The attorney for a lawmaker who was ordered last year to be removed from office is asking to send the case back to an administrative judge for a second trial, arguing that key evidence was ignored in the campaign-finance case.
Rep. Doug Quelland also should be allowed to subpoena the records of one of the key witnesses who supported allegations that Quelland broke public campaign finance laws, said attorney Tim Casey.
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge heard arguments May 11 in Quelland’s appeal. He was ordered to be removed from office last year after the Citizens Clean Elections Commission determined he used his business to pay for the campaign work of a campaign consultant he hired off the books.
Because the result was that he overspent his public campaign funds by more than the amount allowed in law, the Commission voted to remove Quelland, who represents a northwest Phoenix legislative district, from office and fine him more than $40,000.
Quelland appealed to an administrative hearing and, when the judge ruled against him after a four-day trial, he appealed to superior court.
Judge Crane McClennen didn’t issue a ruling on the matter May 11, but during the hearing he asked several direct questions to Casey. Quelland did not attend the hearing.
Casey asked the judge to rule that Administrative Law Judge Thomas Shedden “arbitrarily and capriciously disregarded” important evidence that supports Quelland’s claim that he never hired campaign consultant Larry Davis or his firm, Intermedia Public Relations, to work on his campaign. Instead, Quelland has said Davis and his employees were hired to do work for his businesses, including a coffee shop and lawnmower repair business.
During the administrative hearing last fall, Quelland said any work Intermedia employees did for his campaign was voluntary. However, the employees and Davis refuted that.
Casey asked the judge to send the case back to the administrative court and allow for discovery so that Quelland could examine Intermedia’s financials.
Clean Elections attorney Jose Rivera asked McClennen to uphold Shedden’s ruling. Quelland, he said, has consistently changed his story to explain away evidence that he broke the law.
“This has been a rollercoaster ride. Every time we present evidence, Mr. Quelland comes up with a new argument. This is a brand new argument,” he said. “Rep. Quelland’s fable has evolved. That’s what it is: a fable.”
The base of Casey’s argument is that Shedden unfairly disregarded evidence and testimony that Quelland and his allies presented during the trial. Rivera countered that Shedden’s job was to weigh all of the evidence and testimony when he made his ruling.
McClennen seemed to agree with Rivera, noting at one point that judges and juries are given the discretion to believe a single witness, even if his testimony is refuted by 20 other people. And he also told Casey that there was nothing in his argument that contradicts the evidence that Quelland signed a contract with Davis and paid him for campaign work.
“You’re talking about conflicting evidence, but there’s evidence to support every one of the allegations. That’s (Rivera’s) point,” the judge said.
Quelland, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2002, is seeking re-election this year. And although the Clean Elections Commission is trying to remove him from office, he has chosen to use the public financing system to fund his campaign this year.