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The Skinny

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DEAD MAN TELLS TALE?

The most startling utterance in the pretrial motions and commotion surrounding the case against Dr. Bradley A. Schwartz and Ronald Bruce Bigger came last week, near the end of a hearing when the understated prosecutor, Richard Platt, explained the relevance of a witness. Platt said the witness, a detective, held evidence that could rock future proceedings. The evidence is a wallet that belonged to Danny Lopez, who was gunned down in a violent turf battle over marijuana distribution in Omaha. Lopez, 36, and fellow Tucsonan Maria Ojeda, 33, were shot to death in March 2004.

Lopez was divorced from Lourdes Lopez, a Tucson lawyer who had planned to marry Schwartz and who was indicted along with Schwartz on federal drug charges in 2003 arising from Schwartz's bogus prescription scheme intended to fuel his addiction.

Platt said items in Danny Lopez's wallet include information about Dr. David Brian Stidham, the beloved children's ophthalmologist who was brutally murdered Oct. 5 outside his North First Avenue office. Stidham previously worked for Schwartz, and Schwartz is accused of hiring Bigger to kill Stidham as payback for the collapse of Schwartz's practice after his drug bust and temporary suspension of his medical license. Schwartz's defense team asserts Schwartz had moved on--that he was successfully rebuilding and retooling a lucrative practice that expanded plastic surgery services.

Lourdes Lopez failed to notify police that Schwartz repeatedly said he wanted Stidham killed. She only revealed that three days after the murder, when talking to detectives. Lopez also told detectives that she wondered just how chummy her ex-husband and Schwartz became and whether Schwartz really solicited Danny Lopez and his drug-and-thug contacts for the Stidham hit.


COUNTY CHAOS

The tough and skilled lawyers for Daphne Stidham, wife of murdered doctor David Stidham, made it officially nastier for Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall with a lawsuit that accuses her of breaching her fiduciary duty.

The suit does not specify damages, but an earlier claim that the county ignored put the figure at $20 million.

That--together with whatever routine lawsuits are pending against LaWall and her shop, her failure to properly handle hundreds of drug-possession and domestic-violence cases, and her lack of follow-through in what blew up to be the Marana trash extortion scandal--put the potential liabilities far ahead of the bond she, as an elected county official, holds.

So, what was good for out-of-control Assessor Alan Lang, way back in 1994, should apply to LaWall, a fellow Democrat.

One of the few oversight tools the Board of Supervisors has in the diffuse nature of county government is provided under a rarely invoked state law (ARS 11-253) that requires reports and bonds of county officials. It is the state law that four members of the Board of Supervisors (Democrat Dan Eckstrom took no part) relied upon to force Lang into an embarrassing hearing that helped lay the groundwork for the assessor's subsequent recall.

"The board may require any county officer to make reports under oath on any matter connected with the duties of his (or her) office, and may require the officer to give such bonds or further bonds as may be necessary for the faithful performance of his respective duties," according to the state law. "An officer who neglects or refuses to make the report, or to give the bond within 10 days after being so required, may be removed from office by the board and the office declared vacant. The board may then fill the vacancy."

Sounds fun, no?


UBER PROSECUTOR

Props to Rick Unklesbay, the tireless standard bearer for the Pima County Attorney's Office, for being named Arizona Prosecutor of the Year. Unklesbay, 51, could win this every year. He is smart, thorough and unassuming and he has long carried more than his load to put some of the worst of Pima County's bad guys in prison, including onto death row.

Among Unklesbay's achievements in the past year were the murder conviction of and death sentence for cop-killer John Montenegro Cruz and death penalties in two cases that were sent back to juries after the U.S. Supreme Court's Ring decision that required Arizona juries that convict killers to also sentence them.

Unklesbay, after a 24-year career and impressive victories, could move into more pleasant administrative duties. But he has preferred to do what he does best. At $116,084 a year, he is underpaid.


GREALITY

Assistant City Manager Karen Thoreson failed to adequately impress the City Council of Greeley, Colo., the pleasant cowtown 50 miles north of Denver. The locals went with a local, Roy Otto, for city manager. Otto was the odds-on favorite, having served in the top job on an interim basis.

Tucsonans who followed Greeley's talent search learned much about the Old Pueblo and Thoreson, who immodestly told the Greeley Tribune: "My whole career has been about trying to make a difference. And, I make a lot of difference here (Tucson) and I made a lot of difference in Boulder, and I've hired a lot of good people here. ... I feel like there might be one more big difference I could make."

Oh, but Karen, how could we get by without you? A seemingly well-educated City Hall reporter believed plenty from Thoreson and her pub machine, which spread it as thick as Greeley's famous feedlots. Thoreson, wrote the Tribune, "would bring a rich background in housing and downtown redevelopment. In Tucson, she has been responsible for the $120 million Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment program that resulted in $500 million in private investment."

A half-billion bucks of private investment? Sho' don't go as far as it used to. All the Trib needed to do was ring up a local photographer to shoot Tucson's barren, government-ghetto downtown to get the real picture of this supposed grand redevelopment.

The Trib also touted Thoreson's boundless energy and creativity--she writes the songs she sings at retirement parties--and writes her very own newspaper column, which actually is a lame entry in the publicly subsidized downtown propaganda.


THE BIG STINK

The Arizona Daily Star failed its readers again in its latest Sunday Taxpayer Watch that purported to address Pima County's chronic refusal to mitigate the stench from the antiquated Roger Road sewer treatment plant. It stinks. It stinks if you live anywhere near there. It stinks up your fast freeway drive-by. County officials have vowed repeatedly to lessen the smell, and sewer rate payers have been charged with greater frequency for supposed overhauls and system expansion elsewhere to make the Roger Road plant more tolerable.

Taxpayer Watch, a poor man's version of the old, retired Worm in the Apple feature in The New York Times, closes with a line about who is responsible. On Roger Road, the Star listed a hapless sewer department PR stooge. Hardly. Five people are responsible. They are the members of the Board of Supervisors. Reach them at 740-8126.


K-JILTED

Cowardly management of KJLL 1330 AM briefly pulled the plug on Don Imus Monday morning, Aug. 15, when he said the station's general manager, Jerry Misner, could "kiss my ass." The laughs were heard on MSNBC, which broadcasts Imus in the Morning live. Don was talking NASCAR and the usual topics with brother Fred, co-host of an afternoon show on KJLL, when Don offended station brass.

To the silent treatment, we say to KJLL: Grow some balls.

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