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Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen's Attorneys Claim Investigators Are Biased Against Him

By Ben Giles
Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - 6:17pm
Updated: Wednesday, November 20, 2019 - 9:26am

Paul Petersen
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
Paul Petersen in 2019.

Attorneys for suspended Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen said a lawyer hired by the county to lead an investigation of Petersen’s duties is biased.

County Attorney Allister Adel announced Tuesday morning that former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods was hired to oversee a sweeping investigation of Petersen’s duties as county assessor.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors suspended Petersen — who’s been charged with running an adoption-fraud scheme involving women from the Marshall Islands — on the grounds that he neglected his duties as assessor. 

Supervisors have also urged Petersen to resign, though he has refused.

Petersen appealed his suspension, and the board later ordered Adel to conduct an investigation of Petersen’s role as the elected assessor.

Kory Langhofer, an attorney for Petersen, said Woods’ tweets show that investigation will be anything but neutral.

Woods tweeted support for Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Oct. 9 after Brnovich announced the indictment against Petersen.

Woods also liked a tweet by consultant David Liebowitz, who wrote on Oct. 10 that Petersen should “learn to enjoy prison.”

“It is difficult to imagine a less qualified investigator than Grant Woods,” Langhofer said in a statement. “As soon as the indictment was announced, and before reviewing any evidence, Grant Woods tweeted in support of the indictment.”

Langhofer added that Woods later deleted his tweet in support of Brnovich.

“Grant Woods is biased against Paul, but apparently doesn’t want you to know he is biased,” Langhofer stated.

Woods could not immediately be reached for comment.

He is one of several attorneys hired by Adel to conduct the board-ordered investigation. The firm of Mitchell, Stein, Carey, Chapman will provide a final report to Adel, while the firm of Cosmich, Simmons & Brown, PLLC will review documents as part of the investigation.

Grant Woods
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Grant Woods in 2013.

Woods will oversee the investigation and keep Adel up to date.

Jennifer Liewer, a spokeswoman for Adel, said the county attorney is confident that, collectively, those attorneys will provide a thorough and professional review for the Board of Supervisors to consider.

“Mr. Woods has overseen hundreds of investigations in his career. He was twice elected attorney general in this state,” Liewer. “We have every confidence he’ll be able to proceed with a fair and impartial review of the information.”

Langhofer said that Woods’ involvement shows the investigation is a sham. 

“Grant Woods will issue an investigative report,” Langhofer said. “The Board of Supervisors’ premade conclusions – which they’ve already announced and voted to approve – will be dressed up and reprinted on Grant Woods’s letterhead.”

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