Archives for April 2014

Huppenthal can’t protect student privacy

For Immediate Release
April 29, 2014
From Diane Douglas

Veto of HB 2316 proves Huppenthal wrong on student privacy

Phoenix, AZ Governor Brewer’s veto of HB 2316 proves that Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal cannot deliver on his promise to protect student privacy.

At a candidate forum in SaddleBrooke, Arizona held on April 9th, Huppenthal assured the audience that the privacy of sensitive student information being gathered as part of Common Core would be protected through new legislation. His claim is clearly false in the light of the Governor’s veto of HB 2316.

“John Huppenthal is either naive or disingenuous when he falsely claims that the Common Core dossiers being assembled on our children will be kept private. If there is one thing we have learned from the Obama Administration, it is that the government can no longer be trusted with private information,” stated Diane Douglas, conservative candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction in the Republican Primary.

Douglas added, “I am disappointed that John Huppenthal is willing to collaborate with President Obama in building government files on our children. I am opposed to Common Core and I will not allow Arizona’s public schools to be turned into data gathering agencies for the Obama Administration.”

Diane Douglas is a candidate in the Republican Primary for Superintendent of Public Instruction. She served on the Governing Board of Peoria Unified School District from 2005 to 2012, and was president of the board in 2008 and 2009. For more information, visit


Former Speaker Kirk Adams Endorses Shawnna Bolick for LD28

Shawnna Bolick

Shawnna Bolick Receives Endorsement from 
Former Arizona Speaker Kirk Adams


Phoenix, AZ- April 28, 2014- Today, Shawnna Bolick, Republican candidate for Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 28, received the endorsement of former Arizona Speaker of the House, Kirk Adams.

“Shawnna exhibits all of the right qualities that encompass what a good public servant should possess: strong principles, a hearty work ethic and the ability to communicate with fellow travelers as well as her foes. Shawnna has been passionate about education reform long before she became a Mom. It is noteworthy that she wants each child regardless of zip code to have the opportunity to have the best education possible. Along her journey she has successfully reached across the aisle to promote school choice in this country even in Congressman Chuck Rangle’s congressional district.  She has what it takes to build relationships so Arizona’s future shines for years to come.”

“I am honored to have Speaker Adams’ endorsement,” stated Bolick.  “Kirk led Arizona to one of the largest permanent tax cuts in state history of which all of Arizona should be proud.  While serving Arizona, Kirk not only opted out of the elected officials retirement plan which I also intend to do, but he also authored initial steps in order to begin reforming public pension before it became a headlining issue to tackle.  Because of Kirk’s leadership Arizona was able to witness some much needed bold strokes in this arena and I hope to help further these necessary reforms.”

Shawnna Bolick has lived in Legislative District 28 for 13 years.  Shawnna and her husband, Clint, have two children, Ryne (12) and Kali (9), plus their six year old rescued greyhound, Beary Goldwater, living in the shadows of Squaw Peak.


Shawnna L.M. Bolick can be reached via email at, or via cell at 602-842-1912.  For more information about her campaign please

Andy Tobin on ACLJ, Jay Sekulow Live with Jordan Sekulow


Senator Jon Kyl Endorses Andy Tobin for Congress

Andy Tobin

April 24, 2014


Senator Jon Kyl Endorses Andy Tobin for Congress

“Andy Tobin is the battle-tested conservative that rural Arizona needs…”

Citing Tobin’s battle-tested track record of fighting for Arizona’s natural resources, economic development and integrity as a lawmaker, today Senator Jon Kyl endorsed Andy Tobin’s campaign for U.S. Congress. Kyl’s endorsement comes just three days after Republican Presidential Nominee and Governor Mitt Romney endorsed Tobin’s congressional campaign.

Andy Tobin is the battle-tested conservative that rural Arizona needs,” said Senator Jon Kyl. “In a time when strong, experienced, honest and straightforward candidates are hard to come by, Andy stands out. He has been successful in fighting for economic development opportunities, job creation and individual freedoms for Arizonans.”

Senator Kyl continues, “I’m confident Andy will be focused on the needs of Arizona, including our vital natural resources. He understands the relationship between good resource management and rural economic opportunity. Andy has been fighting to shield Arizona from the disastrous ObamaCare law since 2008, and he has fought to protect worker’s right to a secret ballot. He has proven to faithfully represent Arizona’s conservative values. Andy is a tireless worker and my choice for Congressional District One. I hope you will join me in doing all we can to send a fine Arizona conservative to Washington.”

“Senator Kyl and I go back a long way,” said Tobin. “His support for my campaign both energizes and humbles me. We both have a deep appreciation for how much work this type of undertaking requires. We have already logged thousands of miles traveling around the district and hundreds of hours on the phones seeking counsel from supporters, elected officials and grassroots activists. We’ve come a long way in Arizona. Now is the time that we must come together to send a proven conservative with a track record of advocating for Arizona to Washington. I believe that Senator Kyl’s endorsement goes a long way toward achieving our collective goal. I sincerely thank him for his support and confidence.”


Andy Tobin and his wife of 28 years, Jennifer, are the proud parents of five children- three daughters and two sons. Tobin is a small business owner who has devoted his life to positively affecting his community through job creation, public service and advocating for conservative principles. Tobin’s focus has been on creating sustainable jobs, helping small businesses succeed, building a stronger middle class and putting Arizona back on track. While serving as Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, Tobin drastically cut government by 25 percent, balanced Arizona’s budget and presided over the largest tax cuts in Arizona’s history, saving Arizona taxpayers millions of dollars.

Tobin has fought for your family’s freedoms, your prosperity and your community for the past six years while serving in the Arizona Legislature. He continues to lead the fight to stop the implementation of the disastrous ObamaCare. As your Representative in Congress, Andy Tobin will represent your voice, and lead the charge in fighting for you against the wasteful spending, government intrusion, and out-of-touch insiders that are taking away your freedoms.

Join Andy Tobin today!


For more information, please contact Tobin for Congress Campaign Manager Craig Handzlik at or 928-275-1417.

Arizona Republic Editorial Omits Some Facts and Distorts Others

The April 21, 2014, Arizona Republic editorial, “Pinal County holds losing hand vs. ICE,” had omitted key facts and distorted others. Let’s start at the beginning. Former County Manager Stan Griffis, who subsequently spent time in prison on unrelated charges, agreed to the original contract with ICE.  At the time, a cost-benefit analysis was not performed.  Last year, an internal audit discovered the County was losing about $2.6 million annually on the contract.

The County Board of Supervisors, County Manager and Sheriff agreed to renegotiate the contract.  An outside firm was brought in to cost out the contract’s real requirements. ICE agreed to meet and renegotiate, and received approval to do so despite the sequestration in place at the federal government.

The initial proposal by the County called for an increase in the per diem rate from $59 to $79, an increase of 34%, not the 50% cited by the Arizona Republic.

Subsequent counterproposals by ICE called for a staffing increase of 52 by the PCSO Detention Facility. A County counteroffer brought down the staff increase to 14. Additional ICE “preferred” contract provisions increased the cost. As the provisions were “preferred,” PCSO countered with proposed deviations from ICE’s “preferred” provisions, which is part of normal negotiations. The Arizona Republic omitted these facts.

Because ICE will not guarantee a minimum number of detainee beds, the County had only history and current ICE policy on which to calculate per diem pricing. Again, the Arizona Republic omitted these facts.

As a result of the County protecting itself and its taxpayers, the last proposal submitted to ICE calls for a per diem of $87.96, based on ICE “preferred” provisions and an absence of a minimum bed guarantee. This per diem rate is 47% over the existing one, not the 50% cited by the Arizona Republic.

It is perfectly appropriate for the County and ICE to renegotiate the contract. Businesses do so every day.  In this case, it should have been done long ago.  The Arizona Republic’s view is that ICE “has all the leverage.”  PCSO also has “leverage.”  PCSO has the facilities ICE uses. The relationship between ICE and PCSO operation personnel is good. ICE Contracting Officers and Specialists, not operational personnel, are conducting contract negotiations.  The Arizona Republic editorial omitted this fact.

The Arizona Republic editorial implied that ICE was reducing the average detainee population by 35% during the first four months of the year as a result of contract negotiations.  In reality, ICE detainee levels are down due to the Obama administration’s “catch and release” program at the border.  The Arizona Republic editorial omitted this fact.

In fact, last Friday (4/18/2014) ICE sent 42 detainees to the PCSO Detention facility and telephoned later to say another 81 detainees were on the way.  This influx of detainees shows that both PCSO and ICE have need of the other.  The ICE facility is a quarter mile up the road from the PCSO Detention Facility.  Convenience translates into effectiveness and efficiency.

The Republic editorial also managed to report that two watchdog groups labeled the Pinal County Jail as among the worst immigration-detentions facilities in the country. The watchdog groups were anonymous. This was a cheap shot. The Arizona Republic should identify the so-called watchdog groups. If it cannot or will not name the groups, omit the slam. It begs the question about so-called journalistic ethics at the newspaper.

In fact, the PCSO Jail has achieved Level 1 100% compliance with Arizona Jail Guidelines (based on Constitutional and statutory requirements), National Institute of Jail Operations (NIJO) and the National Sheriffs Association. Another fact omitted by the Arizona Republic.

One thing worse than sloppy and inaccurate reporting is sloppy and inaccurate editorials.  The Arizona Republic can have its own opinion but not its own set of facts.




Six Councilmen Endorse Mark Brnovich for Attorney General

Mark Brnovich- skinny horizontal logo

Six Councilmen Endorse Mark Brnovich for Attorney General

Today, Republican candidate for Attorney General Mark Brnovich received the endorsements of Councilman Tait Elkie of Fountain Hills, Councilman Jeff Oravits of Flagstaff, Town of Gilbert Councilman Victor Petersen, Vice Mayor Eddie Cook also of Gilbert, Prescott Councilman Greg Lazzell, and Councilman Jeff Weninger of Chandler.


“As a town councilman and attorney, I know the importance of having an Attorney General that can properly represent Arizona and its values. I support Mark Brnovich because he has the experience, integrity, and moral character to effectively represent Arizona. I hope all Arizonans will join me in supporting him.”
– Councilman Tait Elkie, Town of Fountain Hills


“I’m proud to support Mark Brnovich for Attorney General of Arizona.  By supporting Mark Brnovich, Arizona has the opportunity to elect an Attorney General with a long history of integrity and the preservation of our Constitutional rights.”
-Councilman Jeff Oravits, City of Flagstaff


“We need a constitutional conservative that understands the importance of states rights in the Attorney General’s office. Mark Brnovich is the candidate to answer this call and has the experience to take on the tough issues. Local leaders need a voice that will stand up for them and Mark is the candidate to do just that. I’m proud to support Mark Brnovich for Attorney General.”
– Councilman Victor Petersen, Town of Gilbert


“I proudly support Mark Brnovich for Attorney General. Mark will bring unprecedented integrity and strength of character to the Attorney General’s office. He isn’t scared to take on the tough issues and has a great track record of fighting for what’s right. Mark Brnovich is someone that all Arizonans can – and should – get behind.”
– Vice Mayor Eddie Cook, Town of Gilbert


“Mark is a great man focused on making a better and safer world that his children can grow up in. I have known Mark since college and ever since then, I have known Mark to be a man that cares about others and does what is right. Mark has the character and integrity to fight for all of us and stand for what is right. As someone that lives in rural Arizona, it would be amazing to have an Attorney General that understands the issues we face. I’m proud to support Mark Brnovich, my friend, for Arizona Attorney General.”
– Councilman Greg Lazzell, City of Prescott


“Meeting Mark, you know right away that he is a man of character and integrity,” Weninger said. “It is time that more people like Mark stand up to help our state. Mark will bring a new level of public service to our state and that is why I am honored to endorse Mark Brnovich for Attorney General.”
-Councilman Jeff Weninger, City of Chandler


Mark Brnovich remarked: “It’s great to see these fine councilmembers join the growing list of community leaders supporting my campaign. They have embraced my message of accountability and transparency from the Attorney General’s office and it’s an honor to have their support. I won’t let them or the voters of Arizona down.”


For more information, please visit

Governor Mitt Romney Endorses Andy Tobin for Congress

Andy Tobin

April 21, 2014


Governor Mitt Romney Endorses Andy Tobin for Congress

 “He has the courage and resolve we need in Washington.”

Governor Mitt Romney today announced his support for Andy Tobin for United States Congress in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He cites Tobin’s battle-tested conservative track record of advocating for Arizona, Tobin’s integrity as a legislator and his steadfast resolve in standing up for his conservative values.

“I am proud to support Andy Tobin for Congress. Andy is a proven conservative whose leadership in Arizona has been crucial to cutting state government spending, lowering taxes and fighting to stop ObamaCare,” said Romney. “He has the courage and resolve we need in Washington. Andy is a leader who will do the right thing for the people of Arizona.”

“In 2012, I did everything in my power to help Governor Romney win Arizona and win the Presidency,” said Tobin. “While we fell short of the White House, Governor Romney won the hearts and minds of Arizonans. He won our state and the 1st Congressional District decisively. Ultimately, the 2012 election left Arizona with the sense that our country missed a great opportunity to elect a great leader and American to help get America back on its feet. Time and time again, Governor Romney’s domestic and foreign policies have proven to be spot on. While I too feel like we missed a great opportunity to elect Governor Romney as our President, I have never stopped fighting to restore Arizona to its conservative values. I am deeply honored to have the endorsement of Governor Mitt Romney. I know that with his support, we will take back Arizona’s 1st Congressional District and send a conservative with a proven track record to Washington. My deepest thanks go out to this great Republican leader.”


Andy Tobin and his wife of 28 years, Jennifer, are the proud parents of five children- three daughters and two sons. Tobin is a small business owner who has devoted his life to positively affecting his community through job creation, public service and advocating for conservative principles. Tobin’s focus has been on creating sustainable jobs, helping small businesses succeed, building a stronger middle class and putting Arizona back on track. While serving as Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, Tobin drastically cut government by 25 percent, balanced Arizona’s budget and presided over the largest tax cuts in Arizona’s history, saving Arizona taxpayers millions of dollars.

Tobin has fought for your family’s freedoms, your prosperity and your community for the past six years while serving in the Arizona Legislature. He continues to lead the fight to stop the implementation of the disastrous ObamaCare. As your Representative in Congress, Andy Tobin will represent your voice, and lead the charge in fighting for you against the wasteful spending, government intrusion, and out-of-touch insiders that are taking away your freedoms.

Join Andy Tobin today!


For more information, please contact Tobin for Congress Campaign Manager Craig Handzlik at or 928-275-1417.

Building Lasting Momentum; Recap of Bolick Endorsements


Shawnna Bolick


Building Lasting Momentum

April 17, 2014

Our campaign has been diligently reaching out to our fellow Republican neighbors in Legislative District 28 to listen to concerns affecting the future of Arizona.  Each and every day we are greeted with positive enthusiasm for our strong message of growth, prosperity and opportunity.

Voters agree that a strong education system encourages a better workforce with more highly skilled jobs for our high school and college graduates.  As an individual who had an awesome public school education I also know that education shouldn’t be a one-size-fits all model.  Instead, one that works best allows parents the right to choose how to best educate their children.

Working for a better tomorrow has also encouraged the support of many of our fellow Republicans from across the state.  I am thrilled to have the support from so many wonderful current and past elected officials who continue to further Arizona to a more prosperous future.

This is what my fellow Republicans have had to say about why they are supporting me for the Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 28:

“With so many serious challenges facing the State of Arizona, her bold ideas in education reform and steadfast common sense are two things I admire most about Shawnna.  She has the potential to help lead Arizona into a brighter future – one that is more self-reliant, and one that holds to its independent values that I love so much about this state.  Shawnna’s pro-growth, free market, and fiscal conservative ideas are the ones this state needs to get our fiscal house in order.  She will bring a fresh, yet bold and principled leadership the Republican Party lacks.”

– Former U.S. Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr.

“Shawnna’s knowledge and expertise in critical policy areas affecting the State of Arizona are hard to come by.  I know Shawnna has what it takes to be an effective legislator and a strong communicator. She is not only committed to understanding the big picture but is willing to delve into the weeds to craft sound public policy.”

– Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Bob Stump

“Shawnna is a strong fiscal conservative who will prioritize the needs of Arizona. Watching her raise her two children I know how important education and the future of the state are to her.  Shawnna is a quick study and eager to roll up her sleeves to find the right mix of pro-growth ideas benefiting the state.  Arizona should be so lucky to have her willing to serve us in such a capacity.”

– Arizona Corporation Commissioner Brenda Burns

“As a former State Senator I know how important it is to have elected officials who truly represent the people of Arizona but more importantly, listen to its citizens. Shawnna not only has the passion to help lead Arizona, but she is a do-er who is not afraid to engage with her neighbors. I believe Shawnna is prepared to make tough decisions no matter how big the challenge.  I predict Ms. Bolick will be a linchpin in the Legislature in halting the federal government’s encroachment and I look forward to working with her to help advance sound fiscal policy that benefits all Arizonans.  These are just a few reasons why I believe she is the right person to represent Legislative District 28.”

– Vice Mayor of Phoenix, Jim Waring

“So much of what we have achieved here in Phoenix—from pension reform to competitiveness to government transparency and accountability—has to echo at the state level or our gains will mean little.  We need smart, tough legislators who are willing to fight for the people who pay the bills.  As a tireless advocate for school choice, small business, and the taxpayers, Shawnna demonstrates on a daily basis that she has the vision and backbone we need at the State Capitol.  That is why I give my unqualified support to Shawnna Bolick, candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 28.”

– Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio

“Shawnna understands the importance of improving government efficiency. Her past public policy experiences at the federal and state levels will help her hit the ground running once she’s elected to office. Her background is steeped in free market and civil society solutions coupled with the need to bring prosperity to the state of Arizona by rolling back the regulatory system and lowering taxes. We are in desperate need of electing common sense individuals willing to roll up their sleeves to find savings to taxpayers. It’s not an easy job and I think Shawnna is the best choice in Legislative District 28 and I look forward to helping her get elected.”

– Arizona House of Representatives Majority Whip Representative Gray

“Shawnna’s energy, dedication, extensive policy background and desire to honorably represent our legislative district and State are the admirable qualities she will bring to the Arizona House of Representatives once she is elected.  From the many years of actively engaging in her community, her children’s public charter schools, and working on issues critical to Arizona she values the importance of studying the policy, its potential impacts and evaluating all considerations before making an objective and informed decision.  Wanting nothing less than the best for her children and yours is the conviction that fuels Shawnna’s passion to work hard for Arizona and be a strong advocate for her constituents.”

– Former Arizona House of Representative Amanda Reeve

But I still need your help.  We have quite the momentum, but in order to run the best campaign we need your financial assistance, too. Your donation today will help me continue spreading our positive message as we crisscross the district.
Please visit my website today and make a donation of $25, $50, $75, $100, $150, or $250 or more to help me reach April’s fundraising goal.

Thank you for your continued support!



Horne compares himself to Jesus during Holy Week, says he was “crucified”

A m e r i c a n  P o s t – G a z e t t e
Distributed by C O M M O N S E N S E , in Arizona
Thursday, April 17th,  2014
Horne silent on key issues like public prayer 
Cannot win; 6 points behind little known Democrat Rotellini in poll 

Submitted by a reader

I was flabbergasted to receive a campaign email from Tom Horne declaring that he had been “crucified” in the press: “It’s clear that they were more interested in crucifying me than reporting the facts.” Really, Tom? It’s Holy Week, the week before Easter, and you are comparing yourself to Jesus? Jesus was without sin. You refused to speak out on the recent case involving public prayer, Greece v. Galloway, yet you dare to call yourself a martyr?

You may have slimed your way out of prosecution, by hiring the best attorneys and being connected to judges, but the voters of Arizona know exactly what you did. TWO, not just one, but TWO county attorneys including Bill Montgomery sought to press charges against you for illegally coordinating with an “independent” (haha) expenditure committee run by one of your closest friends, to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to your campaign. No one believes that you weren’t coordinating, when they read the obvious evidence as laid out here.

You were caught by the FBI sneaking out of one of your mistress’s apartments during lunch, then hitting a car and leaving the scene without even leaving a note. This is inappropriate behavior for the state’s top law enforcement official! You have been permanently banned from trading by the SEC for unethical behavior.

Everyone knows you’re not a conservative, and switched parties to run as a Republican for legislature only because you realized a Democrat could not win where you lived. The only issues you’ve ever been conservative on are illegal immigration – and then only in recent years – and bilingual education. Everything else you have a poor record on, including bringing Common Core to Arizona with Governor Brewer – thanks a lot.

Despite Horne’s massive name recognition over Democrat Felecia Rotellini, he is trailing her by 6 points in the latest poll. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is supporting Mark Brnovich, the conservative in the race, for Attorney General. That tells principled Republicans everything they need to know.

Bill Montgomery Supports Mark Brnovich for Attorney General
Bill Montgomery Supports Mark Brnovich for Attorney General
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Front page AZ Republic: AZ Bar disciplinary judge mired in corruption

A m e r i c a n  P o s t – G a z e t t e
Distributed by C O M M O N S E N S E , in Arizona
Wednesday, April 16th,  2014


Liberal Arizona Republic finally exposes corruption of AZ Bar disciplinary judge who disbarred Andrew Thomas  
Reporter uncovers cronyism and coverup goes all the way to the top – the AZ Supreme Court! 

Divorce case stirs ethics allegations about judge

Dennis Wagner, The Republic |

This is not a story about a dog or a divorce, but that’s where it begins.
After Mark Dixon and his ex-wife, Carol Johnson, terminated their marriage in late 2009, they got into a custody dispute over Shiloh, an Australian shepherd.
On Dec. 2 of that year, Dixon was pulled over by three plainclothes Pinal County sheriff’s deputies with semiautomatic weapons, according to the incident report and court records.
Dixon alleges he was ordered to surrender the dog or face immediate arrest, so he acquiesced. A civil complaint he filed in federal court against a group of Pinal County deputies and Dixon’s ex-wife says he argued that the disagreement with his wife was a civil matter and that deputies “did knowingly and willingly criminally extort property” by threatening arrest if he did not give up the dog. His lawsuit accused Pinal County officials of conspiracy.
In a court motion, Dixon asserted that his ex-wife, who then worked for a credit union, had assisted Pinal County Superior Court Judge William J. “Bill” O’Neil in obtaining a $300,000 loan prior to the canine-custody dispute.
Dixon, who represented himself during most of the case, speculated that O’Neil, who was not named as a defendant, returned the favor by influencing deputies to seize the dog.
Deputies denied any conspiracy, court records show, and O’Neil also denied any impropriety in an interview with The Arizona Republic. Defense attorneys successfully argued that the lawsuit, which sought $5 million in damages, was legally flawed and failed to show proof.
Thus began a four-year saga of intrigue involving O’Neil, who presides over discipline in the Arizona court system, and Dixon, a 49-year-old construction contractor who acknowledges a 1997 federal fraud conviction.
Dixon and at least two lawyers subjected to discipline by the State Bar of Arizona question the integrity of O’Neil, a key figure responsible for maintaining ethical standards within Arizona’s justice system.
In a court motion filed last month, suspended Phoenix attorney Jane O. Ross asked that O’Neil be removed from Bar disciplinary proceedings against her because of “a pattern of corruption, failure to uphold the due-process rights of disciplinary respondents, failure to acknowledge conflicts of interest, abuses of discretion and power, dereliction of judicial duties and knowingly making false statements.”
The motion to remove O’Neil contains allegations of criminal and unethical behavior. It relies heavily on information gathered by Dixon and includes an affidavit from him sworn under penalty of perjury.
A motion is made
“O’Neil is accused of illegal conduct in his personal affairs and ethical misconduct from the bench,” Ross wrote. “It is patently unfair for a judge, so accused, to continue to sit in judgment of others similarly accused until such accusations are either confirmed or dispelled.”
O’Neil did not respond to a Republic request for comment on Ross’ motion, though he previously spoke to the newspaper and rejected challenges to his integrity. He has not withdrawn from the case, but he did assign another judge to conduct an April 17 hearing on Ross’ motion.
Heather Murphy, director of communications for the Arizona Supreme Court, said she does not know what actions or investigations into the allegations the Supreme Court might launch, if any.
Dixon and O’Neil, both Casa Grande residents, have known one another since Dixon’s daughter began boarding and riding her horse at O’Neil’s stables years ago. In a sworn affidavit and formal complaints, Dixon said a friendship evolved. O’Neil characterizes Dixon as an acquaintance.
Either way, the two men agree that Dixon worked on O’Neil’s property occasionally and that they talked often. The judge presided over Dixon’s wedding. Dixon says they often discussed legal matters; O’Neil says that Dixon sometimes asked for legal advice but that he tried to brush off the queries.
After the dog incident, however, Dixon filed complaints or claims against O’Neil with the Arizona Supreme Court, the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Attorney General’s Office and the State Bar of Arizona.
Dixon shared copies with The Arizona Republic. The Commission on Judicial Conduct usually posts complaints online after its investigation, but it opted not to publish the complaint against O’Neil, a spokesman said.
Investigations and litigation proceeded at the same time the Supreme Court was setting up a new ethics system to deal with attorney misconduct – and appointing O’Neil as the state’s first and only “presiding disciplinary judge.”
For the past three years, O’Neil has overseen proceedings against scores of lawyers, including the disbarment of former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, while fending off Dixon’s accusations of unethical conduct. He is now considering approval of a proposed Bar reprimand against former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke for ethics violations during a national political scandal involving the Operation Fast and Furious firearms investigation.
In an August 2012 complaint to the Commission on Judicial Conduct, Dixon told the story of Shiloh.
According to a copy of the complaint provided to The Republic, Dixon also asserted that O’Neil was his “ghost writer” in a Pinal County Superior Court motion and secretly authored an ethics complaint Dixon lodged against another judge.
Finally, he wrote that O’Neil acted improperly – or created an appearance of conflict – in transactions involving a residence owned by the judge’s mother-in-law.
According to public records, Sarah Holmes, O’Neil’s mother-in-law, executed a short sale of her Casa Grande house to a family friend. The friend subsequently sold a half-interest in the dwelling to O’Neil. Holmes continued to reside at the house – as a renter, according to O’Neil.
In an interviewlate last year, O’Neil told The Republic that he did not author legal papers for Dixon, did not enlist deputies in a scheme against him and did not engage in a fraudulent real-estate scheme. “I categorically deny the allegations,” he said.
Former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Stanley Feldman, who represents O’Neil, said the judge has been smeared by a felon who bears a grudge. “There’s really nothing to it. … This is just a plain vendetta,” Feldman said.
The Commission on Judicial Conduct dismissed Dixon’s complaints after an initial review. A federal judge threw out the conspiracy lawsuit. No other government entity has sustained allegations by Dixon, who says each setback reaffirms his belief that Arizona’s justice system is corrupt.
The chain of events
Documents in the Pinal County Recorder’s Office show the chain of events: In August 2006, Sarah Holmes, O’Neil’s mother-in-law, secured a $204,000 loan on her house. Within months, Holmes borrowed an additional $203,950 using her home as collateral.
Three years elapsed. In January 2010, records show, Holmes executed a short sale of her property for $72,000 cash to a man named BrienBrenfleck. O’Neil confirmed that Brenfleck is a longtime family friend who once lived at O’Neil’s residence.
Short sales usually occur when a property’s mortgage debt exceeds its market value. In order to avoid foreclosure, lenders in some cases allow a homeowner to sell the residence and eliminate debt in excess of the proceeds.
Such transactions typically must be approved by mortgage holders, and the indebted seller generally cannot have close ties with the buyer.
Within days of the short sale, according to records on file with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, Brenfleck and “Bill O’Neal” (sic) were registered as owners of a new Arizona trade name, BOBB Investments, initials from the principles’ names.
Ten months later, Brenfleck transferred half-ownership of the Holmes property to Judge O’Neil and his wife, Tammy. O’Neil signed an affidavit listing his purchase price at $25,000.
O’Neil told The Republic he had “nothing to do with the refinancing” of his mother-in-law’s home or her decision to do a short sale. O’Neil said it was sheer coincidence that Brenfleck was looking to invest in a house and happened to see a real-estate ad about the short sale.
“We did not give him a check (to purchase the residence as a straw buyer),” O’Neil said. “We did not set a bag of money on the doorstep. We were not involved.”
About the same time as the home was advertised, O’Neil said, he and Brenfleck contemplated a business buying depressed real estate and reselling it. He said that BOBB Investments was created for that purpose but that they were unable to borrow funds to get the enterprise started.
O’Neil said Brenfleck called him months later saying that he had lost his job and that the house he had purchased from Holmes needed major repairs. Brenfleck asked if the judge would acquire a half-interest in the residence, then share refurbishment costs. O’Neil said he agreed to do so.
Brenfleck could not be reached for comment.
Short sale detailed
Ross’ recent motion to remove O’Neil describes the short sale and alleges that evidence implicates Arizona’s presiding disciplinary judge in “illegal conduct.”
The motion says an attorney who played a key role as trustee in the transactions, Christopher Perry, later was convicted of negligent homicide and fleeing the scene of a 2011 drunken-driving accident.
Records show that Perry was sentenced to 18 months of incarceration but that he did not get disbarred until March 2013, a month before his release, although the disbarment was retroactive. Ross’ motion alleges Perry received favorable treatment from O’Neil in disciplinary proceedings because the suspension of his license was stayed. She alleges that the entire matter creates a “shocking appearance of impropriety.”
Records show that Perry litigated a number of cases before O’Neil when the judge worked in Pinal County Superior Court. Most were perfunctory evictions where the Phoenix attorney appeared by telephone.
O’Neil told The Republic he has no acquaintanceship with Perry: “Never talked to him. Maybe he was in my court at some time. … But I don’t know Christopher Perry.”
Perry could not be reached to discuss the matter.
Ross is a prominent attorney in Arizona’s gay and lesbian community. Her law license was suspended in March 2013 for four years after a hearing before O’Neil. In that case, she was accused of pressuring a client to pay an additional $10,500 shortly before trial, then withdrawing as counsel when the client refused. She also was charged with signing a false document, making misleading statements and publicly accusing a judge of prejudice because he “just doesn’t like lesbians.”
The current case against Ross is based on Bar allegations that, while her license was inactive, she continued to practice law and failed to notify a client of her suspension.
In a court filing, Ross answered that she had not acted as a lawyer, but utilized a power of attorney available to anyone. She asserted she was unable to locate her client to advise him that she’d been suspended.
In seeking O’Neil’s removal, Ross also alleges that the late Robert Gallo of Casa Grande repeatedly served as an independent “public” member on attorney-discipline panels with O’Neil. Ross contends the judge unethically failed to notify defendants that Gallo was his close friend, neighbor and business associate.
O’Neil previously confirmed to The Republic that he and Gallo were friends. He said that he does not believe the friendship constituted a conflict, but understands that others might disagree.
Ross’ motion also says O’Neil repeatedly violated her legal rights in disciplinary proceedings and discriminated against her based on his religious beliefs regarding homosexuality.
Ross concluded that O’Neil should not merely be disqualified from her case, but should no longer serve as Arizona’s presiding disciplinary judge.
Code requirements
The Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct requires jurists to “avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety” that occurs when a reasonable person believes a judge’s conduct is unethical.
O’Neil obtained half-ownership of a house for $25,000. The judge conceded that the residence was purchased from his mother-in-law by a family friend. The mother-in-law remained in the home. The friend and the judge contemplated becoming partners in real-estate ventures.
Asked if that scenario was inappropriate, O’Neil responded, “I don’t believe so, no. I ran it by an attorney during the commission (inquiry) … and he said there was no fraud.”
What about the appearance of impropriety? “In hindsight, would I have done this?” O’Neil said. “The answer is ‘No.’ “
Upon learning of O’Neil’s remark, former Justice Feldman said, “I hate to contradict the good judge, but … there isn’t any appearance of impropriety.”
Brenfleck and Holmes, who declined to be interviewed, wrote letters to Feldman declaringthat the transactions were proper. An affidavit of “arm’s length transaction,” signed by Brenfleck, says that no family member or business associate participated in the short sale and that there were “no hidden terms or special understandings.”
Arizona judicial canons say a jurist must conduct private affairs “so as to minimize the risk of conflict. … A judge shall not abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others. … Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by improper conduct and conduct that creates the appearance of impropriety.”
Dixon provided The Republic a copy of his judicial-conduct complaint against O’Neil. It alleged that the judge “did in fact commit mortgage fraud in using Brien Brenfleck as a straw buyer.”
George Riemer, executive director of the Commission on Judicial Conduct, recused himself from the case because he serves on lawyer-discipline panels with O’Neil.
The Dixon complaint was referred for screening to Michael O. Miller, a commission member and then-Pima County Superior Court judge.
Miller recommended dismissal of the complaint. On Nov. 12, 2012, the full commission ruled there was “no evidence of ethical misconduct.”
Complaints surface
Dixon’s complaints against O’Neil surfaced in the disbarment proceedings against County Attorney Andrew Thomas and his deputy, Lisa Aubuchon, accused of unethically filing criminal charges against political foes.
Before he became presiding disciplinary judge, O’Neil had been assigned briefly to a key case in the scandal, in which he ruled against the prosecutors. When Bar complaints were lodged against Thomas and Aubuchon, O’Neil was placed in charge of the disciplinary hearings. Aubuchon asked that he withdraw due to a conflict of interest. O’Neil declined.
Thomas and Aubuchon were stripped of their law licenses in April 2012, and O’Neil authored the 232-page decision.
Two weeks later, Mark Dixon signed an affidavit alleging that O’Neil had privately discussed the Maricopa County attorney controversy with him in spring 2009 and had expressed bias against Thomas and Aubuchon. Aubuchon included his statement in an appeal of her disbarment to the Arizona Supreme Court.
O’Neil denied such a conversation occurred and said he had no conflict in overseeing the disbarment case.
The Supreme Court rejected all of Aubuchon’s appellate arguments, including claims of bias by O’Neil, which the court said “lacked merit.” In its September decision, justices saidshe failed to “prove bias or prejudice by a preponderance of the evidence” and “did not demonstrate that Judge O’Neil’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned or that he was biased or prejudiced as a result of his limited roles in the related criminal matters.”
Even if Dixon’s allegations were true, the court said, his affidavit “does not overcome the presumption that Judge O’Neil acted without bias or prejudice.”
O’Neil said Dixon’s unceasing accusations had created safety concerns. He noted that Dixon’s judicial complaint described an incident in which a horse at the judge’s stable was euthanized with a gun while the O’Neils were at church. O’Neil said he had not even been aware that a horse was shot on his property until he read Dixon’s account.
“It terrified us, absolutely terrified us,” he said. “I’m horribly concerned. I lock my doors at night. … We keep our dogs in the house.”
Dixon said the suffering animal was put down by an off-duty police officer, who corroborated that account to The Republic. Dixon said he mentioned the incident in his complaint because he was told of an alleged plan to discredit him by charging him with a weapons violation as a result of the mercy killing.
Dixon, meanwhile, says he is in hiding outside Arizona, fearful of being framed by officials in the justice system as he continues to investigate.
“I just want this (expletive) straightened out,” he said. “I mean, this is so far beyond a man and his dog that it’s not even funny.”
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