Phoenix lawyer to determine if county attorney broke the law

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas By Alicia Barron Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas By Alicia Barron
By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX - Last month a judge ruled Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas' involvement in a case against a county supervisor was a conflict of interest.

Now a specially-appointed Valley attorney will sift through that and other allegations to determine if Thomas is breaking the law.

Thomas has launched high profile investigations against everyone from county supervisors to the Phoenix New Times. Now he is the target of an investigation and Scott Rhodes is the man who will head up the probe.

He tells 3TV, “My job is to look at whether Mr. Thomas engaged in ethical misconduct as a lawyer.”

Rhodes, of Valley law firm Jennings Strauss and Salmon, has never met Thomas. He was asked by the state supreme court last week to be special counsel on the matter.

He explains, “The Supreme Court has ordered me to look into allegations related to the Wilcox matter, Mr. Thomas' involvement into litigation or criminal investigations against the board of supervisors.”

In recent months criminal charges Thomas had filed against County Supervisors Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley were dropped. A judge ruled Thomas had a conflict of interest, which is part of the basis for this new investigation.

Maret Vessella, with the Arizona State Bar Association, tells 3TV, “There was a question of a conflict of interest in the bar, an abundance of caution, and wanting to avoid any appearance of conflict.”

Even before then, there were calls to investigate Thomas's practices. In December hundreds gathered for a protest.
Rhodes says he will not get caught up in the drama of county politics. “What has happened in this case before now is, to a large extent, irrelevant to me. I will look at the allegations and then at the facts as they develop.”

Thomas declined an interview request on Monday but a spokesperson said the county attorney will fully cooperate, but believes the charges will be dismissed on lack of merit.