Documents: Attorney General Tom Horne launched investigation to keep relationship quiet

PHOENIX - Attorney General Tom Horne went to extensive lengths to keep information about an employee who he's accused of having an affair with from reaching the public, according to new documents obtained by the ABC15 Investigators.

Horne launched an extensive -- and confidential -- internal investigation last summer after information about Carmen Chenal was published in the Phoenix New Times .

As part of that investigation, Horne assigned members of his staff to spend months looking into the matter and even asked an investigator to take fingerprints.

The Attorney General also spoke about having a source secretly listen to his employees' phone conversations – something he knew was illegal, records show.

Chenal has worked for Horne since 2006. She currently has a taxpayer-funded salary of $108,000, records show.

Multiple sources, both current and former employees of Horne, have told the ABC15 Investigators that the pair has carried on a romantic relationship for years.

Details of the Chenal internal investigation were laid out in thousands of pages of documents related to an FBI's case against Horne for alleged campaign finance violations.

The FBI case didn't focus on the relationship between Horne and Chenal.

However, two agents did witness a hit-and-run accident involving Chenal and Horne during lunch hour at her apartment.

The FBI case file includes notes, transcripts and other records related to the internal investigation, which was completed by a member of Horne's staff named Meg Hinchey.

Horne assigned Hinchey to find out who leaked information about Chenal to the media.

During her investigation, Hinchey said she found evidence of illegal campaign activity by Horne and other members of the Attorney General's office and forwarded the information to the FBI.

Hinchey's investigative findings on Horne and Chenal are prominent in the FBI's file.

In many cases, AG employees who were involved spoke about the alleged "affair."

According to her reports:

  • On October 4, 2011, Horne wanted to start a criminal investigation when he received an anonymous letter from someone who claimed to know who leaked information about Chenal to the media. Hinchey wrote, "AG Horne requests that I open an criminal investigation and have the letter checked for fingerprints."
  • On October 7, 2011, Hinchey reported, "(Horne asks) if he can tell us about something that he may have learned as a result of someone listening into another person's phone call in the office, during which a person was making negative comments about AG Horne. We explain if this did take place, it would be a crime…(Horne) said he knew that and thus wanted to ask if we would promise not to investigate or report it as a crime. We both stated, "No," we could not and would not." Hinchey goes on to report, "(Horne) then asked about what if the person overheard a phone call by standing outside of someone's office, instead of listening in on the call. Would that be different?"

The case file also shows that Hinchey was asked to investigate if someone talked to the ABC15 Investigators after we made a public records request about Chenal's legal history.  

In December, we asked the Arizona State Bar to release Carmen Chenal's file. It shows that she had her law license suspended for repeated violations in 2005.

Horne has not responded to multiple requests to talk about his relationship with Chenal.

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