Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The Daily Agenda: Resignation Watch Begins

Posted By on Wed, Feb 16, 2022 at 9:07 AM

click to enlarge The Daily Agenda: Resignation Watch Begins
Gage Skidmore
It's all fun and games until you're testifying under oath.

She's even failing at resigning ... One vote down, one to go ... And it's not quite must-see TV.

In what should be the death blow to her short tenure as Maricopa County Attorney, Allister Adel’s five top chiefs penned a three-page letter recounting all her failures that somehow got worse for her with every new sentence. 

Adel was already in a world of hurt over the handful of individual scandals that have rocked her office since she took over. But allegedly being drunk on the job — and drunk-dialing an employee about “pranking” another employee who had resigned — was a bridge too far for the professional lawyers at MCAO.

They sent their demand for her resignation to the county board of supervisors and the State Bar of Arizona and have launched their own ethics investigation into their boss. 

The letter starts off by stating that her top deputies held an intervention of sorts with her on November 30 and warned that they didn’t have proof she was drinking on the job, but they were watching closely. The staffers walked away hopeful that she would start showing up to the office and get her act together. They said it was disappointing and shocking that she has done neither. 

It’s clear they’ve been taking notes since then. Here’s a brief chronology:

  • On February 1, Adel held one-on-one meetings with the chiefs to address their concerns. 

“During those individual meetings you told us that you wanted to rebuild trust. You have done the exact opposite,” they wrote.

  • On February 7, during her media tour following a round of stories quoting her allies and mentor saying she’s “over her head” in the job, Adel offered discrepant statements about how long she was in rehab. Her staff pointed it out. 

“Rather than accepting this input professionally, you lashed out angrily at the two division chiefs. We won’t rehash what was said during that conversation, but your statements to them were inappropriate and very alarming, including accusing them of potentially triggering a relapse. The next day you issued a clarification to the media of one of (the) very same statements they were concerned with, which makes your reaction to them that much more perplexing,” they wrote.

  • On February 10, she had communications director Jennifer Liewer escorted out of the building after Liewer resigned with a statement questioning her sobriety and leadership.

“While you may have had the authority to do so, as we preach to our attorneys, just because you can does not mean you should. Given the totality of the circumstances, this decision can only be described as illogical and irrational,” they wrote.

  • The same day, Adel held a call with prosecutor and mean girl Erin Otis saying she was aware of the complaints and allegations against her and she “had (Otis’) back.” The next day, she put Otis on administrative leave.

“When asked for clarification of your February 10 comments, you denied making the statements, despite what Ms. Otis and (another employee on the call) have relayed,” they wrote. 

  • Finally, and this is probably the worst, on Monday — this Monday — she allegedly drunk-dialed an employee at 11 a.m. and asked him to put on his “personal hat” and help come up with a prank on an employee who had just quit.

“This bureau chief has reported that you displayed obvious signs of impairment during this conversation, a conversation that was unprofessional and unfocused. This bureau chief also related that he received a previous call from you on or about November 29, 2021. Although this call was after hours, you were discussing an upcoming MCAO meeting and were exhibiting signs of impairment during this phone call as well,” they wrote.

As part of their investigation into their boss, the chiefs hired notable ethics attorney Scott Rhodes, who initially served as the State Bar’s independent counsel in the Andy Thomas investigation, though they later replaced him after Thomas cried conflict. Thomas was still disbarred

Rhodes initially penned a letter saying he didn’t have concerns about Adel’s ability to do her job, the chiefs noted. But he wrote that letter before meeting with them, they said, and they believe that she “may have made significant misrepresentations to him.”

While the supervisors don’t have much ability to do anything about incompetent, drunk or felonious behavior from fellow elected officials in the county, Bill Gates, chair of the board, announced that he’s hiring an outside lawyer to “ensure we fully understand our role in this matter.” 

If Adel is serious about cleaning up her act and showing the world she’s more than an incompetent leader and drunk lawyer, there’s only one step she can take: Resign. 

Yesterday, she declined to do so. Instead she fired off a statement that she “vehemently den(ies) their characterization” of her — but that didn’t specifically deny any of the allegations.

A late start, then a swift vote: Proving that lawmakers can get work done when they want to (and if they suspend the normal process entirely), the Arizona House of Representatives voted to increase the aggregate expenditure limit for schools. As we’ve noted, the House had the votes, but the Senate is less clear. And as a reminder, this is needed to allow schools to spend money they already have, and it’s been a big problem this year because of an outstanding lawsuit over Prop. 208 from 2020. The final vote count in the House was 45-14, and here’s who voted against it:

Complete with jacket: When GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake said she was a lifetime member of the NRA, it didn’t mean she’d been a member for life. “Lifetime member” in this case just means that you selected that tier of membership (and paid more and got a jacket) instead of an annual one. The Republic’s Stacey Barchenger tried to suss out how long Lake had been a member, and it’s probably only since 2021, though Lake wouldn’t say. Lake’s opponents in the GOP primary all provided proof of membership going back at least a few years. 

Speaking of paying more, we have a “founding member” tier for subscribers who really, really like us and want to pay more to support locally owned and operated journalism. Pay us more and brag about it on your next campaign.

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A solid primer if you need it: Gawker-ender Peter Thiel has provided more than $20 million in financial backing for MAGA candidates for the U.S. House and Senate. In Arizona, he’s spent one of his biggest sums so far on advancing GOP Senate candidate Blake Masters, who works for Thiel’s company and has co-written a book with him. The New York Times dives into Thiel’s political spending and interests in more than a dozen races, with Masters featuring heavily in the story (though not giving the paper an interview).

A legislature’s job is to make laws: And boy are they trying to do a lot of it. Here’s your obligatory bill story roundup:

  • A bill that could threaten state aid if a city or town didn’t increase its police spending every year

  • Outing LGBTQ students to their parents, as one bill calls for, would be harmful for LGBTQ students

  • Boatloads of election bills, many based on false premises, and here’s a list of all of them

  • An effort to hobble outside lobbying that cities, towns and schools use to fend off bad bills at the Legislature 

  • Kids in public schools could be required to take an NRA gun safety course, if this bill passes

  • Sure, let’s have lawsuits against teachers, complete with potential criminal charges, says one bill 

One little word: A Phoenix priest mistakenly said “we baptize” instead of “I baptize” while performing baptisms for the past 20 years, which meant 20 years of baptisms were presumed invalid. The priest resigned, and the Diocese of Phoenix has a lengthy FAQ page about what happened and what it means. Today in city news: You won’t rack up fines for overdue library books in Tempe anymore. Despite being around for two years, an effort in Tucson to address community needs like mental illness and poverty with alternatives to policing doesn’t have much to show yet. Bring back Mesa’s neon signs

More money than any of us will ever see: Tucson’s Raytheon Technologies Corp. could end up paying hundreds of millions in expenses related to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into problems with past Pentagon contracts, the Arizona Daily Star’s David Wichner reports. The investigation is still underway, so it’s unclear the outcome, but the company reserved $290 million for investigation-related costs. 

The prices of everything are too damn high: U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly introduced a bill to suspend the gas tax until January to help people facing higher cost of living this year as Democrats in the White House and Congress consider a potential gas tax holiday

If you’re a powerful person reading this, help a guy out: One refugee from Afghanistan shares his story of making it to Tucson, but his family is still in Turkey as they’ve remained separated for more than six months, KJZZ’s Alisa Reznick reports. Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik is trying to get help to reunite the family, but even having a friend in elected office hasn’t gotten them back together yet. 

Flying by night: A handful of COVID-19 testing sites shut down after patients said they didn’t get results or only got them much later than expected, the Republic’s Rebekah Sanders reports. Still, despite this being the second chain of sites to shut in recent weeks, the Arizona Department of Health Services won’t vet and doesn’t regulate testing sites. 

Another consequence of high rent: A new report shows that homelessness among veterans increased last year in Arizona, in contrast to most of the country, where the homelessness levels among veterans decreased, the Republic’s Jessica Boehm reports. It’s likely because of the increased price of housing in the state.

The push to call it an invasion: Our friends at The Border Chronicle peel back the layers of states using language about an “invasion” at the U.S.-Mexico border to show how Ken Cuccinelli, Trump’s former acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, sold the invasion rhetoric to elected officials in Arizona and Texas. The idea has so far gained more traction in Texas than here, but has picked up steam during this election year.

We had a chuckle: We doubt it’ll be liberal Republic columnist E.J. Montini who convinces Ducey to run for U.S. Senate, but we do really like this paragraph about the New York Times’ documentation of all the people trying to convince Ducey to run:

“Trump either read (doubt it) or was told about (that’s probably it) the Times article describing how McConnell is trying to push Ducey into the Senate race.”

Like all those stories about restaurant health code violations: Except for weed this time.

Let’s raise that abysmal turnout: If you’re eligible to vote in the Salt River Project board elections, now’s your time to shine

A bipartisan bill to require schools offer a moment of silence by Democratic Rep. Alma Hernandez and (here’s a throwback) former Republican Rep. Adam Kwasman made its way through the House Education Committee today. 

House Bill 2707 would require all public schools to offer at least one, but not more than two, minutes of silence at the beginning of each school day. Teachers can’t suggest what to do with this minute of reflection and should encourage parents to discuss how best to use it with their kids.

Kwasman told us he wrote the bill and the idea came from a speech Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson gave after former President Ronald Reagan survived his 1981 assassination attempt in which he argued schools should teach character and ethical growth, not just facts and knowledge. 

Kwasman said he wrote the bill and has been working with the Jewish community to support it (Hernandez is also Jewish), but he emphasized this is not a backdoor way to get religion in school. (In fact, Republican Rep. Lupe Diaz cosponsored the bill then voted against it in committee for not doing enough to put prayer in school.)

“This idea of self-care and meditation and self reflection, the science behind it has only grown, and it became de rigueur for adults in the last 10 or 15 years,” Kwasman said. “So that’s why it has gained traction in a bipartisan fashion.”

Nothing would have been more ridiculous than Gov. Doug Ducey announcing a run for U.S. Senate on the Kelly Clarkson Show, the lighthearted feel-good daytime TV show from the former American Idol winner.

The laughs we would have had! The governor teased a surprise appearance on the daytime show, which was guest-hosted by actress Taraji P. Henson, and it sent us all speculating about what the surprise could be.

Of course, the cryptic pitch to watch Clarkson’s TV show on a Tuesday afternoon comes as the GOP establishment pulls out all the stops to convince Ducey to jump into the Senate race. 

Our favorite wrong answers: “third mamma mia movie,” “He has a cameo in From Justin to Kelly 2: Border Wars,” and anything related to the floating hot dog.

The right answer: He shot a short video thanking two Phoenix teenagers who started a nonprofit to help with mental health issues among teens.

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