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Texts show Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel didn't tell county supervisors she was in rehab

Allister Adel
Posted at 5:24 PM, Oct 05, 2021

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel said she never intended to hide that she was seeking treatment in an out-of-state rehab facility last month.

But when a member of the County Board of Supervisors texted Adel to personally appear at a special meeting regarding the so-called election “audit,” Adel only replied that she couldn’t attend and didn’t give a reason why.

“Hi- I am out of state unfortunately,” she wrote in a Sept. 8 text to Clint Hickman.

The text messages were obtained through a public records request.

Once the news about Adel’s rehab was made public, ABC15 requested any and all correspondence from September 6, 2021 to September 14, 2021, between the Maricopa County Attorney's Office staff and the Board of Supervisors regarding the county attorney to learn more about how it was communicated internally.

In response, the county produced roughly a dozen text messages.

Most were sent between Adel and two supervisors: Hickman and Bill Gates. A few were sent between MCAO Chief of Staff Candice Copple and Gates.

Related: Criminal justice reform activists accusing Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel’s chief of staff of wearing blackface

There were no direct emails sent between MCAO and the Board of Supervisors other than a press release regarding Adel’s initial announcement about her treatment.

Adel abruptly announced she was seeking treatment for anxiety, stress, alcohol use, and an eating disorder on September 10.

In an interview Thursday, ABC15 asked Adel why she didn’t let Hickman know she was in rehab two days earlier when he texted her.

“Well, typically protocol is that you let the chairman of the board of supervisors know first out of professional courtesy,” Adel said. “And I was also waiting not just to notify him first but all the board of supervisors when I could set aside to call each one of them.”

The county attorney added, “Most importantly, I was waiting for the advice of my medical team to be able to say yes it’s the appropriate time in your recovery to start letting people know other than obviously my family, who was aware from the beginning. Their medical advice about when it was appropriate within my course of recovery to start to being public with this was advice I took seriously. So when supervisor Hickman had texted me about that, I had not spoken with Chairman (Jack) Sellers. So out of respect for that process, and that kind of unwritten protocol, that’s why I didn’t say anything at that point.”

On September 14, the Arizona Republic revealed that Sheriff Paul Penzone had given Adel an ultimatum a day before her announcement: Tell the board or he would.

The text messages show Adel and the two supervisors texting about Penzone and the Republic’s article.

“Really? Playing politics? He gave Candice an ultimatum. He NEVER called me,” Adel texted Hickman (she also sent an identical text to Gates). “My plan was always going to tell the board. I’m not hiding anything. I’m owning this.”

The text messages also show that the supervisors did not know Adel was out of state or in rehab.

“Allister, just want you to know that I had absolutely no idea of your struggle. Won’t be to [sic] wordy, just want you to know you have my support as you go forward. That includes your family, please let me know if I can be of help, anytime! Clint,” Hickman texted late on September 10.

On September 14, Gates texted, “I’m sorry you are having to deal with this sort of story. What’s important right now is you and your recovery. Let’s talk when you are back.”

Adel returned to her office on Sept. 20, according to a spokesperson.

Later that week, she agreed to an interview — limited to 10 minutes — with ABC15, where she declined to answer specific questions about what she knew about her office’s role in falsely charging protesters as a criminal street gang, as ABC15's "Politically Charged" investigation revealed.

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.