson, you may have caught a controversial new ad from Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Lamon in which he shoots a gun at actors representing President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Lamon doesn’t shoot the people; he shoots the weapons out of their hands. The ad led to blowback from Republicans and Democrats, especially considering Kelly’s wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot, the Republic’s Yvonne Wingett Sanchez reports.

This is the hockey team, for you non-sports fans: The Arizona Coyotes will play at a new Arizona State University arena in Tempe that should be completed this fall for the next three seasons as the team continues its quest for a long-term home in the city.

Not cheap to derail a train: After a train derailed over Tempe Town Lake in 2020, Union Pacific said it will pay Tempe about $482,000 for costs related to the derailment, the cause of which is still under investigation, the Republic’s Paulina Pineda reports. That’s in addition to the millions the railroad has paid directly for the derailment.

A small step: While the Department of Justice investigates sweeps of homeless encampments and discarding of belongings, the Human Services Campus found a simple way to protect people’s items while they’re living on the streets. They’re using zip ties and city garbage cans, the Republic’s Jessica Boehm reports.

Here's what's great about this new @HSCPhx program: It's simple. Solving homelessness will take big, bold, expensive action. But often we forget about the quick fixes that make life more manageable for people with innumerable challenges. More of this.

— Jessica Boehm (@jboehm_NEWS) February 10, 2022

We’re obsessed with weird obsessions: So we totally understand how Tucson TV reporter Dan Marries could become fixated on the area’s “mystery booms” for years.

Rest in peace: Former Democratic state lawmaker Olivia Cajero Bedford died at age 83.

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