Journalists’ Roundtable

More from this show

Local Arizona journalists discuss the week’s top news stories.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," "Journalists' Roundtable," former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas disbarred this week over ethics violations. We'll discuss the reaction. We'll also discuss Representative Daniel Patterson's resignation from the House, and the latest on the state budget negotiations. "Journalists' Roundtable" is next on "Arizona Horizon." Good evening, and welcome to "Arizina Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of the "The Arizona Republic," Howard Fischer of "Capitol Media Services," and Mike Sunnucks of the "Phoenix Business Journal." Yet another state lawmaker resigns amid controversy. This time it's Tucson Democrat turned Independent turned Democrat -- I'm getting dizzy -- Daniel Patterson. That last turn back to Democrat, we'll get to that in a second, that's important. But first of all, give us the story on Daniel Patterson.

Mary Jo Pitzl: They say things come in threes, Ted. Daniel Patterson is the third to leave the Arizona Legislature this year, and this is only the beginning of the fourth month, amid a cloud of scandal and shame. Patterson was subject to an ethics complaint filed by his fellow Democrats who felt he was a very disruptive source in the house. They also pointed to police reports that indicated instances of domestic violence with his former girlfriend and previously his ex-wife down in Tuscon. The allegations started to pile up and it all came to a sort of messy head this week.

Howard Fischer: That's really the key to this thing, there are a lot of folks who knew that Dan was a bit of a pain in the tush and he got in people's faces. But it was that domestic violence incident and the subsequent charges which led Katy Hobbs to leave the charge to have him thrown out. The head of the ethics committee asked for them to come in and take a look. When they started to asking questions to people, tell us about your dealings with Daniel Patterson, the dam just broke. They had statements from 14 specific lawmakers who either they themselves were victimized or harassed or had witnessed something else. That became just too damning for him to survive.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Those statements from his fellow lawmakers really brought down Patterson, and the ethics council's report was much more wide-ranging, a lot of anonymous incidents in there, which Patterson said, Look, this is unfair, you can't really go after me for this without proving it. Farnsworth, one of the members of the ethics panel said, I'm just focusing on the main complaints. They gave him an hour and a half to testify before voting to expel.

Howard Fischer: And that was to a certain extent, he hung himself, because they gave him time -- originally they weren't even going to let him talk. They gave him time and said, tell us your side. Well, these people are all wrong. Or to the extent that they are right, I've gotten better. I have a temper, I'm trying to control it. Which led of course to the comment, we've heard this before. You've been counseled before by your own leadership. All we hear is, it's somebody else's fault or it won't happen again. That became just too much.

Ted Simons: The House ethics committee, they go ahead and vote to expel him. He goes ahead and quits, citing a hostile work environment?

Mike Sunnucks: Yes, that was his retort in the end. A lot of people thought he would fight this longer, that he would drag this out and make it even more of a circus. He did take the more passive path at least on that. The domestic violence was all the impetus, the other stuff was kind of add-on. The real ingredient, none of this probably would have come out without the arrest.

Howard Fischer: But he didn't even leave quietly. He said, I did it under protest. He started talking to me about how some of his constituents filed suit because the legislature didn't obey its own rules. Never mind the state constitution says the house can make or suspend its own rules.

Mike Sunnucks: The way he was portrayed, leaving quietly, people expected some fireworks. They took his keycard away from him. There was this portrayal that while this guy is a real loose cannon, yeah, Howie's right, but it could have been a little bit worse.

Ted Simons: Didn't he suggest this thing was racially motivated, as well?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Not so much him but one of his defenders. The Rev. Jarrett Moffin showed up at a very entertaining news conference Mr. Patterson had at the Capitol in midweek. And Moffin, who is African American, suggested Patterson was targeted because he was a white man. That people would perhaps be more forgiving if he were a minority or perhaps if he were a female. But given that he was an Anglo male. It's a discrimination kind of argument that had people rolling their eyes.

Howard Fischer: Even he raised the racial question. When it comes to redistricting, his claim is that the Democrats want a Latino to run the district. The only way to get him out was to force him out. You know, part of I think what his colleagues were seeing is, you know, denial is not just a river in Africa, you know?

Ted Simons: This all happens. Now we have to find out who replaces him. We go back to my intro, Democrat, turned Independent, turned Democrat. He reregisters as a Democrat but…

Mary Jo Pitzl: Right, so Patterson gets elected four years ago as a Democrat, reelected as a Democrat. In early April switches to an independent. Then at 2:00, 2:30 on Thursday afternoon, Wednesday afternoon, it all blends together -- he reregisters back as a Democrat. But by that point his letter of resignation has already gone in to the speaker of the house, it's been read into the record. The secretary of state's office takes a look at the law. The way we read it, very strict reading, he was an Independent, a party not designated when he resigned. Therefore his replacement as we read the law must be someone not affiliated with the party.

Mike Sunnucks: But they picked an independent, that person can then pick their team at the legislature, right?

Ted Simons: My question is, shouldn't it be -- I thought, shouldn't it be what you were elected as? Everyone and their brother would be changing ships in the middle of the night.

Howard Fischer: Well, should have, could have, would have.

Ted Simons: Can it be read that way?

Howard Fischer: No. The law can't be read that way, Infact Ron Gould has an amendment going through on an election bill to say, that's the way it will be in the future. The law is clear. It says, at the time you quit. Now, at the time he quit at 1:36 p.m., when it was read across the desk, he was an independent. He had reregistered online using the MVD website, and they got a time stamp on that of like 2:01 p.m. He said, my intent was to be the end of the day. Well I talked to house speaker Andy Tobin and he said, first of all, I need you to sign it and he said wait there's no time on it. If you look at the letter, he put in the word now, manually. Now is now. I mean, it's very clear, what does now mean? Poof.

Mike Sunnucks: Democrats love to argue about people's intent when it comes to elections.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The secretary of state, when they sent out their ruling, said he's got to be replaced by an independent they did say we would invite a legal challenge. They seemed to suggest it's a squishy law. There is a Ron Gould amendment that will clarify this once and for all. But it also raises the question of why is he doing this? I mean you're a D you're an I you're a D. One lawmaker said they considered it a noble gesture that he would return to his Democratic registration. I don't get it, though.

Howard Fischer: The problems caused in Pima County, the law says within three days the Board of Supervisors must appoint a committee of independents. That's Monday. They don't even have the time to get together ahead of time to take applications. The chairman the board, Howie, we have to meet, take the application. And at the same time appoint these people. They have to come back later in the week and screen applicants. They have to get us the things back. Perhaps next Monday we will get to name the replacement.

Ted Simons: All for a vote that probably doesn't mean all that much in the end. The legislative session is almost over and the independents and Democrats don't have a lot of pull.

Howard Fischer: Very few things go down by one vote on the house side. 40 Republicans out of 60. It's not going to matter.

Ted Simons: Not to get too quantum mechanical here, but in a parallel universe in another part of the valley, we had Andrew Thomas, a former Maricopa County Attorney, disbarred. Most legal folks not surprised by this, but that's a big deal.

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah, that's the most severe punishment this panel could have come down with. He can't reapply for 5 years to get back into the legal profession here. He can appeal this over the next few days and he's thinking about doing that, he will appeal this. If he gets disbarred it'll be five years, and then he can only apply once a year going forward. It's not easy to get your legal license back here and in a lot of states if you get disbarred. It's not necessarily a lifetime thing but it's as close as you get.

Ted Simons: What can he do to any appeal process or any plans in the future to maybe practice law in another state, another space in time? He still says corruption wins, justice loses, compares himself to Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi.

Mike Sunnucks: He is steadfast in his belief that he is fighting corruption. Whether that is naive, hubris, extreme ideology, or a combination. He has not relented in that.

Howard Fischer: And the funny part is, and we've talked about it on this show -- he may in fact have been correct that there was something improper about the way the court tower project was awarded. But he screwed it up so badly with the help of Sheriff Joe, and did it in a way the committee felt went beyond the normal powers of a county attorney to look and investigate, and used his office for personal gain and for personal getting even, and that's what condemned him.

Mike Sunnucks: There's so much animosity towards him within the legal community, from the judges and other lawyers. He's not a popular guy, doesn't have a lot of fans at the state bar. It's not a surprise that this most extreme penalty came down. Howie's right, there was some iffy stuff going on on the board, but they overshot things so much, it was so politically driven, so many indictments for the same charges that everything got thrown out.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Even though he didn't have any kind of regard in the legal community at this point, he's styling himself as populist. He's talking about launching some kind of anticorruption ballot measure crusade. We'll see what materializes out of that. I thought it was interesting that he mentioned that Arizona in a recent study was cited as being high on corruption. What he didn't -- he didn't read that real closely, it was based on the fact that Arizona doesn't have a lot of systems and policies in place to halt corruption. Perhaps the events of this week might make the authors of that report think differently.

Mike Sunnucks: If he wants to run for office again, he's had two failed runs for attorney general, he was county attorney. Does this turn him into a conservative martyr with the right wing with the base? Or is this to just discredit him and he doesn't have the personality and persona of, say, the sheriff, to go out there and build that.

Howard Fischer: What does he run for? The problem is you need to be an attorney to run for A.G., at least that's the thinking. So does it become a $24,000 legislature? I don't see him sitting quietly on a back bench somewhere. He doesn't have the popularity to be governor. What does that leave?

Mary Jo Pitzl: You become a leader of this populist cause. He's also working on a book. I mean that's going to keep him pretty busy.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the problem for him is he's an effective back bencher, he's a good rock-thrower. He would be good for a watchdog group for the Republican Party. Someone that lobs a lot of grenades. You can't lob a lot of grenades sometimes when you're a prosecutor like that because it comes across as irresponsible.

Ted Simons: Quickly, at the capitol, as all this was going down with Andrew Thomas, was there any reaction? Were people rising to his defense to leave him alone?

Howard Fischer: Well part of it was with our own dog and pony show --

Ted Simons: I know, I did the quantum thing already, Howie --

Howard Fischer: You talk about our parallel universe, there is a bubble there, a lack of oxygen. They were only concerned about what happened within a four-square-block area. They were aware of it, but as Mike pointed out, I don't think of a lot of them were surprised but it was sort of yeah, okay, and another one bites the dust.

Mike Sunnucks: Well he doesn't have any political juice. He's not in office, doesn't have the fund-raising prowess of Joe or even Russell Pearce. When you don't have that, you're kind of out of sight, out of mind.
Ted Simons: The governor signing the bill banning abortions after 20 weeks, before we get more into this, what kind of penalties are there for doctors and/or patients?

Howard Fischer: Well, none for the patients, per se. A doctor who knowingly does this is subject to suspension and a loss of license. What's interesting, it's a criminal penalty. You can end up with six months in jail and a very large fine. I think a lot of what concerned some of the lawmakers, including the two doctors at the legislature is, okay, so how do you determine if it's 20 weeks and everything else? This gets into another issue which may make Arizona's law even stricter than the other six states. Most judge the 20 weeks from the point of fertilization, you tell normally through an ultrasound or something like that. Arizona says it's from the last menstrual cycle. It could have been two weeks before fertilization. So you may end up with a ban on abortion at 18 weeks. That makes our laws much stricter. That's part of the reason they wanted that hard count.

Mike Sunnucks: That might be part of the legal challenge from the pro choice folks. The 20 week ban has gone through the choice, they are pushing this in other states and here, it's a way to further erode abortion rights. But this two-week thing Howie talked about, the courts may take look at this.

Mary Jo Pitzl: You've got to shake your head. The legislation is now Arizona law that determines a woman's pregnant before she's pregnant.

Ted Simons: We're getting back to that quantum thing again. That space-time continuum thing.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Just a little bit pregnant? Yeah.

Ted Simons: What is the response to this? And first of all, what was the opposition saying down there? It sounded to me from a distance like it was pretty passionate.

Mary Jo Pitzl: You've heard the war on women, it's a line we'll hear through November this year from the Democrats. Also some heartburn among a few Republicans, as well, that this just goes too far. It takes discretion out of hands of doctors. There's a belief that this is doing medicine via legislation.

Howard Fischer: And some of it got down to specifics. One Representative is a conservative Republican lawmaker from Mesa, said look, there are certainly birth defects you cannot find by the 18th week in the first place. You have to send off for genetic testing to an out-of-state firm. By the time you get results back you're up against the 20th week. The woman needs some time to reflect and she doesn't have any time. You decide by this date or you've forfeited your rights.

Ted Simons: With this signing by the governor, is there a signal regarding the contraception -- first of all, talk to us about the contraception bill. Where are we?

Howard Fischer: The original Arizona law says if you are an employer and if you offer insurance benefits with prescriptions, you cannot exclude contraceptives. There's always been exceptions for the churches and charities where you're only serving your own members. The bill by Debbie Lesko says you're an employer. And the Phoenix Business Journal decides, well from our religious perspective we're not going to offer contraception. That proved too much for the Senate. It's going to be scaled back to church affiliates, St. Joseph's Hospital, and others. It's a Catholic affiliated hospital. They would theoretically fit in. There seemed to be enough votes to get that out. Would the governor sign it at that point? I think her signals are that way. This woman is on record as saying, I want to outlaw all abortions except to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest. There's no question where she stands on this.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the law does have an emergency clause. I think the reason it'll stick is because it's still a challenge in other states. I think she'll sign the contraception bill, that's the compromise that lets them claim victory.

Ted Simons: This is a vote yes now to be amended later, trust us, we'll amend it.

Mary Jo Pitzl: That's the only way the bill can move forward. The Senate after rejecting it last week came back and said, well, two senators, three senators changed their vote and said we feel comfortable enough, we believe in the integrity of Debbie Lesko that there is a compromise. It's a little bit of a leap of faith. Democrats are incredibly nervous and distrustful of this. But you do have the house majority whip reputation and name at stake here. If she goes south on her word she will never be allowed to forget that.

Mike Sunnucks: From the folks that advocate this, if you're a religious organization, not just a church but a hospital, doesn't your religious moral belief fit into how you run that business? I think it with stands the smell test much more than broader bill.

Howard Fischer: But the big "but" is, if you're going ahead and let's say St. Joseph's hospital and St. Mary's Hospital in Tucson, your employees are not just Catholics. Where does the line begin and end it's like another fight through the legislature. If you're a pharmacist can you refuse to dispense birth control or the morning-after pill? There are certain responsibilities you take on if you run a hospital to provide services and serve your employees. If you're a pharmacist, you take on a responsibility. Particularly in a small town. You may be the only pharmacist there. Can you say well I'm sorry I'm not going to go ahead and dispense birth control?

Ted Simons: Real quickly, this along with the abortion bill and other things going on both here in Arizona and nationally, how is this going play when election season hits full gear? Is this war on women, this idea, has that got traction?

Mike Sunnucks: This is the Democrats' plan A. In the presidential campaign, in the Senate race and congressional races, there's a huge gender gap with Republicans and Democrats from women. The split is at the national stage with Romney right now and Obama. Democrats will really try to go out with this, Republicans are against working women. Voters control your livelihood and your destiny. So I think this will be a big issue from the Democratic side.

Ted Simons: The legislature approves a guns in public buildings bill over the complaints of cities and towns and businesses and a whole lot of folks.

Howard Fischer: And Mary Rose Wilcox, we'll get to that in a second. Under state law now, if you're city hall, you put up a sign saying no guns, and you have to make lockers available to store weapons so you don't have to leave it in the car. The city didn't like that but they agreed. If you want to keep guns out, X-ray devices, metal detector, arm security guards, police or private guards. Take a look at the number of entrances on most buildings. We're not talking about courthouses which are exempt or college campuses. You look at the city hall or a public pool, and say if you don't want guns, you can have a metal detector there. And somebody screening you. And the costs of not just buying the equipment but staffing it can be astronomical.

Mike Sunnucks: There is such a contradiction from a conservative perspective on this: You want gun rights, you like the 2nd amendment, most conservatives like that. But then you're creating a police state. If you want to go to the public library or city hall to file a permit and you have to walk through the TSA? I think there will be a lot of buyer's remorse from a libertarian kind of right perspective.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The history though of the legislature at least in recent years when you've got these conflicting rights, gun rights will triumph, there was a big debate a couple of years ago, should we allow employees to keep weapons in their cars at the company parking lot: Does that intrude or the company's private property rights. Well ya but it's more important to support the second amendment.

Mike Sunnucks: I don't think this passes the smell test even with conservative folks. If they start to go to the public library and there's a TSA type arrangement setup, that's going to turn a lot of people off. And then what's next? Sports arenas and ball parks?

Howard Fischer: The argument of the NRA is very simple, just allow people to bring their guns. People probably bring their guns to the public library right now. The point is that you put up a sign. Who obeys the signs? The law-abiding folks; the other folks don't. His point is, left my gun in the car, I'm defenseless against the guy who ignored the sign.

Ted Simons: Governor vetoed a similar measure last year. Does she veto this one?

Howard Fischer: This is a closer call. Last year she had a good excuse. It was messy, it was sloppy, there were questions, did it apply to colleges. Where did it apply, how did it apply. They have cleaned up the mess. Interestingly enough, she's got some personal experience with this. Mary Rose Wilcox remind her that back when she was also a supervisor and Mary Rose still is, somebody came into the board of supervisors and shot Mary Rose in the nether regions. Here was Jan who could have just as easily been the victim. Something may click with the governor about that. And if nothing else the cost. The thing that the city's got in their favor is this local control issue. Jan is a very strong local control proponent. She talked about how the NRA has a great tradition of saloon girls with Derringers stuck in their garters. This is going to be a hard one for her. She's very pro-gun but it may be the local control issue.

Ted Simons: About a minute left to tell us how the budget negotiations are going.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, they are moving along a little bit. The Governor's budget director said there are about $100 million apart on spending issues in the context of, you know, $8.8 billion budget. I think it's widely expected there might be very significant movement in the budget in the coming weeks. Tuesday is the mythical 100th day in the legislative session. The rules technically call for them to be gone by next Saturday. They want to get out of there.

Ted Simons: We've gotta get out of here. Good conversation, good stuff, thanks for joining us. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

Graphic with the words
airs July 19

Psyche Mission

Former President Donald Trump
airs July 15

Republican National Convention: Four nights of coverage

Three main characters from mystery shows premiering this summer

It’s the Summer of Mystery!

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: