PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors have unanimously voted to suspend County Assessor Paul Petersen.
The board approved a 120-day suspension without pay against Petersen.
During the meeting, officials said an audit of Petersen's computer at his county office found a significant amount of personal and private legal adoption work.
Board members lack the authority to permanently remove Petersen from his office that determines the value of properties for tax purposes in Phoenix and its suburbs.
Petersen's lawyer provided the following statement regarding the suspension:
“Mr. Petersen has no intention of resigning from his post to which he was elected by the voters of Maricopa County. To our knowledge there is no statutory or Constitutional authority by which the County Board of Supervisors may unilaterally decide to “fire” an elected official. It’s unfortunate that they feel it necessary to waste time pursuing this course. The charges against my client are simply allegations, not one piece of evidence has been presented against him in a court of law. Although sometimes forgotten, our system of criminal justice is still one in which the accused is innocent until proven guilty. To date there has been no proof of anything.”
Petersen is facing federal charges and charges in three states related to an international adoption ring he allegedly operated, stemming from the Marshall Islands.
Petersen appeared in court in Arkansas on October 29 to face a federal magistrate on multiple charges, including wire fraud and mail fraud. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Paul Peterson has pled not guilty to all charges in federal court during his arraignment in Fayetteville Arkansas. He appeared in front of a judge wearing a black and white striped jumpsuit shackled at the waist and ankles. His wife was in attendance for the hearing. @abc15— Cameron Polom ABC (@cpolom) October 29, 2019
Charges in Arizona, Arkansas and Utah include human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Petersen was not present during Monday's meeting and remains in federal custody.
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas Duane "Dak" Kees says during that federal trial, Petersen is expected to face four of the Marshallese women who were brought into the United States to deliver babies that were then sold to other families.
Investigators say Petersen was instructing the expecting mothers to lie to customs when they got to the United States and to say they were not here for adoption, they were here for other reasons.
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, the FBI, and the Arkansas Attorney General announced 19 federal charges.