FLORENCE — As Maricopa County officials wrestle with their response to an official there facing criminal charges related to his private-sector adoption work, some Pinal County supervisors say they don’t believe they should have the power to remove another officeholder.
Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, and Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, told PinalCentral that counties are extensions of the state Legislature, and if anyone had the power to remove an officeholder, it should be the Legislature. There’s also due process, and the officeholder should have his day in court.
“He’s entitled to his side of the story,” Miller said.
Supervisor Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, commented by email, “No, I don’t think supervisors need additional powers when processes are already in place for voters to remove those in elected office. Voters can organize either a recall election or vote them out of office during the next election cycle.
“In addition, as in the case of the Maricopa assessor, the supervisors might suspend the officeholder for a period of time if they can’t perform the duties of the office,” Smith said.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to suspend County Assessor Paul Petersen this week. The Board of Supervisors is the county’s central governing body, but it typically can’t remove other elected officials from office.
However, state law does give the board authority to suspend an official for up to 120 days for “neglect of duty,” The Associated Press reported. Petersen had been in custody since Oct. 8 but released this week.
Miller noted that in Graham County, the Superior Court clerk was removed by administrative order of Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel on Oct. 11. However, administrative supervision of the office was assigned to the Superior Court judge, who asked for the clerk’s removal, Arizona Capitol Times reported.
Smith added, “If my memory serves me well, a couple of years ago we took disciplinary action to suspend for a period of time a Pinal County constable that had acted outside the authority of his office.”
County residents elect officials whose counterparts are typically hired or appointed at the city and town level, such as police chief, treasurer and court clerk. Smith said these offices should continue to go before the voters.
“It would not be good for the supervisors to elect any of the other elected positions. That would be putting too much power into the hands of a few when it can be better expressed at the polls by the people,” Smith said.
Miller and Rios said the sheriff and county attorney are seats that the people will always want to vote for. But some other county officers should probably be appointed.
There’s probably a good argument for the treasurer and the recorder to be hired positions; it could also be argued that clerk of the court and assessor are also largely administrative services that should be hired, Miller said. Rios said he believes the county should be appointing the school superintendent, the county treasurer, the county assessor, the clerk of the court and the county recorder.
“It of course requires a change in the Arizona Constitution to have that happen,” Miller said. “I don’t see a big movement for that, either.”
Miller added in an interview with PinalCentral there are nevertheless good reasons for continuing to elect those people. “Think about the state attorney general — do you think the governor should appoint him? Even though you see alignments in parties and that kind of stuff, that’s almost what keeps the balance, if you ask me.”
“Counties do not have the power or authority to change elected offices to appointed offices,” Rios commented by email.
“Nor do they have the authority to terminate another duly elected county official. This authority must be granted by the state Legislature to counties.”
The other two Pinal County supervisors, Chairman Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, and Todd House, R-Apache Junction, did not respond to emails from PinalCentral.