Tom Horne and His Office's Possible Conflict in Redistricting Probe

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Horne's probe of the AIRC raises a possible, Andrew Thomas-like conflict of interest

In this week's column, I addressed the claims of Arizona Tea Party members, and some Republicans, concerning the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

One of these claims is that the AIRC may have violated Arizona's open meetings law, as well as state procurement procedures in the pick of the commission's mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry.

Given space constraints in the print version, I was only able to mention in passing the possible conflict Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's office has with its recently announced "initial investigation" of the AIRC based on the kvetches of the Tea Party and its fellow travelers.

Last week, the AG released a statement noting that these complaints "raise questions about the Commission's compliance with Arizona's open meetings law and procurement laws when it recently entered into a contract with Strategic Telemetry to provide mapping consultant services."

Horne was quoted as stating, "I am concerned about reports that have raised questions about some of the procedural actions taken by the commission, and I am committed to finding out whether those concerns warrant any further investigation. If this initial investigation finds that laws have been violated, we will proceed accordingly."

Which, as I point out in this week's column, is curious considering that two lawyers from the Arizona Attorney General's Office advised the AIRC earlier this year, specifically, Assistant Attorney General James Barton and Assistant Attorney General Christopher Munns. This was before the AIRC hired its own attorneys in May.

I spoke with General Horne about this apparent conflict, because, as he's well aware, his 2010 Republican primary opponent, ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, is in trouble with the State Bar of Arizona for, among other things, investigating the county Board of Supervisors, even though the County Attorney is the board's lawyer.

Thomas and his former henchwoman and deputy county attorney Lisa Aubuchon are currently facing disbarment proceedings over this alleged violation and many others.

But Horne told me that the AG's office had researched the matter and concluded that no conflict exists in the AIRC probe.

"The relevant rule [from the State Bar's Rules of Professional Conduct] is 1.9(a)," he stated. "It refers to prior clients. They [the AIRC] were a client until they selected their lawyers, and then we were no longer their attorney. Nothing that we're investigating pertains to the period preceding when they hired their own lawyers."

He continued, "The ethical rule refers to prior clients and it says obviously that you can't be adverse to them on the same transaction or substantially related transactions. Then in section b, it defines what a substantially related transaction. It says if there is a risk of disclosure of confidential information in a prior representation, then you can't accept representation. Otherwise you can."

Horne explained that his ethics attorney concluded that the AG's office could do the investigation, walling off the lawyers who originally advised the AIRC from it. 

You can read the rule Horne references above, here.

Thomas is under the gun for having violated a different rule, 1.7(a), which prohibits conflicts involving current clients. So this situation is a little different, though similar in some respects. 

And of course, Thomas has a laundry list of other alleged violations, as I've mentioned.

Thing is, the issues on which the Assistant Attorneys General advised the AIRC appear to relate to the very matters under investigation.

For instance on March 9, Barton answered questions from the commissioners regarding open meetings law. And on March 24, his colleague Munns gave commissioners a training on open meetings law.

Also, according to the March 31 minutes of the AIRC, Barton gave direct advice regarding procurements.

The minutes read:

"As to the question of if the Commission is required to follow the State Procurement Code, Mr. Barton said the law is unclear. However, his suggestion is that as good stewards they do so. Any further discussion along  this line should be held in Executive Session should the Commission desire. There was no further discussion."

Barton was also present on April 8 when the AIRC voted to go into executive session to discuss the RFP (Request for Proposal) to which potential mapping consultants would be responding. 

He was present on April 14 when the AIRC went into executive session to discuss legal issues concerning a public records request. On April 20, Barton was there when the AIRC went into executive session to discuss hiring an executive director. 

He was also there on May 3 when the commission went behind closed doors to discuss the RFP. And again on May 10, 12 and 13.

At that May 13 meeting is when the AIRC selected the two firms that now represent it, Ballard Spahr and Osborn Maledon.

When he spoke to me, Horne stressed that his intentions were good, that he merely wanted to clear the air over the supposed controversy.

"I never intended to intimidate anybody," he explained of the probe. "My intent is that there are a lot of questions raised in the public. And if nothing done was wrong and we can clear it up, then that will be to the benefit both to the commission and the public perception of the process."

Maybe. The possible problem I foresee is that however the AG's investigation turns out, there's likely to be a faction or an interested party that doesn't like it. And that faction may exploit a perceived or actual conflict to its advantage, either in litigation or spin or both.

And at that point, we all may wish that Horne never felt the need to placate the Tea Party, and the self-serving politicians that cater to it.


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36 comments
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Gerry_C
Gerry_C

When there is so much potential for conflict and the appearance of conflict is certain to be raised, the only reason for Horne to keep this is that he feels the need to influence the investigation.  No wonder he and Thomas almost tied in the primary for AG.  They SMELL almost the same.

Jason M.
Jason M.

And to think that Candy Andy is suing the taxpayers because we didn't vote his sorry corrupt ass into the AG's Office.

Can anyone describe what would've happened if we HAD elected Thomas as state AG? There'd be corruption and abuse of power up the wazoo.

Horne is as mentally unstable as Candy Andy and that isn't because of his political affiliation. It's because Horne learned all too well about conflict of interest from Candy Andy's time as MCA.

Coz
Coz

Yes, the corruption is now instead called Tom Horne

>Can anyone describe what would've happened if we HAD elected Thomas as state AG? There'd be corruption and abuse of power up the wazoo. 

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Bloggers, while you are busy name calling, the more important issue is that AG Tom Horne beat out Andrew Thomas in the AG race. Now it's time for the Attorney General to request an outside independent investigation of the possible mishandling of the 40,000 felonies that Andrew Thomas bragged about (since he started in office jan. 2005). If Thomas/Aubuchon/Alexander would maliciously prosecute judges, county supervisors, then one can only imagine the destruction done to "ordinary" citizens. It's time to demand an investigation of the MCAO and MCAO Montgomery should be taking the lead -- like DA Craig Watkins did in Dallas County when he was elected and found HUNDREDS of innocent people who were sent to prison for years!  Under Governor Rick Perry who hopes to be our next President!

truthseeker
truthseeker

.. or the innocent executed under "Christian values" Gov. Rick Perry!

Anon
Anon

sounds like "hypocrites" prevail among the "family values, compassionate conservatives"...

Anon
Anon

...might I add...redefining Christianity as we ever knew it.

truthseeker
truthseeker

Bloggers, while you are busy name calling, the more important issue is that AG Tom Horne beat out Andrew Thomas in the AG race. Now it's time for the Attorney General to request an outside independent investigation of the possible mishandling of the 40,000 felonies that Andrew Thomas bragged about (since he started in office jan. 2005). If Thomas/Aubuchon/Alexander would maliciously prosecute judges, county supervisors, then one can only imagine the destruction done to "ordinary" citizens. It's time to demand an investigation of the MCAO and MCAO Montgomery should be taking the lead -- like DA Craig Watkins did in Dallas County when he was elected and found hundred of innocent people who were sent to prison for years!

truthseeker
truthseeker

p.s. sweeping Andrew Thomas "easy" convictions under the rug only questions the integrity of the justice system in Arizona. People are waiting for the "wrongs to be righted". That is their responsibility -- to seek the truth, not just convict. The system is broken, the nation can see it. The harsh spotlight is on Arizona. Now it's TIME the newly elected to begin restoring fair justice in Maricopa County, Arizona.

truthseeker
truthseeker

p.s. sweeping Andrew Thomas "easy" convictions under the rug only questions the integrity of the justice system in Arizona. People are waiting for the "wrongs to be righted". That is their responsibility -- to seek the truth, not just convict. The system is broken, the nation can see it. The harsh spotlight is on Arizona. Now it's the newly elected to begin restoring fair justice in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Marcy
Marcy

Could Tom Horney pass the AIMS test?

I doubt it.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Entrenched, systemic: Four decades of a one-party state = tyranny. 

Chad Snow
Chad Snow

What is it about those Harvard educated lawyers that they don't understand the simplest of ethical issues - conflict of interest?  You can't represent an interest adverse to a former client without consent of that client.  That's why lawyers do conflict checks before taking on representation in a case.  Horney should, at the very least, recuse his office to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in light of the Thomas situation and the highly politicized nature of the AIRC (which was supposed to be apolitical until the Tea Baggers came along...) 

Gerry_C
Gerry_C

A precise line of conflict need not exist to properly recuse his office from the investigation.  The appearance is enough to do it.  Decisions like this is where we the voters and taxpayers get to understand what sort of integrity is carried by those we elect.  Mr. Horne should err on the high road and dump it off.

Harry Wisencraker Jr.
Harry Wisencraker Jr.

To be perfectly honest Mr. Snow, I say we give them JUST ENOUGH rope to hang themselves.  It worked with Andrew Thomas and I have no doubt Horne will go for it hook, line and sinker.  Now maybe we can put a few cuts in the dumbass for screwing up the public school system.

Bnbk
Bnbk

Harry,I agree with you that given enough rope,this so called AG will hang himself after, all this is what the extremist right wing is best at , overreaching their authoritiy. The problem is that many problems will be created & many people harmed along the way. What we need is for new leadership to take hold in this state. We need people such as Chad & Randy in public office. Chad & Randy have proven that both parties can work together for the betterment of the state.

Former Republican
Former Republican

Bnbk, We couldn't agree more. People you are looking at a better future for Arizona with Chad Snow and Randy Parraz. It's time to clean house and get rid of the decades of status quo carpetbaggers who have raped Arizona, destroyed it's people and are threatening it's history and culture.

truthseeker
truthseeker

Chad, Thanks for educating the public which badly needs to be educated and informed.

Coz
Coz

They sure do love to rub the corruption in this state is everyone's face, don't they.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Coz, As long as they have immunity, there is no fair justice and we have tyrants who can arrogantly flaunt their power.

Coz
Coz

So very true.

Jason
Jason

Electing Horne (who must be using the same hair grease the Flaccid Fool of MCSO uses, because his hair is really greasy) as Republican AG was better than our other option (and nightmare) Candy Andy Thomas for Republican AG.

Now, Horne has really learned well from Candy's time as Maricopa County Attorney. His office was the lawyer of record for the AIRC, but recused itself after the AIRC hired its own lawyers. Now Horne's office thinks it can investigate its former client?

Horne's office needs to recuse itself from the matter and pass it over to an independent county attorney's office.

Horne needs to step down and face disbarment proceedings. Now.  

Steve Muratore
Steve Muratore

The OTHER alternative was Felicia Rotellini.  She would (and perhaps WILL, one day) make a VERY GOOD attorney general.

Jason
Jason

Agreed. That's why I voted for her.

Coz
Coz

This is very true Jason.

Jason
Jason

A monkey would be better than ANY of Arizona's elected politicians.

Coz
Coz

Me too, a monkey would have been a better choice than Horny Toad.

Bnbk
Bnbk

Another repuke-iclan criminal who interpets the law to suit his agenda & that of the Tea bagger party. Horny Toad Tom is a disgrace to the office he holds.

Coz
Coz

Tom Horny Toad is sure one goofy looking fucker.

Jason
Jason

Agreed. Have you seen his hair? He must be using the same hair grease product our corrupt county law-enforcement chief, the MCSO shurf, uses.

Anon
Anon

The situation is too serious to be joking about hair grease. 

Airy
Airy

Mr. Horns a cool dude.

Bnbk
Bnbk

Elmer Fudd comes to mind.

Coz
Coz

LOL, that's really close actually.

Vic
Vic

with a little Daffy and Goofy thrown in.  One of the few persons I've ever seen in mylife who even Looks stupid!

BleenGloob
BleenGloob

The Horney Tom is a small lizard that lives in dry areas, feeds on insects and hides under rocks. It also has a very sticky tongue that Lisa Aubuchon really likes.

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