The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is looking into concerns about state Treasurer David Petersen, including whether mismanagement has led to high turnover in the agency.
The issues were raised by his former executive assistant in a resignation letter to Petersen that also went to legislative leaders and state officials.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Terry Goddard wouldn’t comment on the inquiry, but Petersen said this week that Goddard’s office told him not to discuss the investigation or the letter with anyone.
Petersen said he was made aware of the inquiry about two weeks ago. But, he said, Goddard’s staff won’t tell him what the investigation is focusing on specifically.
Questions regarding Petersen’s management of the office surfaced when Wanda Simeona filed a copy of her resignation letter with some of the state’s top officials.
The letter accuses Petersen of creating a hostile work environment that has caused numerous employees to leave the treasurer’s office.
“You made a mess of this office, the morale is horrible and people are leaving faster than they can be replaced,” Simeona wrote. “For years, there was no turnover. Since you have been here people are kicking down the doors to leave rather than enter.”
In addition, Simeona wrote that Petersen pressured her to quit after she filed a complaint with the Arizona Department of Administration. A copy of the complaint wasn’t available Tuesday.
Simeona did not return repeated phone calls from the Tribune.
“My new passion really is to see you replaced as Treasurer of Arizona,” she wrote.
Tony Malaj, chief of staff at the treasurer’s office, said Tuesday that employees are trying not to get caught up in the rumors swirling around the agency.
He declined to comment on the concerns raised in the letter because they involve personnel matters.
The office employs about 30 people and oversees about $9 billion in banking, cash management, investments and accounting services for the state.
The treasurer is the state’s chief financial officer and cannot serve more than two consecutive four-year terms.
The investigation comes at a time when Petersen must decide whether he’ll run again. He said he plans to wait until the investigation is completed before making that decision.
“I want to wait and see what comes of everything, until I know what the playing field is,” he said Tuesday.
While Petersen, a Republican, waits to decide whether he’ll seek reelection, at least two members of his own party are lining up to replace him.
Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, and Sen. Dean Martin, R-Phoenix, have each said they are looking at possible runs for the office.
Knaperek said Monday that she’ll wait before deciding for sure whether she will seek the office. Part of her decision, she said, depends on how the job demands might affect her family.
Martin, however, filed paperwork last week to form an exploratory committee.
Martin said he was recruited by some friends, including members of the Republican Party, to run for the office.
“This was a grass-roots effort by people who feel there needs to be better leadership in the office,” he said.