PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Facing federal charges in connection with an international adoption fraud scheme, Paul Petersen wants the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to reconsider their decision to suspend him from his elected position as Maricopa County’s assessor.
Petersen’s lawyer, Kory Langhofer, sent a letter to the board Thursday requesting a hearing on the matter.
[CONTINUING COVERAGE: Adoption fraud investigation]
The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on Oct. 28 to suspend Petersen and cut off his access to his County office in the wake of his arrest on allegations of adoption fraud earlier in the month.
“Unfortunately, the statements and actions of the Board to date evince a process akin to a Soviet show trial—engineered for political exhibitionism, and a result that is never in doubt regardless of the witnesses testimony and constitutional or statutory text,” the letter reads. “Such a process is beneath the dignity of the board and the rule of law in a free society. Nevertheless, in the interest of exhausting the procedural remedies provided by statute before the issues proceed to a judicial forum, please consider this letter Mr. Petersen’s request for such a hearing and reconsideration.”
An audit of Petersen’s office by the Maricopa County Internal Audit Department showed that a large portion of his time and energy while on the job were spent working on his adoption business rather than County business.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors confirmed that it received Langhofer’s letter on Petersen’s behalf and sent Arizona’s Family a statement.
“The Board of Supervisors respects Assessor Petersen’s decision to appeal his suspension based on ARS 11-664. The Board will schedule and notice a meeting in the near future regarding a hearing process. Board members remain committed to following the law and doing what is in the best interest of the Assessor’s Office and the 4.5 million residents of Maricopa County.”
There was no indication on when "in the near future" that meeting might happen.
The five-member County Board has show no willingness to overturn the suspension.
PETERSEN SAYS HE'S NOT GUILTY
Accused of running a human smuggling scheme involving pregnant women from the Marshall Islands who were brought to the U.S. to give birth for adoptions, Petersen on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges he faces in Arizona.
Petersen faces similar charges in Arkansas and Utah, including human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Petersen was appointed to the position of county assessor in 2013, won a special election in 2014, and was re-elected in 2016. The county assessor is in charge of property valuation.