AP

Arizona official in human smuggling case seeks to keep seat

Dec 12, 2019, 6:01 AM
In this Nov. 15, 2019 file photo Paul Petersen appears at court in the Matheson courthouse in Salt ...
In this Nov. 15, 2019 file photo Paul Petersen appears at court in the Matheson courthouse in Salt Lake City Utah with his attorney Scott Williams. The Arizona elected official accused of paying women from a poor Pacific island nation to give their babies up for adoption in the United States made an appeal Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 to keep his job. (Scott G. Winterton/The Deseret News via AP, Pool)
(Scott G. Winterton/The Deseret News via AP, Pool)

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona elected official accused of paying women from a poor Pacific island nation to give their babies up for adoption in the United States made an appeal Wednesday to keep his job.

Lawyers for Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen told the county Board of Supervisors that he did not neglect his duties in office despite spending three weeks in jail before he was able to post bond.

Peterson didn’t attend the hearing.

“His criminal counsel has asked that he save his testimony for criminal proceedings,” Petersen’s attorney Kory Langhofer told the board. “There’s no reason for him to be here today.”

John Doran, a lawyer for the board, disagreed.

“At the end of the day, only Mr. Petersen knows what he would have or should have done in terms of his day-to-day routine as the county assessor that he didn’t do because he was too busy preparing legal pleadings and bankruptcy matters or personal injury cases for facilitating abortions. And he’s not here to tell us what he did and didn’t do,” Doran said.

“The fact of the matter is the man was elected. He’s entitled to hold that position until the charges justify suspension or removal from office,” Langhofer said. “There is no evidence in your report or anyone outside report that the man has failed to perform his duties.”

Board Chairman Bill Gates said the supervisors took the matter under advisement after the hearing. The board did not vote on whether to lift Petersen’s suspension.

The supervisors voted unanimously in October to place Petersen on an unpaid suspension for 120 days, ruling he’d neglected his office and used his county computer to do work for his adoption business.

Petersen has pleaded not guilty in Arizona, Arkansas and Utah to charges stemming from his law firm’s adoption practice.

Prosecutors say he illegally paid women from the Marshall Islands up to $40,000 to have their babies in the United States and give them up for adoption. Charges include human smuggling, sale of a child and fraud.

Langhofer said the supervisors can’t point to any duty that his client was unable to perform while behind bars. He also argued that the law allowing the supervisors to suspend the elected assessor is unconstitutional.

Lawyers for Petersen and the Board of Supervisors were in negotiations on a settlement that would involve the suspended assessor resigning, but did not come to an agreement.

The county offered to continue Petersen’s benefits for a period of time, but refused Petersen’s request for a portion of his $77,000 annual salary.

Petersen, a Republican, oversees an office that determines the value of residential and business properties for tax purposes.

Lawyers hired by the county’s top prosecutor to probe Petersen’s conduct in office said they found no indication he neglected a specific duty of office required by law. But the lawyers, Lee Stein and Anne Chapman, said the supervisors may determine that Petersen had a duty to follow county policies prohibiting the use of his computer for outside business and requiring him to cooperate with investigators.

“Our investigation established that Mr. Petersen devoted substantial time during working hours to his adoption law practice, even after serious questions about its legality had been raised over the years,” the lawyers wrote in a preliminary report last week. “Moreover, the investigation confirmed that he created and saved in excess of 800 documents relating to his private law practice on County computers, while in his County office, during work hours.”

Today’s Top Stories

AP

In this undated photo released by Toyota Motor Corp., its bZ4X vehicle is shown during an online pr...
YURI KAGEYAMA AP Business Writer

Toyota recalls electric car for faulty wheel that may detach

The "bz" in the recalled model's name, as well as others in the works, stands for a "beyond zero" series, including sport-utility vehicles of all sizes, pickup trucks and sportscars, according to Toyota.
3 days ago
Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., gives opening remarks as the House select committ...
The Associated Press

Ginni Thomas responds to 1/6 panel, hearings stretch to July

The public hearings into the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol will stretch into July.
4 days ago
jan. 6 committee hearing...
ERIC TUCKER Associated Press

1/6 panel to hear of Trump’s pressure on Justice Department

The hearing Thursday is the fifth this month by the House committee investigating the run-up to the insurrection at the Capitol
4 days ago
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)...
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Justices rule religious schools must get Maine tuition aid

The most immediate effect of the court's ruling beyond Maine probably will be felt next door in Vermont, which has a similar program.
6 days ago
A video exhibit plays as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the C...
FARNOUSH AMIRI and LISA MASCARO Associated Press

1/6 panel to hear from Raffensperger, others Trump pushed

The public hearing, the fourth by the panel this month, stems from its yearlong investigation into Trump's unprecedented attempt to remain in power, a sprawling scheme that the chairman of the Jan. 6 committee has likened to an "attempted coup."
6 days ago
A Yellowstone National Park ranger is seen standing near a road wiped out by flooding along the Gar...
MATTHEW BROWN and AMY BETH HANSON

Yellowstone Park aims for quick reopening after floods

Most of Yellowstone National Park should reopen within the next two weeks — much faster than originally expected after record floods pounded the region last week and knocked out major roads, federal officials said.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Arizona official in human smuggling case seeks to keep seat