The Skinny


Here's one reason the rest of the media in town might want to get around to warning the people of Tucson about debt-dodgin', non-votin', tax-skirtin', water-stealin' Vernon Walker, the Republican who has inexplicably put his name on the ballot despite his record of being dragged into court to cough up cash by a list of litigants that ranges from college co-eds to the Tucson Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. (For details, see "Judgment Day," to the left, or last week's cover story, "Meet Vernon Walker.")

Walker is in a race not only to unseat Ward 5 Democrat Steve Leal, but also to land his paws on matching funds through the city's publicly financed campaign program.

New reports are due this week, but as of May 31, Walker had picked up 81 contributions of at least $10 from city residents. He needs to get 200 of 'em to open the taxpayer spigot. Walker had collected a total of $3,575 and spent $965, mostly on printing expenses.

If Walker qualifies for the taxpayer bucks, he'll be eligible to receive roughly $42,000 in a dollar-for-dollar match of privately raised funds.

Fortunately for taxpayers, most of the Big Checkbooks in this town are reluctant to give money even to legitimate candidates, so they're not going to waste much cash on Walker.

In the wake of last week's story, we hear local politicos are discovering they have other engagements when the opportunity to host a fundraiser for Walker comes up. Andrew Greenhill, chief of staff to Mayor Bob Walkup, says that Walker had asked Walkup, Congressman Jim Kolbe and other GOP big shots to host a fundraiser, but has since withdrawn the request.


Poor ol' Vernon Walker is getting hassled by The Man again! Walker is scheduled to be on display this Tuesday, Sept. 6, in front of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, to appeal a $750 fine related to work he did on a house on Ruthrauff Road.

Jim Portner, a Pima County hearing officer, ruled that Walker failed to get the proper permits for transforming a carport into a room, enclosing a porch, altering the roof and upgrading the electrical system.

At a hearing in June, Walker was socked with a $750 fine, including $250 for continuing the work even after the inspector told him to cease and desist.

Walker, who basically argues that he either already has permits or doesn't need 'em, has written several pages in his own defense in a language remarkably similar to English. A couple of highlights:

· "... the inspector insists I right down every thing the previous owner has done no one could possibly no what the previous owner has done since any plans submitted at the time of permits were destroyed by the County and there is no living person to testify as to everything what was done."

· "If you allowed this Inspectors activity to continue, it would be tantamount to saying to this inspector that he can criminally trespass on your property, scare a lady in the bedroom look around take pictures and make up a story that you added something such as a beam and make you prove it knowing that any plans of the original house had been destroyed by Development Services. This is not a murder case and should have a statue of limitations on it."

Yes, that's "statue of limitations."

The Board turned down Walker's request to delay the hearing until after Nov. 8--or, as political junkies know it, Election Day--despite his all-caps, bold, underlined plea: "THIS COMPLAINT WAS MADE IN RETALIATION WHEN I WAS TALKING ABOUT RUNNING FOR CITY COUNCILMAN AND HAS NO MERITS."


Credit new Arizona Daily Star boss David Stoeffler with steady moves to improve the paper. Corn-fed from Lee corporate headquarters in Iowa, Stoeffler knew enough that he didn't know enough about the complexities of the Arizona-Sonora border and its daily influx of drug runners, coyotes, desperate job seekers, citizen activists and law-enforcement officials. Unlike Jane Amari, the contessa who would have simply called the Southern Arizona Leadership Council for coverage directions, Stoeffler called in the reporters who cover the border. Then he took an un-air-conditioned drive in July on the dusty, rutted roads along the border in Assistant City Editor Ignacio Ibarra's truck. Nacho broke in El Jefe real good.

Next, Stoeffler pulled the plug on Dennis Joyce's horrid, mind-boggling layout and content changes to the editorial page. Stoeffler summed it up Sunday, writing that the redesign "had simply gone too far in emphasis on design." In other words, the chopped-up pages and full-body photos of guest writers were a mess. Boy, we'll miss Ann Coulter.

One question remains: What will Vernon Walker have to do to earn a thorn from the morning daily's crew?


Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall's Most Famous Year is sure to get more interesting now that she's the subject of a complaint to the State Bar. It arises from her testimony on April 19-20 before the Merit Commission that heard appeals from three of the four deputy county attorneys she disciplined for actions spilling out from the Stidham murder case.

LaWall testified that she was surprised to learn that word of the discipline--and four prosecutors being escorted out of the Legal Services Building--made the news. She swore that she didn't call or arrange for a call to be made to KGUN reporter Terry Gonzalez in attempt to discover the tipster, whom she believed was Brad Roach.

Initially facing termination, Roach was handed a three-week suspension that he successfully overturned at the Merit Commission. Here's a big part of why a majority of the commission went with Roach.

Roach: My question to you was, my answer to you was Terry Gonzalez from KGUN 9 called me, and then I told you that you've got a leak from somewhere else, right. ... And this, the media event surrounding this thing was so important to you that you not only took my answer, but you called Terry Gonzalez from KGUN to talk to her about it, right?

LaWall: Somebody else in my office called.

Roach: Did you talk to her?

LaWall: No.

Roach: And you had somebody else from the office call and talk to Terry Gonzalez about the media attention?

LaWall: I did not direct anybody else to make that call. They just made the call.

LaWall tried to pin the call on her-then PR man Dan Benavidez, but Gonzalez appeared at the Merit Commission and refuted that.

Gonzalez: The best I can remember is sometime in December, I received a call from Barbara LaWall, her secretary called me and put the call through and said that she needed to talk to me--you want me to go into details?

Roach: Yes, please.

Gonzalez: She wanted to know how I found out about the prosecutors, their discipline on that day. She was baffled and a little bit annoyed, and I told her I couldn't tell her that. ... I clearly stated Brad Roach never called me.

Roach: If Barbara LaWall testified last week and said under oath that she did not call you about this case, your memory would be different?

Gonzalez: Clearly she called me.

Roach and Chris Kimminau, the attorney who successfully represented former deputy prosecutor Nicki DiCampli at the same hearings, filed the complaint, saying ethical rules imposed by the Arizona Supreme Court require notification when a lawyer is suspected of being dishonest.


Pima County officials are fishing for an intergovernmental agreement with northern neighbor Pinal County to swap lawyers for the civil service commissions of each county. We ship a lawyer up to Florence to advise its civil service panel, and Pinal gives us a lawyer to advise the Pima Merit Commission as it hears employee appeals of firings, suspensions and demotions.

At first blush, this seems driven by Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and County Attorney Barbara LaWall, who have suffered embarrassing reversals of their actions to can and suspend people. But these two Democrats are not on the same page, and Dupnik, who carries none of LaWall's baggage, has had to contend with the lawyers LaWall provides to argue his cases before the Merit Commission. Dupnik has credibility with county administration and the Board of Supervisors; LaWall does not.

Top county bureaucrats could be pushing this odd arrangement, which would oust Barry Corey, a Tucson lawyer who has done a fine job advising both the Pima Merit Commission and the city Civil Service Commission. Corey, who has been through this shuffle before, is doing the county work via an annual $85,000 contract renewed June 21.


It's no secret that social conservatives aren't fond of Sen. John McCain, who appears to be revving up the Straight Talk Express for another run for the White House. The GOP's right wing has been on an organized campaign to denounce McCain for the last several months here in Arizona.

McCain is now trying to quiet rebellious Republicans by reaching out to them. In addition to announcing his support for an initiative to ban gay marriage and other domestic partnerships, McCain visited the East Valley to make friends with the gang that pretty much considers him a traitor to the party.

McCain was hammered by audience members who were upset by his support for stem-cell research, a guest-worker program and trade agreements.

How'd it all work out? Not so great, judging from the account at Web site editor Dennis Durband noted that "McCain's 'Straight Talk and Damage Control Express' sputtered out of Mesa without making any detectable inroads."

The incendiary meeting was brokered by former House Speaker Jeff Groscost. It may have been Groscost's most incendiary disaster since he forced through the alt-fuel fiasco that cost Arizona a couple hundred million bucks back in 2000.


OK, so the Boost deal went bust. We've got a new idea for the Slim Fast plant, free to the folks at TREO: The Frederick G. "Frodo" Ronstadt Elephant Habitat and Birthing Center. Or how about a consolidated meth lab/call center? (We'd suggest the Karen Thoreson Roller Derby Rink, but that has to go downtown, right?)