The Skinny


Much as Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall and Wendy Petersen, the lawyer handling LaWall's case before the county Merit Commission, would like to blot it out, the taint of Ken Peasley cannot be avoided.

Petersen is executing the defense of LaWall's discipline of four now-former deputy county attorneys for their actions arising out of the Oct. 5, 2004 murder of Dr. David Stidham. Petersen, it must be noted, has done a credible job in a mostly professional manner. Petersen is paid $80,965 a year, plus $2,704 in special assignment pay. (It should be called combat pay.)

Petersen is a pleasant departure from the needlessly abrasive Leslie Lynch, who screams and goes on crying jags at the first sign of disagreement. Petersen also is head and shoulders above Mary Judge Ryan, LaWall's former chief deputy who cut her teeth--poorly--on personnel cases in front of the Merit Commission. (Call The Skinny tip line--kinda like 88-CRIME--with information about why Ryan, a twice-failed candidate for Congress, up and left LaWall's shop last year.)

At the Merit Commission, Brad Roach and lawyers for Nicki DiCampli and Paul Skitzki have hinted around that LaWall can ill afford another scandal, be it a public-relations disaster or a real ethics problem. And when LaWall piously invoked a claim about the high ethics of her office, the lawyers attempted to remind her that Peasley, long the office star, was disbarred for landmark ethics violations in his subornation of perjury in the infamous El Grande murder cases. Illicit and false testimony put people on death row. The late David White, a star prosecutor, also committed major prosecutorial misconduct.

LaWall and Petersen moved quickly to have the Merit Commission shut down any talk of Peasley and White, even in the context of the culture of the county attorney's office. LaWall has been busy running away from Peasley and White, saying she wasn't in charge during their offenses.

Huh? LaWall's mentor, fellow Democrat Stephen D. Neely, may have been county attorney during those ethics fiascos, but LaWall was his chief deputy. Moreover, it was LaWall who pressed to have taxpayers foot the bill for Peasley's defense at the State Bar. She or Ryan--or both--committed $100,000 to Waterfall Economidis Caldwell Hanshaw & Villamana, a prestigious Tucson firm, for Peasley defense work done by Jim Stuehringer.

The Board of Supervisors, balked and the Tucson division of the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that the county did not have to pay for most of Stuehringer's work. The opinion in that case was written by Judge Peter Eckerstrom. His brother, Paul Eckerstrom, is a lawyer in the state attorney general's office, the chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party and the odds-on favorite to challenge LaWall in that election so far away in 2008.

Peasley, meanwhile, is now an investigator for Brick Storts, the defense lawyer who has a county contract to represent Dr. Bradley A. Schwartz, the man accused of hiring a hit man to kill Stidham.

It gets tighter. Richard Lougee, a longtime defense lawyer who was passed over for county public defender (it went to Robert Hooker, Esq., GQ) is being paid by taxpayers to represent Ronald Bruce Bigger, the man accused of killing Stidham. Lougee is the bulldog who wouldn't allow the public and the State Bar to forget about Peasley's transgressions. Oughta be some real fine cooperation on the current case, no?

The case LaWall lusted after but fumbled will be tried by Sylvia Lafferty, a former Pima County prosecutor who had a number of high-profile cases before she left the office rather unceremoniously. She did public defense work before joining the Pinal County Attorney's Office. She will handle the Schwartz-Bigger prosecution trial along with Richard Platt, chief of Pinal's criminal division.

Meanwhile, LaWall insisted that Roach or others blabbed to the media about the discipline. It's hardly a secret when people see supposedly successful prosecutors escorted out of a public building while hauling a box of their belongings, but LaWall is set to deploy Nixon's plumbers.

That sidetracked the Merit Commission on Tuesday, when Terry Gonzalez, a reporter for KGUN Channel 9, was called to provide clear, accurate and to-the-point testimony that she telephoned Roach the day he was shown the door, not the other way around. And Gonzalez contradicted LaWall, who testified last week she didn't call the reporter later to investigate the leaks.

And where was LaWall's taxpayer-supported publicity man, Dan Benavidez? He also could be called to testify about those touchy-feely media contacts.

And that's the type of trick that has made LaWall's office famous. Benavidez, who makes $51,771 a year, parked himself at the hearings on most days. He even took notes occasionally on a lavender pad. Witnesses are supposed to be excluded from the proceedings so they don't get that leg up and tailoring and matching their testimony to, say, that of their boss.


Rising gas prices got you down? Rep. Bill Konopnicki of Safford is taking advantage of the final days of the session to propose a solution to your woes: a 10-cent-per-gallon rebate of your gas taxes between Memorial Day and Labor Day. All you have to do is save your gas receipts all summer and send 'em into the state to get your big check--not to exceed $200--from the state.

Konopnicki's theory: People will drive around the state more if they save a couple of bucks on gas.

This crackpot idea would benefit two people: anal types who save all their receipts, and people who drive those big-ass gas guzzlers that are driving prices higher and higher. The rest of us will pile a few receipts here, a few receipts there, and then forget about the whole stupid idea.

Hey, let's just spend the money on a road somewhere, OK?


Hotel Congress owner Richard Oseran is again battling with the city of Tucson over parking spaces around his hotel. Oseran's latest eruption came after he discovered that, in order to lure some sucker--er, daring entrepreneurial type to open a restaurant in the rehabbed train depot, they had to promise exclusive use of 20 parking spaces that were currently set aside for anyone to use. That leaves just 13 public spaces in the depot lot across the street from Congress.

City officials say they offered the spots to Oseran about a year ago, but he didn't snatch 'em up at the time. Rio Nuevo's new motto: You snooze, you lose!

It's another skirmish in an ongoing war over parking spaces as the city continues to try to brighten downtown. Question for the Big Brains behind Rio Nuevo: Do you think you could do it without screwing the businesses that are already there?


Former state lawmaker Randy Graf, who lost to Congressman Jim Kolbe in last year's GOP primary, has an "exciting announcement" planned for this Thursday, April 28.

Just guessing here, but do you suppose the right-wing kingpin will let us know he's after Kolbe's job again?

Either that, or he's coming out of the closet. Finally.


We've neglected to mention it, but our ol' pal John C. Scott is once again stirring the pot at a reasonable hour. You can hear him weekdays from 8 to 10 a.m. over there at the Jolt, 1330 on your AM dial. Last week, ol' J.C. lured Democrat Carol West into saying she was supporting her pal, Republican Fred Ronstadt, in this year's City Council election, then brought on a line-up of Democrats for fast 'n' furious reax. Oh, what fun!
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