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Battle rages over Paul Petersen suspension

Posted at 4:43 PM, Nov 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 21:00:02-05

PHOENIX — In just a few short weeks, Paul Petersen will face the Board of Supervisors to convince them he has never neglected his duties as Maricopa County Assessor.

The task may have just gotten more difficult as the county has now enlisted a handful of law firms to dig deeper into his performance.

FULL SECTION: Paul Petersen Adoption Fraud Scheme

"I think everyone is in this for one reason only, they want to do the right thing," said Former Attorney General Grant Woods.

Woods is tasked with overseeing the investigation and reporting the findings to the County Attorney's office before Petersen's December 11 hearing.

"We've got to look at, again, how was the office being run, how did he run it, how often was he there, how often did he interact, was he engaged or not engaged," said Woods.

Woods says the teams of attorneys will review documents and files discovered on Petersen's county computer during a recent audit by the Board of Supervisors.

"We need to know, what are the documents, we don't need to know details or anything like that but what are they, are they public are they private?" said Woods.

They'll also take aim at all of his county-issued devices to find out if Petersen was using them for his private business. Woods said interviews with Petersen's colleagues have also begun.

The board contends Petersen also deserved the suspension due to the fact he was in custody after being indicted in three states connected to an international adoption scheme.

But since being released, his attorneys have made it clear he's ready to go back to work and stopping him is unconstitutional.

"County taxpayers should be looking at what's going on here and saying this is politics at it's worst, absolute politics at it's worst, what are they going to waste our money on now?" asked Kurt Altman, Petersen's attorney.

Altman says the cost of hiring these firms will bilk taxpayers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars to further what he calls a sham process.

"My client's salary as County Assessor I think is $77,000 a year, somewhere around that, they probably had to pay four times that just to get these firms on board,"

With Petersen's term up after 2020, is it worth the investment to keep him out of office?

Woods says the board chose to take a stand. "They took a tough stand and I don't think they're going to worry about the consequences of it, they'll just try to do what's right," said Woods.

The total amount spent by the county on attorney fees won't be known until their work is finished.

To see the fee agreement schedule with the firms, click here.