GAG MECounty Attorney Barbara LaWall is up to her old tricks, seeking a court judgment to pre-empt a public records lawsuit filed by KGUN Channel 9. (Hats off to the brains behind the talking heads.) LaWall, a Democrat just elected to a third term, walked into court Monday to play the game of "Geez, judge, I really don't want to release these documents, but if I have to ... I'll be more than happy to trash--no, savage--the one prosecutor I am firing and the three others I am suspending."
The four are in LaWall's doghouse for their connections, gossip, supposed inaction and alleged improper conduct arising out of the Oct. 5 murder of Dr. David Stidham. Stidham's drug-addled former partner, Dr. Bradley Schwartz, is in the slammer on charges that he hired Ronald Bigger to kill Stidham. Schwartz is also the former lover of another of LaWall's former kiddie-corps lawyers, Lourdes Lopez.
LaWall is stunningly frightened of these four and the fallout from the murder. She should be. Chip Plowman has stepped off the golf course long enough to represent Paul Skitzki, the prosecutor LaWall fired. Plowman is a skilled defense attorney with plenty of experience battling LaWall's forces as an assistant public defender and while in private practice.
The key to Skitzki's case--as well as those of Brad Roach, Nicki DiCampli and Janet Altschuler--is the pending appeals before the Merit Commission, the county's five-member civil service panel. Skitzki, Plowman and the others must demand that the hearings be public--it's their call. LaWall and her poorly trained, poor-performing civil division will wilt under the glare of the commission and the public. This is, as former county Supervisor Ed Moore loved to say, where "the truth will come out."
It was Big Ed and his goons who took a beating at the Merit Commission when the Moore gang purged the county bureaucracy in 1993. The hearings forced the county attorney and management to lay out their wart-covered case publicly.
The commission is led now by a holdover from 1993. Georgia Brousseau, a brilliant former school administrator, can cut lawyers to ribbons. Brousseau's vice chairman is Mike Hellon, the clear-thinking, pragmatic and fair former Republican National Committeeman.
NEW BOOKIE FROM VEGASNancy Ledeboer, deputy director of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, is the new director of the Tucson-Pima Public Library. Ledeboer, who comes highly decorated with awards and recognition, will be paid $123,000 a year to lead the troubled Tucson-Pima Library.
She will begin Jan. 24, as talks between city and county officials continue on a county takeover of the jointly funded system. The growing system is struggling and frequently fails to keep up with demand for books, periodicals and equipment.
You may not have known they had any books (or people who wanted to read them) in Vegas, but that system also is a city-county operation. It has, however, a separate governing board and thus lacks substantial interest from the Las Vegas City Council or the Clark County Commission. Ledeboer worked with a bigger budget--$40 million compared with $22 million here--and a bigger staff--463 to Tucson's 291.
Ledeboer earned her master's degree in library science from UC-Berkeley and worked in California and Washington before moving to Las Vegas.
Negotiations are underway for a county takeover of the Tucson-Pima library. And while all is rosy now, it likely will collapse due to turf battles, employee fear and new-found timidity by a Board of Supervisors that is afraid of being at fault for doubling county Library District taxes. Supervisors, after foisting the highest property-tax rates of any Arizona county upon the locals, are now looking for ways to shed their dubious honor.
Soon-to-flee City Manager James Keene unilaterally broached the idea of the county taking over all library funding earlier this year. He did so not to cut city spending or taxes, but to free up more than $10 million that he wanted the City Council to spend elsewhere.
The city's argument about double taxation is ludicrous (though it does capture gullible editorial writers at the dailies). True, city sales taxes and other revenues go into the library cash box, but if the city succeeds in getting the county to foot the whole bill, county property taxes for libraries will double from $21.24 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home to $42.48 a year. That increase will apply to every property in the city, as well as the unincorporated areas. And because the library taxes are applied to the secondary levy, city property owners will pay that increase--unlike increases on the primary tax rate that are obviated because primary taxes are already maxed out under state law. And there will be no corresponding decrease in city taxes.
Ledeboer may be an ideal pick. But will she be able to share all that she learned in Las Vegas? After all, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
NICE SHOT, BUDDY!A jury in Pima County Superior Court last week awarded Lynda Canfield $56,000 for the pain and suffering she experienced after being shot by Tucson cop Peter Kouratou as she was riding her bike home on April 2, 2001--the night Kouratou and his pals completely botched crowd control on Fourth Avenue.
Canfield, 57, was blasted by 42 rubber pellets when she tried to get away from the "riot" that followed the UA's loss to Duke in the NCAA basketball championship. She was near East Ninth Street and Hoff Avenue; Kouratou claimed he couldn't see Canfield well enough to know that she was an innocent bystander who was trying to get the hell out of the cops' way.
But testimony from other cops undercut Kouratou. They said they saw Canfield clearly. They saw her hands--no weapons--and could tell she was a woman. Can the union please help Kouratou with an eye doctor?
The city will have to pay another $25,000 in attorney's fees in a case that Canfield's lawyer, Stanton Bloom, originally offered to settle for about half that. But Tucson cops and their favorite taxpayer-supported lawyer, Daryl A. Audilett, refused. The city's chicken-shit offer? Less than $1,500.
Does the City Council ever pay attention? This is the second major loss for the city and Audilett stemming from gross mistakes police made while trying to contain that night's unruly crowd. Last year, a jury awarded Jeffrey Knepper, then a 21-year-old UA student, $765,000. Knepper lost an eye when cops shot him, even though he was causing no disturbance.
Juries in Knepper's and Canfield's trials said each was partly responsible for their injuries.
REV. IRELAND'S FLOCKThe plot thickens in the not-so-independent campaign that helped TUSD Board President Joel T. Ireland to a fifth election victory and, sadly, another four years on the school board.
Rev. Ireland and his backers would have voters believe that the independent campaign that raised and spent every penny of the single-source $6,000 it received from the TUSD teacher's union was a grassroots creation to promote good schools. Not.
Susan Noyes Delaney and Michael Delaney, the patsies listed as the officers of the Parents for Achievement and Safe Schools, live in a house at 2225 E. Water Street that Pima County records show as being owned by Robert J. Mackay. He is Ireland's close friend and the highly paid director of TUSD alternative education. County records show Mackay living at the address until 1999-2000 when he and his wife, a TUSD counselor, moved to the luxury of a Catalina Foothills home that is valued at more than $300,000.