"Appearance of Evil" Requires Personal Sanctions Against County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Say County Supervisors

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A conflict of interest between Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and the county Board of Supervisors over the investigation of a planned court tower creates the "appearance of evil," a judge has ruled. 

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Judge Gary Donahoe

The background:

In the midst of a feud with the County Supervisors, Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio began investigating alleged crimes by county officials related to the planning of the proposed $340 million court tower. Neither politician has said publicly what those crimes might be, but in December, Thomas obtained a grand jury subpoena for county records relating to the court tower.

The problem for Thomas is that his office had provided legal assistance to the county during the preparation of the court tower proposal. That fact spurred the county to file motions to kick Thomas off the investigation entirely and quash the grand jury subpoena.

In court proceedings that were unsealed Friday evening, Judge Gary Donahoe's decision to thwart Thomas was revealed.

Donahoe agreed with the county in all matters and removed Thomas from the case, saying an "appearance of evil" exists in the conflict:

 

It strikes this Court that any rationally thinking person would likely conclude that it appears improper for adversaries in a court proceeding to have the same lawyer.

 

Andrew Thomas
The development is tough one for Thomas, who has been arguing for months that it's not a conflict of interest for him to prosecute County Supervisor Don Stapley for alleged campaign finance form violations. That argument appears as thin as a paper straw at this point.

The court tower case is another high-profile loss for Thomas' attempted heavy hitter, Lisa Aubuchon, who is also working on the Stapley criminal case. She was recently scolded by another judge for a Stapley matter. And Thomas also lost his bid to stop the county from setting up its own civil litigation department, which it swiped from his office following the Stapley indictment.

It appears that the courts hold all the trump cards -- and Thomas loses more ground with each ruling.

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