Maricopa County Politics

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Attorney and former Superior Court presiding judge Colin Campbell speaks about the indictment facing Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox.

José Cárdenas: Good evening, and thank you for joining us. This week, two of Arizona's county prosecutors are called to the stand in a hearing to determine whether Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas can continue to prosecute a case against Maricopa County supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. Supervisor Wilcox is facing two multi-count indictments for conflict of interest, perjury, and false swearing stemming from allegations that she took out Loans from a subsidiary of a nonprofit organization and voted for funding for that same organization. Joining me tonight to talk about the hearing and the latest in the case against supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox is former superior court judge and defense attorney for Wilcox, Colin Campbell. Colin, welcome to "Horizonte."

Colin Campbell: Thank you.

José Cárdenas: Good to have you here. Let's walk through this. I know it's complicated. Let's start with an overview, an explanation of what the hearing is about.

Colin Campbell: The hearing was on Mary Rose's motion to disqualify Andy Thomas from being the prosecutor. Involved three issues. The first was whether Andy Thomas can be a prosecutor after he filed a civil lawsuit against Mary Rose and others in the federal district court. Normally, a prosecutor who sues someone can then not act as a prosecutor in a criminal case. There's also the issue of having once recused himself from the case and sent it to Yavapai county, whether Thomas can bring the case back and there was an issue whether there was legal advice on the subject matter of the indictment.

José Cárdenas: And all of this was presented in the course of about a day earlier in the week.

Colin Campbell: In a five hours' worth of testimony. Sheila Polk testified. Andy Thomas testified and there was testimony from Mary Rose's aide and an assistant district attorney.

José Cárdenas: And this followed preliminary skirmishing whether Andy Thomas would testify.

Colin Campbell: A motion in limine had been filed last week trying to quash the subpoenas against Thomas and to exclude Sheila Polk. And the judge held that the testimony was relevant and material to the hearing.

José Cárdenas: Colin, before we get into the he details, let's talk about the background of the allegations that led us to this point.

Colin Campbell: The indictment that was returned against Mary Rose came down on December 7th of last year. It involves two different types of allegations. The first allegations deal with what is called the conflict of interest allegation. , and those allegations say that Mary Rose Wilcox, as a member of the board of directors board of supervisors, voted for social service funding to pass through federal funding for programs dealing with HIV or tobacco prevention. And at the same time, with the subsidiary of, she had applied for and obtained business funding for her restaurant business in the grant park area of south Phoenix. The county attorney alleges that's somehow a conflict of interest. Mary Rose denies that. But that forms the first part of the allegations. The second part of the allegations deal with more technical matters. Anyone who is an elected official is supposed to file financial disclosure forms every year and it gets somewhat complicated in the county because the county was suppose to pass an ordinance approving these forms and apparently failed to do so. But they're alleging on financial disclosure forms that she failed to disclose certain loans and that's also disputed by Mary Rose.

José Cárdenas: And can you summarize her responses to the allegations?

Colin Campbell: Yes, on the conflict of interest allegations, there's simply no conflict of interest at all. Under the law, for it to be a conflict of interest, the government has to prove Mary Rose would have some gain or benefit from something they voted on. She had no gain or any benefit whatsoever for HIV funding or tobacco funding that went to Chicanos for la CASA. And a community development institution and gives funding for funding in distressed neighborhood is a program that gets funding from Wells Fargo and other partner banks and she applied on the same terms and conditions as anyone else. And obtained them. So there's really no correlation at all between the social service funding and the loans she obtained.

José Cárdenas: As I understand, she didn't actually vote on the funding for CPLC. It was on a consent agenda. The decision as to whether they would get the money.

Colin Campbell: This is federal funding and there's a committee at the county that looks at all the applications for the social service agencies and make recommendations to the board and the board votes on a consent agenda and they're all unanimous votes so they were all 5-0 votes or 4-0 votes because one of the supervisors was missing.

José Cárdenas: Let's talk about the assignment to the case by Thomas to the Yavapai county Sheila Polk and then him taking it back.

Colin Campbell: This goes back to the indictment against Donald Stapley that came out in --

José Cárdenas: A fellow supervisor.

Colin Campbell: A fellow supervisor, after that, indictment, the board of supervisors was very concerned that since it works every day with the county attorney's office, whether there was a conflict of interest and they're working with the county attorney's office, at the same time it was investigating the board. That led to a number of institutional conflicts. The board set up its on civil litigation department and Thomas sued to undo that. And so there was a variety of institutional conflicts that arose in different civil lawsuits. In April 2009, to help resolve this problem, Andy Thomas announced he was going to voluntarily recuse himself from all cases involving the board of supervisors and send them to Yavapai attorney Sheila Polk, who took the cases and any future investigations. She had the cases from April of 2009 until October of 2009. October of 2009, at the request of Andy Thomas, she sent the cases back to Maricopa County. A lot of the hearing involved what happened, that she took the cases and six months later, sent them back.

José Cárdenas: I want to talk about that, but before we do, there were other aspects of the grand jury proceedings that were different in terms of notice to the target of the investigation and so forth.

Colin Campbell: Well, generally when someone is a target of a grand jury investigation and, the target is generally informed of that and you have an opportunity to meet with the prosecutor and present any exculpatory evidence you might have. What's unusual about the grand jury proceeding against Mary Rose, after it was taken back by the county attorney here in Maricopa County, there was no communication with me as Mary Rose's attorney or any effort to try and get information from us to tell them our side of the story, to stop this from happening. Which is on December 7th when they returned the indictment, it came as an absolute shock and surprise.

José Cárdenas: The return of the indictment was part of a series of events that included the filing of a federal lawsuit, against a judge involved in the disqualification. Can you quickly put that in context for us?

Colin Campbell: It was an extraordinary week, the first week of December, 2009. Thomas had taken all the investigations back in October of 2009. The county had filed a motion in front of judge Donahoe, who was handling grand jury matters which we believe involved a disqualification matter for Andrew Thomas. On December 1st, he filed a federal RICO action, which is breath taking in scope, against the board, private attorneys and judges, alleging a civil racketeering scheme against the county attorney. On December 7th, returned indictment much indictments against Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox and on the morning of the hearing, December 9th, that judge Donahoe was going to conduct, he filed a criminal complaint against him.

José Cárdenas: And bribery, not any factual basis as I understand it.

Colin Campbell: When you file a criminal complaint you have to file a probable cause statement and one of the issues that Sheila Polk talked about in terms of abuse of power, she's reviewed it and said there's no probable cause to file criminal charges against judge Donahoe, that this is almost a fabricated charge.

José Cárdenas: She said that's what motivated her to come forward with the letter to the editor she wrote about a month ago to "The Arizona Republic."

Colin Campbell: On December 22nd, 2009, it was published but said it was a series of things. The civil racketeering, and the indictment of Mary Rose Wilcox caused concern.

José Cárdenas: And told the sheriff there was no basis for charges, is that right?

Colin Campbell: At the time the case was sent from her, October 6, 2009, back to Andrew Thomas, she testified in her opinion, the sheriff had not presented any evidence that Mary Rose committed any crimes.

José Cárdenas: And she had clashes was it David Hendershott, what she regarded as a fishing expedition.

Colin Campbell: She testified as soon as they took over in April of 2006, she started butting heads with the sheriff. And she considered it inappropriate that the sheriff would say, we want to target this citizen and find out everything we can about them. To see if we can find a crime. She had told the sheriff that in order to use a grand jury, they had to persuade her there was a crime and that a grand jury subpoena would help uncover that crime. That was a bone of contention between her and the sheriff's office. She also -- they had presented to her this issue of voting for social service funding for Chicanos for la CASA, and she had said that was not a substantial conflict of interest as required by the statute. That the sheriff had to show her Mary Rose Wilcox, financially benefited or gained from her votes and that the sheriff was not able do that.

José Cárdenas: As I understand it, she also testified to what happened after she -- word leaked she was going to be sending a letter to the "The Arizona Republic."

Colin Campbell: I think this was one of the most surprising things that came out of the hearing. After this week in December, all of these unusual things happening, she testified that she could no longer be silent and emailed Andrew Thomas and told him that she was going to make a public statement. She then received, she testified, two phone messages from David Hendershott, which she described as threats, where she was told that if she went forward with public revelations that things would get ugly for her, that they would accuse her of incompetence and make things uncomfortable for her. She brought to the hearing a C.D. disk, because they were recorded, and we had them marked and the judge didn't want to listen to them at the hearing, but the clerk of courts has custody of them.

José Cárdenas: What did Andrew Thomas say about all of this?

Colin Campbell: He tried to explain a lot of different things in the case. So for example, we inquired, why did he take the case back after he had voluntarily recused himself from the case? Especially when there appeared to be a conflict between the sheriff and Sheila Polk and the sheriff was asking him to take the case back. I don't think he gave a very satisfactory answer to that. He seemed to suggest he was just trying to make things better by transferring the case to Sheila -- from Sheila Polk to some other prosecutor. He said he wanted an independent prosecutor.

José Cárdenas: We're getting close to the end of our time, but tell us what he had to say with respect to the conflict of interest arising from the filing of the civil lawsuit?

Colin Campbell: He's on the horns of a dilemma. He's trying to say that he sued in his official capacity and he has no personal interest in the federal civil racketeering lawsuit. However in that lawsuit, in order to have standing you have to prove actual concrete injury, he filed a pleading saying he had a personal property right, and the defendants were conspiring to deprive him of his right to practice law and he had that the parties were conspiring to limit his powers and take away his budget and we'll see how the judge resolves these conflicts positions he's taking in two different courts.

José Cárdenas: When can we expect a decision?

Colin Campbell: The judge has generally ruled quickly on matters. He has 60 days under the law. But I would anticipate he'll rule within a week or two weeks.

José Cárdenas: I'm sure we'll hear more about this case. Thank you for joining us.

Colin Campbell: Thank you.

Colin Campbell:former superior court judge and defense attorney for Mary Rose Wilcox;

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