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Home / Election 2014 / Former Horne staffer alleges rampant election law violations in AG’s Office

Former Horne staffer alleges rampant election law violations in AG’s Office

horne-trial-620A former Attorney General’s Office employee who did volunteer work for Tom Horne’s re-election said she and other employees routinely violated state laws by doing campaign work on taxpayer time, and that Horne himself encouraged and was aware of the unlawful activity.

Sarah Beattie, who resigned in April from her job in office’s constituent services division, said she and other employees were hired explicitly for campaign work. She estimated that she spent an average of two hours a day on her official duties and spent the rest of her work time on campaign issues, at Horne’s instruction.

Most of Horne’s executive office staff frequently did campaign work on the clock, Beattie said, including policy analyst Garrett Archer, Chief of Staff Margaret Dugan, legislative liaison Brett Mecum, community outreach director Kathleen Winn and Horne himself. Other employees volunteered their time for campaign work, but Beattie said she didn’t know whether everyone involved was breaking the law and that, “There are a lot of people who do watch their steps pretty closely.”

The accusations paint a portrait of a re-election campaign being run almost exclusively out of the Attorney General’s Office using taxpayer-funded employees. Horne has paid consultants and other outside vendors, including MBQF Consulting, which is run by Beattie’s boyfriend, but has no actual paid staff for his campaign, Beattie said.

Horne’s most recent campaign finance report, filed on Jan. 31, shows expenses for consultants, vendors and pollsters, and also showed about $3,200 in reimbursement to seven Attorney General’s Office employees for campaign-related expenses, including Archer, Beattie, Dugan, Mecum and Scordato. But it listed no payroll expenses for campaign staff.

Beattie, a fundraising consultant who has other paying clients, said she joined the Attorney General’s Office because campaign season had not yet picked up and she needed a job.

“I was put under an official position, but it was voiced to me several times that I was there for campaigning reasons,” Beattie told the Arizona Capitol Times.

Beattie said she was Horne’s fundraising consultant, Dugan serves as his campaign manager and Mecum effectively for a long time effectively was in charge of the campaign, and has also been serving as Horne’s campaign spokesman. Archer is in charge of the campaign website and other data issues, she said, while Winn coordinates events and executive assistant Debra Scordato, who manages Horne’s official calendar, is in charge of scheduling.

Horne spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, who previously served as Horne’s volunteer campaign spokeswoman as well, said it is difficult to respond to the allegations until Beattie actually puts them in writing. But she said all “significant campaign work” by Attorney General’s Office employees is done off-site during lunch breaks or after work.

“I think what is getting lost here, is the fact that (as with any professional job) you are allowed to do personal things on state time – as long as you do not abuse that privilege, and always put in your full 8 hour day,” Grisham said in an email to the Capitol Times.

Beattie said all of Horne’s campaign volunteers have been instructed to use personal laptop computers and private email accounts for campaign work. At one point, around early February, a chain email among the team was accidentally sent to her Attorney General’s Office email account, she said, and Horne instructed her to delete it.

Beattie and her attorney, Tom Ryan, plan to file an official complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office and Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Ryan on May 5 submitted a “litigation hold demand” letter to Horne, which requested that the Attorney General’s Office preserve all pertinent records, including electronic metadata that would show when electronic records were created and who created them.

“You will see campaigning on state time,” Beattie said. “I think you will see staff being brought on solely for campaign purposes, myself included. I think you will see an example of how elected officials take advantage of privileges they were given. And I think you will hopefully see that Tom Horne should resign immediately.”

Ryan said the complaint will include numerous emails provided by Beattie that show her and other top Horne staffers doing election work on state time.

“In my estimation, it probably runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars of misappropriated time,” Ryan said. “If Mr. Horne actually had to pay for a campaign staff, he wouldn’t have any money in his account right now. We are, the citizens of the state of Arizona, currently paying for Tom Horne’s re-election campaign.”

Ryan did not provide those emails to the Capitol Times.In his litigation hold demand, Ryan included a copy of a campaign fundraiser flyer that he said is shown through metadata to have been created by Mecum and emailed from executive assistant Debra Scordato’s private email during work hours.

Beattie said two salary increases she received were given for her campaign work. She started in the community outreach division at a salary of $32,000, but said she transferred to constituent services and joined the executive office staff after about a month and a half. Her salary was increased to $35,000.

About a month later, Beattie said, she demanded and received a $10,000 raise from Horne. The raise bumped her salary up to $45,000 per year, though her position hadn’t changed.

She said she had other opportunities and didn’t enjoy working with her boss. “So he (Horne) moved me to the Executive Office and gave me a raise. I said that’s not enough. He said we need you through November and gave me another raise,” Beattie said.

She said she learned of the position from Mecum, whom she described as a close friend and former roommate. She said met with Mecum and Winn, who explained what she would be doing at the Attorney General’s Office.

Beattie said, “We had a very honest conversation. Kathleen said, ‘I need help on the campaign.’ Brett said, ‘I need help on the campaign.’ They said I was perfect to help out.”

Despite being told that she would be working on the campaign, Beattie said she took the position because it was a great job with great benefits.

Beattie said she was aware at first that her on-the-clock campaign activities were illegal, but didn’t realize the scope of what she and other staffers were doing until she was moved over the executive office staff.

“I guess the short answer would be yes,” Beattie said, when asked if she was aware that her activities were against the law. “But it did become more clear to me the severity of what we were doing once I moved upstairs and the potential legal ramifications of what we were doing.”

Beattie said she started to raise concerns about the illegality of her and other staffers’ campaign work as time went on. Most other staffers who volunteered on the campaign shared those worries – though not enough to stop doing campaign work – but Horne was unconcerned, she said.

In mid-April, Beattie said she finally decided to tell Horne that she would no longer do campaign work for him because of her concerns.

“I said, ‘If you don’t think we’re still being watched, you’re very foolish.’ And I said, ‘I’m going to look out for myself here and I’m not helping on your campaign anymore,’” Beattie said.

On April 22, Beattie resigned via email. In her email, she said she was leaving because of the office “not following campaign laws or finance laws and/or regulations and putting my legal well being at risk.” Her last day was three days later.

At the time, Grisham called Beattie’s allegations a “complete fabrication.”

Beattie said she decided to speak out and submit a complaint partly out of fear, partly due to a guilty conscience and partly out of a feeling that she had an obligation to do so.

Grisham said some Attorney General’s Office staffers are considering lawsuits against Beattie for libel or slander.

Winn said she did not hire Beattie for campaign purposes.

“I hired her to be my assistant,” she said.

Timothy La Sota, Winn’s attorney, said Beattie’s allegations are just more of the same from people who have continually made false allegations against Horne for years. La Sota represented Winn in a campaign finance case in which Horne and Winn were accused of illegal coordination between Horne’s campaign and Winn’s independent expenditure campaign. An administrative law judge recommended that the charge be dismissed due to a lack of evidence.

La Sota questioned Beattie’s credibility. If one believed her story, La Sota said, that means Beattie knowingly accepted a job knowing that her “whole professional existence was illegal.”

“Now all of a sudden she’s had some epiphany in her life where she’s honest?” La Sota said. “That story could not be less believable. What a bunch of garbage.”

After Ryan submitted his litigation hold demand letter, Grisham said Beattie lacks credibility and has a history of threatening to sue former employers. Mike Hellon, who worked with Beattie on U.S. Sen. John McCain’s 2010 re-election campaign, said Beattie threatened to sue the campaign over what she claimed was unpaid overtime pay.

“The campaign looked at it and basically said this is nonsense. There’s no merit to it at all. But there was a political decision made to go ahead and settle with her financially,” said Hellon, who served as McCain’s deputy campaign manager.

Hellon would not say how much the campaign paid Beattie in the settlement.

Grisham noted that Ryan once offered to defend the Arizona Public Integrity Alliance, an organization that has run television ads attacking Horne for the scandals he’s faced since taking office. Horne sued the alliance for defamation last year, but ended up settling out of court. And she said Beattie is also close friends with Kory Langhofer, the alliance’s attorney.

Grisham said that Attorney General’s Office guidelines on political activities by office employees instruct people not to send campaign emails. If they receive any campaign-related emails at work, the guidelines say employees should delete and then contact the sender to prevent it from happening again.

“So if Ms. Beattie received an email and was told to delete it, it is simply because that is what our office is instructed to do,” Grisham said in her email.

Those guidelines also emphasize that, although employees can engage in political activity, they must not do so on state time. The guidelines warn that the two should not be mixed.

“If you engage in political activity during your normal working hours, you must take annual leave to do so. Do not commingle work on a campaign or political activity with your work time,” reads the Sept. 5 memo from Mary Jo Foster, who serves as special counsel for ethics and training at the Attorney General’s Office.

Mecum could not be reached for comment on Beattie’s allegations. But after Ryan submitted his letter earlier in the week, Mecum also pointed out Beattie’s ties to Langhofer, and said the Arizona Public Integrity Alliance supports Mark Brnovich, Horne’s opponent in the Republican primary.

“This is just another attempt by the same people to try to hurt the attorney general,” Mecum said. “It’s a front group for our primary opponents.”

Beattie said she has nothing to do with the Arizona Public Integrity Alliance. She said Langhofer is a friend who advises her on legal matters, but that he has nothing to do with the complaint or her allegations, and that she is not speaking out or submitting the complaint at the urging of Langhofer or the alliance.

She also denied ever threatening to sue the McCain campaign and said she never had any salary-related disputes with the campaign.

3 comments

  1. Subterfuge in a GOP primary involving Tom Horne? Who woulda thunk it? ;)

  2. And Timothy La Sota is Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio’s lawyer. What does that say? All snarled in the same spider web of deceit. Taxpayers used as fools enriching the lawyers.

  3. Concerned citizen, La Sota is also the attorney for a PAC that Beattie works for, or at least did until all this blew up. Several weeks ago she helped organize a fundraiser for one of Paul Babeu’s new PACs; her boyfriend is its treasurer and La Sota its attorney. (Did she do work for Babeu or her other clients during work hours at the AG’s Office? Babeu at one point put the boyfriend on his Sheriff’s Office payroll, where he evidently did the same kind of prohibited political work that’s common in Horne’s office. These folks have been getting away with this kind of stuff for years.) When it emerged that the PAC was unregistered, it was La Sota who did the talking. (Horne stepped in and made the problem go away. Did he discuss the matter with Beattie before issuing his ruling?)

    So yes, the same spider web of deceit. The same people who’re now at daggerpoint were working hand-in-glove just a few weeks ago.

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