Attorney General Tom Horne denied allegations that he violated campaign laws in 2010 and accused the prosecutor who made them of filing a complaint because he knew he was about to lose his job.
In an email on Monday evening, Horne spokeswoman Amy Rezzonico said the attorney general did not illegally collaborate with Kathleen Winn, the chairwoman of a pro-Horne independent expenditure that spent more than a half-million dollars on attack ads against his Democratic opponent.
Horne said Winn volunteered for his campaign during the GOP primary but severed ties with the campaign afterward to support him with her independent expenditure, Business Leaders for Arizona.
“When the primary was over, Kathleen told Mr. Horne she was withdrawing from the campaign in order to be able to conduct an independent campaign during the general election. This was on her own initiative and was without ‘cooperation or consultation’ with Tom or anyone acting on his behalf,” Rezzonico wrote, quoting Arizona statute.
State law prohibits collaboration between a candidate and an independent expenditure.
Horne denied allegations that he gave Winn a job as his office’s community outreach director, saying no such deal was ever made and that Winn was not even his first choice for the highly paid position. The first choice, a woman named Kim Owens, turned down the offer for a private sector job, Horne said.
“Only then was the offer made to Kathleen Winn, based on her qualifications and the confidence Tom Horne had developed in her during the primary,” Rezzonico said. “No promise was made, and this is obvious from the fact that she was not hired at first.”
Horne also alleged that Don Dybus, a former campaign volunteer who now works in his Tucson office, knew he was about to be fired and filed the complaint so he could keep his job under Arizona’s whistleblower protection statutes.
According to Rezzonico, Dybus sent a letter to Horne shortly before he filed his complaint in mid-February indicating that he “could not be fired,” and Horne responded by having Sharon Collins, the manager of his Tucson office, where Dybus worked, pass along a message saying Dybus was not meeting the standards expected of him and that if he did not improve his performance, he would be fired.
“Horne told Collins to tell Dybus that he had not been working to standard, and that if he did not start working to standard, he would have to be let go. Collins passed this message, in substance, to Dybus, shortly before he sent his letter,” Rezzonico wrote.
Rezzonico also sent out a Monday email from Dybus to Horne and Rick Bistrow, Horne’s chief deputy, in which Dybus warns them “not to make any false and disparaging remarks” about him, including “giving an inaccurate and self-serving rationale to the media for my making the disclosure to the secretary of state.
“Any such statement will be treated and responded to as a ‘reprisal’ which violates the state’s whistleblower statute. It is not in your best interest to go on the attack against me to any degree,” Dybus wrote in the email. “And by the way, it is standard professional practice to place a whistleblower on administrative leave during an investigation such as this. Govern yourselves accordingly.”
Rezzonico said Dybus told Collins that he believed Bistrow was about to fire him, and that he was afraid of losing his health insurance.
Winn formed BLA to campaign against former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Horne said, “because she was a victim of Andrew Thomas’ unjust practices as county attorney, and false charges against her were repeatedly dismissed by the court.” Thomas was Horne’s opponent in the Republican primary, which Horne won by just 899 votes.
Maricopa County Superior Court records shows four cases filed against her from 2006 to 2007, none of which appear to have resulted in a conviction. Records for one case say charges were dismissed by prosecutors because the case was remanded to the grand jury, while another is listed as being dismissed because of a grand jury indictment.
BLA was not active during the primary, according to records from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office. It’s only campaign activities were television ads in late October 2010 attacking Felecia Rotellini, Horne’s Democratic opponent.
Rezzonico said Horne was not involved in the solicitation of a $115,000 contribution from his brother-in-law to BLA, which Dybus cited as evidence of collaboration. She said Winn met Horne’s sister at his primary election victory party, and that the sister gave Winn her phone number and said to call if there was anything she could do to help in the general election.