Saturday, June 25, 2011

Andrew Thomas lawyers seek withdrawal from ethics case

Attorneys representing former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas have asked to withdraw from his ethics disciplinary case, saying county officials have refused to assure them they will be paid.

The motion to withdraw was filed Wednesday with the presiding disciplinary judge of the Supreme Court of Arizona, William O'Neil.

The judge must rule on the motion, and it is unclear when that will occur.

Thomas did not immediately respond to The Arizona Republic's request for comment.

Asked why he filed the motion, Thomas' attorney, Don Wilson, said, "The simplest answer is that we have been trying to get some reassurance from either the Board of Supervisors or the County Attorney that we will be paid on a reasonable basis and we have been unable to get anyone to commit to that."

A spokesman for County Attorney Bill Montgomery had no comment, and spokespeople for the Supervisors did not immediately respond to inquiries.

Thomas and his two former deputies have been charged with ethics violations by an independent investigator on behalf of the State Bar of Arizona. They face possible disbarment.

The trial for all three is supposed to begin Sept. 12 and last 40 days.

The former prosecutors are also under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI for their roles in several failed prosecutions of county officials and judges.

Among the accusations that have repeatedly surfaced: Thomas and his staff pursued cases against political foes, they rushed investigations, and they ignored advice from more-experienced attorneys and law-enforcement officers who repeatedly told them the cases were being inappropriately managed.

Days after Thomas was charged, the county Board of Supervisors approved a $100,000 budget to defend him against the charges despite its sharp political and legal differences with him. The funds were charged to Montgomery's budget.

But by mid-May, Thomas had spent $86,000 of the $100,000 in public funds that the Board of Supervisors earmarked for his defense against the Bar complaint, prompting discussion among county officials about whether to allocate more.

In a March 21 e-mail to Montgomery, Thomas asked the county attorney to confirm that his legal bills and "future reasonable bills" would be paid by the County Attorney's Office "so that my representation is no longer adversely and materially affected by the actions of Maricopa County officials. Otherwise, my counsel will withdraw soon, and I will be forced to represent myself in these pending proceedings."

On Wednesday, Wilson told The Republic that he has already had to pay out of his own pocket.

"I can't afford to do that," Wilson said, especially since "Bar counsel has an unlimited budget."

Wilson predicted Thomas will have to defend himself, which other sources said could cause various delays.

Wilson noted that even the deputy county attorneys he has interviewed for discovery have been appointed lawyers.

E-mails obtained by The Republic through a public records request Wednesday indicate county officials discussed spending about $300,000 for Thomas' defense. However, the Board of Supervisors never formally approved the further expenditure of public funds.

"To date, only a portion of the legal bills generated have been paid, a substantial amount remains outstanding and unpaid, and the lawyers have not received any indication or assurances of any kind that the fees and costs presently incurred by Mr. Thomas, and to be incurred in the future, will be paid," the motion to withdraw stated.

By Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Michael Kiefer, The Arizona Republic

Source: The Arizona Republic

1 comment:

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