We remember first hearing about Sally Wells when she was a line prosecutor working for former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley.
We heard she was ethical, tough when necessary, always cordial, and fast on her feet in court.
One criminal-defense attorney noted some years ago that Wells tended to "do the right thing," the ultimate praise in a business where the actual dispensing of justice too often is a happy accident.
Wells was working her way up the ladder at the County Attorney's Office when Romley called it quits.
Then came Andrew Peyton Thomas
Word is that Wells got to know Thomas over at Juvenile Court, where the fledgling prosecutor (Thomas, that is) was putting in a little time.
Wells is an easy person to talk to, and those who know Andy personally say he's a good-natured sort -- really -- when he's not talking about the "invisible hand" and other delusional utterances
Anyway, Wells became the chief assistant county attorney under Thomas, which made her one of the top-ranking people in the post-Romley era.
The appointment seemed reassuring to some of Andy's naysayers in and out of the agency.
They expressed hope that Wells would temper some of the new county attorney's more-excessive points of view about law and order, i.e. not every case deserves a hang-`em-high approach, even if that might seem the politically expedient path.
But Wells soon became an apparatchik, a perfect Russian term for "an unquestioningly loyal subordinate, especially of a political leader or organization."
We still don't believe she drank that lame-ass Kool-Aid that Andy Thomas has been concocting since his first lucky election in 2004.
She's too smart for that.
Instead, we suspect that she has gone along to get along.
Until recently, Wells was in Thomas' ever-shrinking inner circle, consulted on all manner of important decisions based on the elected official's perceived political needs.
Then, on Friday, Wells retired, but probably not for long.
Word is that she plans to return to the MCAO fold as a contract employee -- double-dipping, as it were, with retirement and contractual checks coming her way in return for continued service of her master.
We don't have a problem with veteran working prosecutors signing up for similar deals. Doing complex homicide cases is difficult and very serious business.
But Sally Wells has morphed from a respected prosecutor into a sycophant.
Folks inside Andy's office who still think of Wells fondly tell us that she may have fallen out of favor with the boss in recent months.
They say Thomas increasingly has been taking advice from fewer and fewer people -- Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon, Chief Deputy County Attorney Phil MacDonnell (the Invisible Man), Lisa Aubuchon, Lisa Aubuchon, Lisa Aubuchon.