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Official accuses Arizona AG Tom Horne of cover-up

Opponents of Attorney General Tom Horne’s plan to overturn a provision in the Voting Rights Act requiring Arizona to get all election changes approved by the Department of Justice say that if his suit is successful, a raft of lawsuits will follow. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

A state criminal investigator has filed a $10 million legal claim against Arizona involving Attorney General Tom Horne.

Margaret “Meg” Hinchey is accusing the state’s top prosecutor of engaging in a cover-up amid allegations that Horne participated in illegal campaign activities.

The notice of claim is a precursor to a lawsuit. Hinchey’s 19-page claim was filed Thursday, according to The Arizona Republic.

Hinchey, a supervising special agent in the AG’s criminal division, alleges Horne and his staff sought to destroy investigative materials and retaliated against her after she reported the information to the FBI. She also claims the AG’s office overlooked improper and potentially criminal behavior by Horne and favored staff members.

Horne declined immediate comment on Hinchey’s legal claim, saying he would issue a statement later Thursday.

Horne defeated Democrat Felecia Rotellini in November 2010 to become the state’s attorney general. After winning the Republican primary by a thin margin, Horne faced a brutal general-election race in which Rotellini criticized the decades-old revocation of Horne’s license to sell securities and Horne accused Rotellini of having scant trial experience.

In April, an elections complaint accused Horne of violating Arizona law by coordinating some of his 2010 campaign’s efforts with an independent committee that attacked his general-election opponent.

The complaint filed by Don Dybus, a lawyer in Horne’s office, alleged that Horne worked with a campaign consultant and others to arrange a $115,000 contribution from his brother-in-law to Business Leaders For Arizona. State law prohibits coordination between campaigns and independent expenditure committees.

The complaint also alleged that Horne broke the law in giving a supporter who is accused of illegally coordinating between the campaign and the committee a job after the election.

Horne denied the allegations and said the employee who filed the complaint is disgruntled.

A spokesman for the Arizona Secretary of State’s office has said Dybus’ complaint was handed over to a law enforcement agency but declined to name that agency.

In January, the FBI requested information about the independent expenditure committee and has since begun an investigation, according to the Republic.

The newspaper also said that some of the FBI’s information has been turned over to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Neither agency will confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

Hinchey has directed some of Arizona’s most high-profile investigations, most recently its inquiries into campaign contributions by high-level Fiesta Bowl employees and inquiries of improper conduct by current and former members of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

She went on long-term medical leave early last month. Hinchey’s claim states she now has stress-related health issues caused by the ordeal, including ulcers.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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