Attorney General Terry Goddard improperly used legal tactics in an effort to hinder a criminal investigation in his office, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas contends in a lawsuit filed Monday.
Thomas asked a judge to override the demands of a private lawyer that he be notified before sheriff’s investigators try to interview any current or former employees of the attorney general’s office. Goddard hired the lawyer to help the attorney general’s office handle the county investigation.
In the motion filed Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court, Thomas called the tactic an improper attempt to interfere with the county’s investigation of a $1.9 million payment of state funds to the attorney general’s office last year.
Andrea Esquer, Goddard’s spokeswoman, said she hadn’t seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on Thomas’ concerns.
Ed Novak, the lawyer hired to represent the attorney general’s office in the sheriff’s probe, said he also could not comment.
In a joint news conference with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Thomas said Novak’s insistence that investigators go through him would deter Goddard’s employees from talking to investigators, fearing their conversations will be reported to their boss.
The attorney general’s office used state funds to pay Novak for representation, not by Goddard or any other individuals specifically.
Arpaio and Thomas announced in April they were investigating whether Goddard cut a deal with former state Treasurer David Petersen, giving Petersen light treatment in exchange for authorization of a $1.9 million payment to the attorney general’s office last year for legal fees in an unrelated civil case.
Petersen pleaded guilty in October to a single misdemeanor charge of failing to list about $4,200 in commissions from a nonprofit organization on his state financial disclosure reports.
Petersen’s plea agreement came after an eight-month investigation by Goddard’s office.
Goddard maintains the payment was required by law, and that he did not give special treatment to Petersen.
Novak said in a letter sent to county prosecutors last month that the demand that he be notified before attorney general’s employees are interviewed is consistent with court rulings and ethical guidelines from the State Bar of Arizona.
“You seek to have the attorney general’s office give up its right to counsel,” Novak wrote in a response to earlier complaints from the county attorney’s office. “My client will not do so.”