It may have been a minor fender bender, but it is turning into a major headache for Attorney General Tom Horne.
According to court documents, Horne was driving a friend's car when he got into an accident striking a parked SUV. That accident is putting Horne's relationship with a woman who works for him under the microscope.
The ABC15 Investigators first reported on Attorney General Tom Horne's hiring of Carmen Chenal in August.
Now, the ABC15 Investigators have obtained new documents that contain some surprising details.
The documents are part of an investigative report that may be shifting the focus of public attention from the allegations of Horne campaign violations to questions about a romantic midday rendezvous.
THE HIT AND RUN
It was March 27th, 2012 at 12:45 p.m.
Two FBI agents had Tom Horne under surveillance.
The federal investigators were tailing Horne in the course of their investigation of Horne for allegations of campaign finance violations .
The agents watched Horne and his employee, Carmen Chenal, drive separate cars from the Attorney General's office to a nearby parking garage.
There they watch Horne park his car, put on a baseball hat and get into the car containing Carmen Chenal.
With Horne at the wheel, the two drive to 202 West Roosevelt—where Chenal has an apartment.
The FBI agents see the Attorney General back into another vehicle, a white Range Rover.
The agents' report says Horne drives off without leaving a note.
Horne and Chenal eventually park their car in a garage adjacent to her apartment complex and according to the FBI agents they walk into the "residential area."
Horne claims he didn't know he hit another car.
The Attorney General has offered to pay for any damage to the white Range Rover he may have been responsible for.
The hit and run case has been turned over to Phoenix police and they have yet to complete their investigation.
WHO IS CARMEN CHENAL?
The crash witnessed by the FBI agents is raising new questions about Horne's personal relationship with Carmen Chenal.
The ABC15 Investigators have spoken to current and former employees who have worked under Tom Horne.
Multiple sources told us, Horne and Chenal have carried on a romantic relationship for years, dating back to when he hired her at the Arizona Department of Education.
Our attempts to reach Horne and Chenal to speak to them about their relationship were unsuccessful. A message left with Horne's spokesperson also went unreturned.
When asked about the fender bender, Attorney General Horne said that it was too long ago to remember exactly what happened.
"That was last March and I can't tell you what I was doing," said Horne.
But the ABC15 Investigators assembled this chronology:
- In 2005, Carmen Chenal lost her law license after repeated violations of state bar regulations.
- In 2006, just a few months after losing her license to practice law, Chenal is hired by Horne to work for him at the Arizona Department of Education.
- In November 2010, Horne was elected Arizona Attorney General and hired Chenal despite the fact that she did not have a law license.
- In late 2010 Horne testified in an effort to help Chenal get her law license back.
- In March of 2011 Chenal is reinstated and gets her law license back.
- In July 2011 Horne launches an internal investigation to find out who is leaking information to the press about Carmen Chenal.
- In 2011 Horne promoted Chenal and gave her a job paying $108,000.00.
- One of Chenal's new responsibilities is handling international extraditions even though court records show she had no extradition law training or experience.
If you add it all up, Carmen Chenal has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by Arizona taxpayers.
Tom Horne is facing civil prosecution for violating state campaign finance laws, it is still unclear if he would be held personally liable for any fine that could be imposed.
It is also unclear what impact the campaign finance allegations and the revelations about that fender bender will have on his ability to continue serving as Arizona Attorney General.