Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley is questioning the role of Gov. Janet Napolitano in the negotiations with two inmates who held two guards hostage for 15 days.
Romley said Thursday it was clear from the start the governor was calling the shots rather than leaving the talks to people trained in hostage negotiations. He said it was those negotiations that led to Ricky Wassenaar and Steven Coy getting what they wanted: Transfer to out-ofstate prisons.
The inmates eventually released the two guards they held and no one died in the incident, though one of the guards was raped. But Romley said the outcome may send the message to inmates that they can take hostages and hold out to get their demands met.
He noted the deal cut with Wassenaar and Coy even prohibits Romley from insisting that they serve their time on any new charges in Arizona prisons.
Paul Allvin, Napolitano’s spokesman, chided Romley for second-guessing the actions of the governor and Corrections director Dora Schriro in successful negotiations.
Allvin said all the decisions were made by Schriro, with the governor "briefed and closely engaged’’ in the talks.
"It was not necessary for her to second-guess director Schriro’s judgment,’’ he said. He said Schriro and Napolitano "followed the advice of the hostage negotiators and provided overall direction.’’
Romley’s comments came as he named a special prosecutor Thursday to take an independent look at how the two inmates managed to take hostages and how the negotiations with the prisoners were handled. That followed a request by legislative leaders for Romley to do an inquiry separate from one the governor has ordered.
Romley said he is giving Melvin McDonald, a former U.S. attorney for Arizona, the full powers of his office, including the ability to subpoena individuals and documents, convene a grand jury and even offer immunity to witnesses in exchange for their testimony.
Romley, who is weighing a run for governor in 2006, said that removes any possibility of political taint in the probe.
The only restraint Romley is imposing is that McDonald cannot cut any deal with Wassenaar and Coy, who were formally charged Thursday with a combined 25 felonies based on the 15-day standoff.
Romley also called on Napolitano to call off her own probe. He said the makeup of her panel is tainted. Napolitano named Dennis Burke, her chief of staff for policy, to be co-chairman of the panel along with former Attorney General Grant Woods.