There are fresh allegations that Tom Horne and his staff may be violating campaign laws. Jeremy Duda of the Arizona Capitol Times will bring us up to date.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. State attorney General Tom Horne is facing a new round of alleged campaign violations. The latest involves claims that some employees in the AG's office were allowed to use state time and resources for Horne's re-election campaign. Jeremy Duda of the "Arizona Capitol Times" is covering the story. Jeremy, good to have you here. Let's start with Sarah Beattie. Who is Sarah Beattie?--
Jeremy Duda: Sarah Beattie is a woman who worked in the constituents services department over at the attorney general's office from about August until a couple of few weeks ago when she suddenly resigned. She was also In addition to her work at the AG's office, she was doing some volunteer work with Tom Horne's re-election campaign which is a fundraising consultant much like a handful of other employees there volunteering their time for the campaign.
Ted Simons: So, and she resigns, as you mentioned recently. The reasons, the office wasn't following campaign laws and was putting her career at risk, something along those lines?
Jeremy Duda: Yeah, it was pretty vague. She sent an email a few weeks ago saying that -- I'm resigning because the office is not following campaign laws and putting my legal well-being at risk. She has not elaborated on that. She now has an attorney and they're talking about filing an official complaint with a lot of other allegations. They actually submitted a letter to the AG's office a couple of days ago from her attorney Tom Ryan flushing out a little of this, but most of it is still pretty vague. Talking about employees doing using state time and state resources to work on Horne's campaign. There's one allegation about possible deleting of emails. So far we don't know a lot of details yet.
Ted Simons: And again, This letter, is one of the litigation hold demand thing. What's that all about?
Jeremy Duda: It's basically A demand, putting them on notice saying that we might be suing here so We want you to preserve all of the pertinent documents, records, information, includes not only paper documents, but electronic documents and a metadata, electronic data about data shows that when like a document was created online or on a computer, for example, when it was modified and who created it. They actually included one example of this, a flyer for a Tom Horne fundraiser from I believe December of last year, I believe, that was created allegedly by Bret Mecham whose, Horne's legislative liaison, emailed out by a privater email address by another employee to several other employees apparently, and the metadata shows this was during work hours.
Ted Simons: Okay, and back to Sarah Beattie real quickly. Is she a democrat? Is she pro Felecia Rotellini? Is she not Pro Horne? It sounded like at one time she was supportive of Tom Horne.
Jeremy Duda: Indeed it does not sound like she is very supportive of him now. But she's been doing this work for his campaign for a little while now, or volunteer work anyway. She is a republican campaign operative she does a lot of fundraising consulting and has a lot of several other clients, PACs, and stuff like that.
Ted Simons: So you mentioned a lawsuit was a possibility. How likely would that be?
Jeremy Duda: It is hard to say. When I asked Tom Ryan, he couldn't really put a percentage on it. He said it's something they are considering, you know. Potentially, you know he's going to be filing this complaint with the secretary of state's office and the Clean Elections Commission so potentially this might just be to try and ensure that records and information are preserved for this complaint, not necessarily for the lawsuit but I guess time will tell on that.
Ted Simons: And I was going to say, filing those complaints with the secretary of state and clean elections, that is pretty much a done deal.
Jeremy Duda: So they say. We have been waiting for this for a few days now. Every day it's supposed to be well, tomorrow. Next day: well, tomorrow. Supposed to be today, supposed to be yesterday, now they say probably tomorrow. So, we'll see.
Ted Simons: What is Tom Horne's response to all of this or what does the attorney general's office, what is the response to all of this?
Jeremy Duda: When I spoke to them on Monday, they hadn't seen this yet and said they are not going to respond to this. They want to see what is in the complaint. They took some shots of Sarah's creditability they said she had some issues with former employers. In terms of the nuts and bolts of this, the issue over AG office employees, electioneering on taxpayer time, it's been around for a while. Horne doesn't have a campaign spokesperson per se he's had Bret Mecham and the official office spokeswoman for a while, Stephanie Grisham doing some of that work. Grisham is no longer doing that now but they've been serving as the spokesman. When you talk to them, they try to emphasize, oh, well I'm on a break right now. Saw video on channel 12 a few days ago they obtained of Bret Mecham and Sarah Baetie dropping off a campaign related complaint to the Secretary of state's office, not from Horne but from some of his allies. Filing a complaint against a group that was opposing Tom Horne. This was during the workday, they say during the lunch break.
Ted Simons: So, it sounds like, again from the stories and from the readings here, there are other claims of staffers at work on his campaign. This is not just a single incident, maybe not even just a single person.
Jeremy Duda: No, if you looked at his last campaign finance report, it goes through the end of 2013. There were about seven attorney general office employees who had been reimbursed by the campaign for various campaign-related expenses. You know, a couple People volunteering their time for the campaign spokesperson Sarah Baetie. Sarah of course was volunteering her time to do the fundraising stuff. So there was a few people there, mostly within Horne's inner circle who are giving a lot of assistance to his campaign.
Ted Simons: You know, it seems like Tom Horne has a lot going on for a variety of reasons. How many legal plates does he have spinning right now?
Jeremy Duda: There is a number of them. We are still kind of waiting to see how the campaign finance allegations play out, the first domino to fall really. Administrative law judge said basically more or less exonerated him, said there is not enough evidence to show any laws were broken and recommended that the charges be dismissed. The Yavapai County attorney Sheila Polk still has another week or so to decide whether or not she is going to accept that. She can push forward with the case either way. If she accepts it, we will end up in Superior Court with that. If not, that is the end of that. There was another lawsuit from a former employee who alleged retaliation for political reasons that was settled out of court for about a hundred thousand dollars. The infamous hit-and-run incident in the parking garage. That has been settled. So, there are fewer plates in the air than there used to be, but the memory lingers on certainly for the opponents.
Ted Simons: We want to make it clear, as far as the attorney general's office and Tom Horne, there is a firm denial of these accusations?
Jeremy Duda: Yes, they say that Horne and the office say that employees are not doing any work on state time, during breaks, you know, not on taxpayer time, and, you know, that may be -- put him in the clear, if that's the case. There is still some questions about that. Not too long ago the office itself to its employees put out a seven-page guideline on this kind of thing, and there was mentions in there of, you know, you have to take leave. Do not comingle, you know, these activities -- campaign and political activities with your official duties during the work day. So, it is kind of a gray area.
Ted Simons: Good stuff. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.