PHOENIX — It's decision time for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. On Wednesday they will decide what to do with County Assessor Paul Petersen. Petersen is in jail, arrested earlier this month.
He is facing criminal charges in three states related to an international adoption ring he allegedly operated. The board wants to kick him out of office. It has met twice in executive session with County Attorney Allister Adel searching for a way to accomplish that.
"I think there are certain statutes that can be utilized," Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Bill Gates said.
The Supervisors have several options ranging from suspending Petersen, which is a temporary but potentially immediate solution, to seeking a criminal indictment from a grand jury. A process that could take months if not longer because of the court proceedings related to it. In any scenario none of the outcomes are certain.
"What happened to Paul Petersen is an anomaly in terms of municipal government," Governor Doug Ducey said.
The governor says there needs to be a way for cities and counties to remove elected officials, like Petersen, who can no longer do their job.
"There likely should be a remedy in the law in which to fix a situation like this," the governor said. "I think there's a couple of different ways to solve it. It's probably best done with coordination between state, municipal and city people."
Ducey calls Petersen a once in a generation type situation, "but it is a situation we have to address," the governor says. Expect the legislature to take up the matter in the upcoming legislative session.
Petersen's attorney released the following statement on his behalf Wednesday:
"Certainly we are disappointed in the Board’s decision today to use a little known statute in an attempt to suspend Paul Petersen from his elected position as Maricopa County Assessor. Paul is a constitutionally elected officer who does not answer to the Board of Supervisors. The information presented by the Board in their notice does not meet the threshold to allow them to issue a suspension. Moreover, the statute itself is constitutionally suspect and ripe for challenge. More disappointing yet is the continued effort to tarnish Mr. Petersen and trample his rights under the Constitution. I reiterate, the charges agains Paul are simply allegations. In our system, Paul is as innocent today as he was before the formal accusations. It’s unfortunate the Board continues to forget that."