Monday, November 23, 2009

Another classic example of yellow journalism, full of lies by Yvonne Wingett

submitted by a reader

Yvonne Wingett, the Arizona Republic hack reporter assigned to cover Maricopa County government, developed a pattern of playing fast and loose with the facts. In the absence of any real news, she makes up her own. Her close relationship with the County Supervisors, colors her coverage of all county affairs. She turns a blind eye to the Supervisors' illegal acts and gives their attempts to take over other county agencies a free pass. She is complicit in assisting the Supervisors smear other county agencies and is often seen cozying up to the County PIO, Richard de Uriarte. Take the article she wrote in Saturday's Arizona Republic about an audit of the County Treasurer's Office, entitled “Audit Cites Treasurer's Office Slip-ups.” Did she even bother to read it first (the entire audit is pasted below)? ( )

The Supervisors ordered an audit of the County Treasurer's Office for no reason other than to harass the office, which had not been acceding to its demands. Wingett ignores the overall positive report, and instead accuses the office of mishandling procurement and the hiring of contractors. She asserts that “the office failed to follow county procurement policies on tens of thousands of dollars of contracts.” This sounds terrible, but in reality, it involved two contracts for computer services. One of them was arranged by the County's OET division, not the Treasurer's Office. So the County Supervisors should have been dinged for failing to follow procurement policies, not the Treasurer's Office.

As for Wingett's other accusation, she says the office did not properly formalize agreements before hiring two contract employees. She left out the fact that both the hiring and the payments took place during the prior administration. The exact quote from the report on the issue is,

The payments to Help Desk Technology and Teri Johnson occurred before November 13, 2007 and were authorized by the previous Treasurer.”

She also ignores the main audit finding:

“For the period reviewed, we found that TIF expenditures were in compliance with ARS §11-495. In addition, we found that TIF revenues were collected and recorded in compliance with this statute.”

Why would she do this? Simple, it's more helpful to the Supervisors to smear their enemy’s current County Treasurer.

This kind of reporting demonstrates that Wingett cannot be trusted to be a fair and impartial reporter. She is the very model of the worst kind of reporter. Her biases come through, and it is reporting like hers that is the reason why people are increasingly deserting the Arizona Republic as a legitimate news source. She is a discredit to all real reporters and an embarrassment to the Arizona Republic, and that’s hard to do.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Look who's in bed together!

submitted by a reader

Phoenix New Times has the story connecting Chuck Coughlin from High Ground - the consulting firm exposed by Sonoran Alliance for getting the Republican Party to push an 18% sales tax increase - to indicted County Supervisor Don Stapley in order to find someone to send a threatening letter to the County Attorney about his hiring of special prosecutors to prosecute Stapley. According to the article, Coughlin has it out for the County Attorney ever since he was prosecuted for campaign finance violations when he ran the Prop. 400 campaign to raise taxes (which passed, now we have light rail). Between the two, they got their friend Pat Gilbert, who runs the Marc Center which Coughlin and Stapley and Stapley's former business partner and convicted felon Conley Wolfswinkel have long supported, to submit a public records request to the County Attorney for information relating to the outside prosecutors they hired to prosecute Stapley.

Sounds highly unethical.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shadow county attorneys office larger than we thought

This was posted in a comment on the Sonoran Alliance, explaining that there are more attorneys under Swanson and Stewart than previously thought -

Article didn’t get the Smith’s hatchman correctly…its Wade Swanson. He has at least 11 attorneys under him, 5 paralegals, and 9 more support staff. Richard Stewart now has a staff of 10.

Monday, November 9, 2009

State Bar of AZ adds 5 new diversity committees - already has 8

(submitted by a reader)

Not satisfied with having the most diversity bar subgroups in the country, the Arizona State Bar has decided to add 5 more. Currently, the Bar has:

Sexual Orientation and Gender committee
Minorities and Women in the Law committee
Arizona Women's Lawyers Association
Black Women Lawyer's Association
Native American Bar Association
Arizona Black Bar
Los Abogados Hispanic Bar Association
Arizona Asian-American Bar Association

Kenyan-African-Americans, Luo tribe (Obama)
Kenyan-African-Americans, Kikuyus tribe
Potswama Native American tribe
Transgendered attorneys
Transsexual attorneys

Evinto Podhopper, the Diversity Director for the State Bar, had this to say about the expansion,

"We felt that it was necessary to add a minority group for Kenyans, considering Obama is now our president. But because his wealthy Kenyan tribe is currently warring with the other dominant tribe in Kenya, we thought it was best to keep the two separate from one another. Although we don't know of any real Kenyans in Arizona practicing law, we figure by creating a group just for them, some of them will step forward and identify themselves."

"We've added a subgroup for the Native American Potswama tribe which has just been recognized by the federal government as a tribe. Because they were only just now recognized, they feel like their interests aren't the same as tribes that have already been recognized for awhile, and would feel more comfortable with their own representation."

"There was some feuding going on in the Sexual Orientation and Gender committee between the gays, lesbians and bisexuals on one side, and the transgendered and transsexuals on the other side. In order to make everyone happy, we thought we would separate out the transgendered and transsexuals who were suffering the most oppression and discrimination. I think I should receive an award for coming up with this plan for peace."

A member of the Arizona Board of Governors, who spoke to us only on condition of anonymity, said, "Great, now instead of sitting through 8 boring reports while our eyes glaze over, we're going to have to sit through 13. I am part Potswama but I am not going to admit it and have people look at me and blame me for another boring report. What does being Potswama have to do with the law anyway? Attorneys are required to pay mandatory dues that pay for this kind of stuff. I don't think that's right."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Supervisors' Shadow County Attorney's Office growing larger than County Attorney's litigation dept.

We've been told that the Supervisors' new Shadow County Attorney's Office is expanding and paying its newly hired attorneys huge salaries - WITH YOUR TAX DOLLARS. They started their own litigation department last spring under Wade Stewart, the 35-year old attorney they hired who they're paying $175,000/yr (higher than any attorney at the entire County Attorney's Office, even senior 25-year prosecutors who prosecuted the Serial Shooters case). Wade is a green attorney who issued an embarassingly incorrect legal opinion a couple of weeks ago based on an Attorney General's opinion that had been reversed. We're told his new litigation department is now up to 10 attorneys and growing - that's 3 more attorneys than the County Attorney's litigation section has ever had! The Supervisors have also started a second section of attorneys under Richard Stewart, a former litigator for the County Attorney's Office.

After the Supervisors gutted the budget for the County Attorney's Civil Division in order to steal the division and put it underneath them, they lured many of the employees away with gigantic pay increases. One litigator was given a $27,000/yr pay increase! Yes that's right. County Attorney employees haven't received raises for two or three years due to the recession, and their jobs have become harder due to the hiring freeze and the Supervisors forcing the law enforcement office to cut 15%, yet the Board of Supervisors is hiring new attorneys like it's going out of style and giving them ridiculous pay increases.

This new Shadow County Attorney's Office is so shadowy, it's not even listed on the Supervisors' org chart. Although the diversity manager is. The Supervisors seem to have forgotten that the people elected Andrew Thomas to head the County Attorney's Office, not them. A Rasmussen poll last month found that Thomas's approval rating is currently at 64% among voters with an opinion, considered a high approval rating. Most of the County Supervisors got elected to their positions because those undesirable offices fly under the radar and attract few candidates. The voters of Maricopa County don't want the unpopular Supervisors stealing away the County Attorney's Office from under Thomas. What this comes down to is this: The Supervisors are trying to stop Thomas from prosecuting two of their own for numerous alleged felonies, by taking away funding for his office to decimate it.

The legitimacy of the Shadow County Attorney's Office is currently being litigated in the Court of Appeals.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why is Senate president Bob Burns writing "Conservative calls for sales-tax hike?"

AZ Senate President Bob Burns (R) has an article in the Republic defending a referral to the ballot of an 18% sales tax increase. Why is the leading Republican in the Senate publicly calling for a tax increase referral? Shouldn't this be coming from the Democrat Party?

Instead of criticizing Republican Governor Brewer for line-item vetoing the spending cuts the legislature had included in the budget in order to balance the budget, Burns attacks everyone else. He criticizes budget gimmicks but doesn't criticize the governor's budget gimmick of using the line-item veto to increase the budget! Governor Brewer is equally at fault, especially since she has been the main Republican advocating for the sales tax increase. Governor Napolitano got us into this mess, but Governor Brewer is not fixing it by increasing taxes. Raising taxes never improves the economy but merely enables big spenders to continue their bad habits.
I surprised many people when I announced earlier this year my support for putting a 1-cent-per-dollar sales-tax increase on the ballot. Do not misunderstand me. The revenue generated from such a tax increase (less than $900 million in current economic conditions) will not entirely solve the problem. I also recognize the distinct possibility that voters may reject any such proposal. In either case, I will continue to advocate for more reductions in state spending to balance the budget.
And here he sounds as if he is somewhat supportive of voting for the tax increase once it makes it to the ballot!
We have lost enough precious time already. The question needs to be asked: Are you willing to pay, in addition to your current tax burdens, another penny on the dollar in sales tax in order to provide more revenue for your government? There may not be an official declaration that Arizona is in a state of emergency, but in my view, we're in one.
This is real disappointment. Burns should not claim to be a conservative if he is advocating for sales tax increase referral. The article should have been more correctly named, "Republican caves into pressure for 18% sales tax increase and fails to call out Governor."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Supervisors Wilson, Brock and Wilcox vote to hike photo speed camera ticket fees

Sonoran Alliance covered the story of the Supervisors notifying the public at the last minute (only 24 hours notice in advance) that they would be voting on hiking speed camera ticket fees by $20. Despite their attempt to keep the public uninformed, several people showed up and expressed their opposition to the speed camera ticket hike. Yet the Supervisors ignored them and voted for it anyways (Supervisors Stapley and Kunasek didn't vote). The speed cameras are widely disliked in Arizona and have not been successful at bringing in promised revenues. The Supervisors aren't representing their constituents by voting to increase the fines.

Paper misfired in labeling Arpaio

Letter to the editor in the Arizona Republic from Barnett Lotstein of the County Attorney's Office

Sunday's editorial ("Elected officials allowed costly fight to rage on") and E.J. Montini's column ("Thomas vs. the supervisors: The dog, the hydrant and us") both hit and missed the mark.

The editorial accurately described the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors' attempt to stymie the appointment of special prosecutors as "foot-dragging designed to protect one of its own - (Don) Stapley."

The Editorial Board misfired in attempting to characterize both Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the board as "wallflowers." That describes the board, not Sheriff Arpaio. It's safe to say that Arpaio doesn't take his marching orders from anybody except voters.

Those of us who work regularly with the sheriff know that Chief Deputy David Hendershott does not set policy. He is a competent, effective second in command.

The Editorial Board hit the bulls' eye in characterizing County Manager David Smith as the board's "generalissimo." His agenda of increasing his power has resulted in a search-and-destroy mission against elected officials, including the county attorney, sheriff and treasurer. If anyone needs to be reined in, it is "generalissimo" Smith.

In a more light-hearted vain, while the editorial writer has chosen to compare me to Othello's Iago, I would suggest I am more like Tonto to the Lone Ranger.

As to Montini, I suggest that the only dog in his rhetorical inquiry is the Board of Supervisors and that the public is the hydrant. I will not describe what the dog is doing so as not offend his sensibilities and to ensure that my comments are fit for inclusion in a family newspaper.

- Barnett Lotstein,Phoenix

The writer is a special assistant county attorney.