Formal Bar complaint filed against Thomas, aides
by Michael Kiefer and Yvonne Wingett - Feb. 4, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
The State Bar of Arizona charged former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and two of his deputies with ethics violations, initiating a formal review process of their actions against county political rivals between 2006 and 2010.
The three were charged Thursday with, among other things, conflicts of interest and filing criminal and civil cases against political opponents without probable cause or sufficient evidence.
The complaint does not recommend specific action, but a previously completed investigative report recommended disbarment for Thomas and former Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon, and suspension for former Deputy County Attorney Rachel Alexander.
It will be up to a three-person panel, including a special disciplinary judge, to decide their fates after a trial that could take place as early as this summer.
The state Bar actions also could weigh on settlement discussions involving some of the more than $106 million in notices of claim and lawsuits filed against Maricopa County in the aftermath of the county political battles and corruption investigations launched by Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Thursday's complaint formalizes allegations detailed in the Dec. 5 investigative report, accusing the three of filing cases "based not on facts but on their personal animosity toward all the defendants."
Thomas declined comment. His attorney, Don Wilson, said, "The only comment I have is that we are looking forward to the opportunity to defend Mr. Thomas and to restore his good name."
The state Bar alleges one or more of the trio:
- Failed to cooperate with the investigation and filed "frivolous and meritless motions intended to delay, obstruct and burden the process of the screening investigations."
- Filed bribery and obstruction charges against Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe knowing "there was and is no evidence at all, much less probable cause to believe that Judge Donahoe engaged in bribery."
- Pursued a grand-jury investigation of Donahoe, county supervisors and other officials despite conflicts of interest.
- Filed a meritless and frivolous federal racketeering lawsuit against officials and judges.
- Charged county Supervisor Don Stapley with alleged crimes for which the statute of limitations had expired.
The ethics inquiries were launched last spring after a Superior Court judge ruled that Thomas prosecuted county Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox for political reasons. The state Bar asked the Supreme Court to look into the matter, and the court appointed Colorado investigator John Gleason to avoid its own potential conflicts of interest.
Gleason's team interviewed about 100 people and reviewed thousands of documents, including pleadings and grand-jury transcripts.
Thomas, Aubuchon and Alexander have 20 days to respond in writing to Thursday's complaint. A hearing must be set within 10 days of receipt of the responses.
The trial will be heard by the presiding disciplinary judge, a lawyer and a member of the public. The panel could impose disciplinary actions ranging from dismissal of the complaint to suspension and disbarment. That decision could then be appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court.
In September, the court appointed former Pinal County Superior Court Judge William O'Neil as presiding disciplinary judge. His participation likely will be challenged by Thomas and the others, since O'Neil ruled against Thomas and Aubuchon in their prosecution of Donahoe.
Here is a copy of the complaint filed by the state of Arizona against Andrew Thomas in PDF format.