A Superior Court judge has made public a group of e-mail messages that raise suspicions of corruption involving former Pinal County Manager Stan Griffis and area developer Mike Ingram.
Judge Robert Duber ordered Pinal County to release roughly half of 120 e-mail messages deemed personal by Griffis and his attorney, Lee Stein, even though they were written by Griffis on his office computer.
Griffis, now serving a 3 1/2-year prison sentence for stealing more than $400,000 in public funds, sought a court order in early 2006 to prevent the messages from being released to a local newspaper. The case became known as Griffis v. Pinal County and ultimately was decided by the Arizona Supreme Court, which ordered the lower court’s e-mail review.
The messages reviewed by Duber and released to the public indicate that Ingram, a principal in the Phoenix-based land investment group El Dorado Holdings, had been planning an African safari vacation for Griffis, who was then county manager in an area where Ingram had been doing business.
The messages also indicate that Griffis sought to help Ingram expedite county planning agreements for El Dorado projects, although the agreements never were approved.
“It was very troubling,” said former Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley, hired by Pinal County to investigate and prosecute Griffis. “It clearly raised a lot of questions.”
The e-mail messages do not explicitly state that Ingram paid for the safari trip.
Romley attempted to ask about it during Griffis’ sentencing hearing in May, but Stein objected, and the judge instructed Romley to drop the subject.
The Griffis e-mail case has broader implications for government officials and members of the public who want to review their electronic correspondence.
Although he doesn’t consider it a victory for Griffis, Stein said the judge’s ruling did acknowledge that some e-mail created on a public official’s computer still can be considered private.