Complaining of slow action, House Minority Leader John Loredo on Tuesday requested legislative legal staff to begin an investigation of state Corporation Commissioner Jim Irvin.
The Phoenix Democrat said House Speaker Jake Flake, R-Snowflake, “has not provided the resources necessary to get the impeachment rolling.”
Loredo said there is no way that Rep. Steve Tully, R-Phoenix, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, can “sort his way through thousands of documents” about the state utility regulator’s actions and whether there are grounds to oust Irvin from office.
Loredo called Flake’s failure to provide Tully with legal help “a recipe for stalling.”
Flake said Loredo is “grandstanding for political purposes.”
Flake said Tully is doing the necessary preliminary work to determine if there is a case, with a report due out within days, “weeks at most.”
Only then, Flake said, would it be appropriate for the House to hire outside investigators and lawyers to begin a full-scale impeachment inquiry.
Loredo is exercising a legal right available to any legislator to seek research through the Arizona Legislative Council. That agency generally is responsible for drafting laws but does other research on issues of concern to lawmakers.
Specifically, Loredo wants a determination if Irvin broke any laws in
connection with his role in the failed bid by one company to buy Southwest Gas.
A federal court jury in a civil case concluded Irvin used his position to undermine that bid, assessing nearly $400,000 in compensatory damages and $60 million in punitive damages. Jurors also said that if it had been within their power they would have removed him from office.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is investigating Irvin’s actions but has not decided whether to bring charges.
He also wants to determine if Irvin broke any laws in actions against commission employee Jim Fisher, who provided information about Irvin’s actions in the Southwest Gas case to lawyers for the unsuccessful bidder. Fisher sued, claiming harassment and slander; the case was settled out of court.
Loredo also raised questions about forms submitted by Irvin to qualify for public financing of his 2002 re-election campaign. But the state Attorney General’s Office already has concluded there were no instances of forgery.
Flake said he fears rushing matters and making mistakes that could undermine an impeachment proceeding if one is started.
“Any time it goes fast, it usually goes wrong,” he said.