A special House investigator said Tuesday he found “clear and convincing evidence” that former state utility regulator Jim Irvin violated state and federal laws.
A. Melvin McDonald, a former U.S. attorney for Arizona, said Irvin participated in a fraudulent scheme when he was chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission when he interceded in a bidding war for Southwest Gas. McDonald also said that Irvin purposely concealed his activities, which is a separate crime.
In his two-volume report, McDonald also concluded:
• Irvin and his wife, Carol, perpetrated a fraud in federal court by trying to introduce “fabricated evidence in a vain attempt to influence the judicial process in hopes of exculpating himself.”
• He broke state laws protecting whistle-blowers by retaliating against ACC employee Jim Fisher, who had reported Irvin’s activities, harassing him on the job and then undermining his efforts to find work elsewhere.
• Irvin committed malfeasance by helping to assist the brother of a campaign worker whose company was being investigated by the commission, showing “a callous disregard for the rule of law that he had sworn to uphold.”
But McDonald said he found no evidence Irvin broke any laws in his collection of signatures and $5 donations to qualify him for public funding for last year’s re-election bid to the commission.
McDonald’s report ends the House impeachment probe: Irvin’s resignation last month left lawmakers without any legal jurisdiction.
But Rep. Steve Tully, R-Phoenix, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the report is being given to federal, state and county prosecutors.
Publicists for all three agencies said findings will be reviewed and decisions made whether to seek criminal charges.
A publicist for Irvin said his attorneys were studying the report and would not comment until today.
Tully said the report shows Irvin “took actions which were inappropriate for his office, he recognized that they were inappropriate, he was active in still pursuing them even with the knowledge of the impropriety of his actions.” But that, he said, is only half the problem.
“When they were brought up to him that his actions were improper, he lied about it, repeatedly, over a long period of time,” Tully said. He said that includes forging documents during trial “to prevent the finding out of his actions” and that he “continues to dissemble about his activities even to the point a month ago when Mr. McDonald was taking his deposition.”
Irvin steadfastly maintained he did nothing wrong, even as a civil court jury returned a $60.4 million verdict against him in the Southwest Gas case and even after an out-of-court settlement with Fisher.
McDonald said those claims were not credible. He said it was Irvin who pushed regulators from other states to support one bid for Southwest Gas over others and who concealed his travels from the other state utility regulators. McDonald said Irvin also faxed a letter to the Southwest Gas board as they were getting ready to consider which bid to accept, and called Southwest executives to tell them which bid he favored.