Former Arizona State Mine Inspector Doug Martin pleaded guilty Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court to a felony conflict-of-interest charge.
Martin, 67, was accused of trading in a state owned vehicle for a new pickup truck that was “loaded with options” that he used for work and personal matters.
In doing so, Martin violated state laws that prohibit publicly elected officials from using their authority to benefit personally, according to a release from the state Attorney General’s Office.
Under the plea agreement, Martin will be placed on probation and will not serve more than 30 days in jail. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 17, according the release.
The attorney general’s office started looking into Martin’s activities last year after an audit of his office showed he may have broken the law by leasing vehicles without authority and improperly spending money. Martin served as state mine inspector from 1988 to 2006.
Auditors found that money from a $5,000 fund was being used to pay for personal parking tickets and to make a political contribution to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. They also found that the state had paid three times for the same $13.22 car wash on a vehicle used by Martin.
Despite the findings of the audit, Martin remained the state’s top mining official and served out the remainder of his final term, which ended early this year.
The issue also sparked debates over whether the mine inspector - one of six offices elected statewide - should continue to be an elected post.
When the founders of the state were crafting the state Constitution, they felt the mine inspector should be elected by popular vote to counter against the enormous influence of the state mining companies. That was back around 1912 when Arizona gained statehood.