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Home / Election 2014 / Horne disputes allegations of election law violations, calls whistleblower’s attorney a “political hack’’

Horne disputes allegations of election law violations, calls whistleblower’s attorney a “political hack’’

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne listens to opening arguments from Yavapai Deputy County Attorney Benjamin Kreutzberg, in a hearing into allegations that Horne and political ally Kathleen Winn, violated campaign finance laws. (Photo by Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic)

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne listens to opening arguments from Yavapai Deputy County Attorney Benjamin Kreutzberg, in a hearing into allegations that Horne and political ally Kathleen Winn, violated campaign finance laws. (Photo by Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic)

A former Attorney General’s Office staffer filed a long-awaited complaint with election officials alleging that she and other employees spent significant amounts of time working on Tom Horne’s reelection on taxpayer time.

She included about two dozen campaign-related emails exchanged by staffers during the work to back up her claims.

Sarah Beattie, who resigned on April 22, said she was hired at the Attorney General’s Office specifically to do fundraising for Horne’s campaign. She said the majority of her work days were spent doing campaign work, devoting an average of only two hours a day to her official duties, and that she was far from alone in electioneering from the office.

Tom Ryan, Beattie’s attorney, said the conduct of Horne and his staffers’ violates the Arizona laws barring the use of taxpayer-funded resources for political campaigns. He submitted the complaint to the Secretary of State’s Office and Citizens Clean Elections Commission on Monday, including 146 pages of exhibits.

Ryan said the emails and metadata behind them – information showing when a document was created, who created it and how long a person spent working on it – show substantial electioneering during the work day at the Attorney General’s Office by most members of Horne’s executive office staff. Beattie said community outreach director Kathleen Winn, who she initially worked for, instructed staffers to use only private email accounts and personal laptop computers for campaign issues.

“The majority of people employed in the Executive Office of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office were campaigning for Tom Horne during regular business hours,” Beattie wrote in her affidavit.

Beattie also alleged that she, Horne and other staffers would frequently meet at the Attorney General’s Office during the work day to discuss the campaign.

“Not only are they abusing the privilege of the office, using taxpayer money to run the reelection, but there’s absolutely no firewall between the official duties of the office and the campaign that’s going on,” Ryan told reporters in the lobby of the executive tower.

In an emailed statement in response to the allegations, Horne said all Attorney General’s Office employees are expected to work eight hours a day. Those who want to volunteer to work on the campaign are free to do so, he wrote.

“All significant campaign work, including meetings, is done at an off-site location, at lunch time, or after work,” Horne wrote.

Stephanie Grisham, Horne’s spokeswoman, disputed that the number of emails that Beattie cited was significant. Grisham said that from what she’s seen, there were maybe two or three emails per day, emails weren’t sent every day, and that the emails in Beattie’s complaint go back to August 2013.

Horne said Beattie’s “bitterness” apparently stems from her displeasure that she was expected to put in eight hours a day on state business, and alleged that at an off-site meeting, Beattie had an “emotional crying fit” because her hours were being monitored. He said the office “bent over backwards to accommodate Ms. Beattie’s many requests.”

The attorney general also criticized Ryan, whom he noted had volunteered pro bono defense services to the Arizona Public Integrity Alliance, which Horne sued for defamation last year over ads it ran against him.

“Now, guided by her ‘attorney,’ a known political hack who regularly attacks Republicans, and recently offered to defend (pro bono) the dark money group attacking the Attorney General, Ms. Beattie is clearly being exploited,” Horne wrote. “In a political season, this entire sideshow reeks of desperation, opportunism and political games and the truth will come out.”

Horne disputed the claim that his entire campaign is being run out of the Attorney General’s Office, saying there isn’t much to do besides collect petition signatures; send emails, which are sent by an outside firm hired by the campaign; and raise money. Horne said that was done only by himself and Beattie, who he said volunteered to do it in her own time. Mecum also had a few “isolated tasks” that he conducted only during lunch or after work.

“The idea that a campaign was conducted from the AG offices is vacuous because the campaign hasn’t really started and there has been nothing significant to do that could have been performed during work hours,” Horne said.

In the minutes of an April 1 campaign meeting, which Beattie included in her complaint, Horne is quoted as saying the campaign needs to “get to work” because early ballots were only 120 days away.

He said Beattie’s supervisors ensured the accuracy of her timesheets, and that if she didn’t put in full work weeks, she received salary deductions. If she only worked two hours a week, that means she lied every time she filled out a timesheet, he said.

The attorney general also noted that in his weekly calendar meetings, he must coordinate between official and campaign activities. There’s no way to avoid conflicts without having entries for political events on a separate calendar, he said.

Beattie did not accompany Ryan to the Secretary of State’s Office. She previously described many of her allegations to the Arizona Capitol Times, saying Horne’s reelection is being run without any paid staff and using only volunteers from the Attorney General’s Office who spend much of their work days on campaign duties.

In her complaint, Beattie said she initially learned of an opening in Winn’s division from then-roommate Brett Mecum, who serves as Horne’s legislative liaison. Beattie, a campaign fundraising consultant, said she met with Mecum and Winn to discuss the position, and though they told her little about the actual official duties of the position, they told her that they needed her help with Horne’s campaign.

“Early on I realized that (Winn) wanted me to do campaign work while working during official state hours,” Beattie wrote.

Beattie wrote she immediately began doing campaign work “at Ms. Winn’s direction” after joining her staff. One of her first duties, she wrote, was drawing up a list of talking points, known as Horne’s “17 Major Achievements.”

Horne was deeply involved in campaigning from the Attorney General’s Office as well, Beattie said. For example, she said Horne kept a binder that was intentionally mislabeled “Border Patrol” behind his desk which contained information on campaign contributors. Horne said the binder, which he referred to as a “stolen notebook,” was only used at an off-site location.

Beattie said Horne would frequently make fundraising calls from his office.

The attorney general often pulled executive office staffers into meetings to discuss Mark Brnovich, his challenger in the Republican primary, and Felecia Rotellini, the presumptive Democratic nominee in the attorney general’s race, Beattie said.

“These meetings were done during regular office hours and not on our lunch hours or breaks,” Beattie wrote.

Beattie said Horne often gave her official work phone number to people so they could call her about fundraising events. She included a March 6 email in which she instructed Horne and other campaign volunteers within the office to stop giving people her work number for campaign-related issues.

At another point, Beattie said Horne accidentally sent a group campaign email to her official Attorney General’s Office email account. Afterward, he acknowledged that he made a mistake and “stood over my shoulder ensure that I deleted it,” she said.

Many of the emails that Beattie said were sent during work hours, and data shows Attorney General’s Office staffers working on them during the work day as well. The metadata shows that Mecum spent more than 20 hours working on one flier over a two-day period, according to the complaint.

“That’s not coffee breaks. That’s not lunch hours. That’s somebody abusing the privilege of the executive office to run for reelection,” Ryan said.

Executive staff meetings routinely included campaign discussions, Beattie said. A calendar of events that Beattie said was created by Horne’s executive assistant, Debra Scordato, appears to show both official and campaign events.

And Margaret Dugan, who served as Horne’s chief of staff and campaign manager, would frequently come by Beattie’s desk to talk about campaign issues and complain about other staffers whom she felt weren’t working hard enough on the campaign, Beattie wrote.

Beattie moved from community outreach to constituent services about a month and a half after her August 2013 hiring. She said she had difficulty working with Winn, and told Horne that she would leave the office for campaign work if she couldn’t move to constituent services. Horne said, “We need you through next November,” Beattie said, and moved her to constituent services, where here salary jumped to $35,000 from $32,000 a year.

“When I realized the pay raise was not consistent with what Mr. Horne led me to believe I would receive I went back and talked to him again,” Beattie wrote. At that point, her salary jumped to $45,000 a year.

Beattie said the tipping point that made her decide to stop working on the campaign came when she saw Winn use an Attorney General’s Office vehicle to drive to an off-site campaign event. Her complaint included a copy of the April 8 email in which she said she would no longer do campaign work. Beattie resigned about two weeks later.

Last week, when Ryan delivered a letter to the Attorney General’s Office warning of the pending complaint and demanding that Horne preserve all pertinent records, Mecum and Grisham both questioned her credibility, mentioning problems with previous employers.

A former staffer for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s 2010 campaign said she threatened to sue the campaign over what she alleged was unpaid overtime. Mike Hellon, McCain’s former deputy campaign manager, said the campaign disagreed with her claim but agreed to a financial settlement in order to avoid embarrassing headlines in the middle of McCain’s reelection.

Ryan criticized the Attorney General’s Office for what he called a “smear campaign” against Beattie.

“She knew by filing this complaint today that she would be the subject of a huge smear campaign. And the Attorney General’s Office has not disappointed,” Ryan said.

An attorney for a former staffer at the Attorney General’s Office filed a formal complaint today alleging that Attorney General Tom Horne and top staffers repeatedly violated campaign finance laws.

The complaint was filed by attorney Tom Ryan on behalf of his client, Sarah Beattie. In an affidavit given to the Secretary of State’s Office, Beattie said she was told beginning last year while employed with the Attorney General’s Office to work on getting Horne reelected. Ryan acknowledged she did such work initially but subsequently quit.

Ryan and Beattie attached 146 pages of supporting materials, including campaign documents on which Beattie said she worked and emails from Horne and others. Beattie also said she witnessed others in Horne’s executive team — all state employees — who worked on campaign materials, often for hours at a time.

An identical complaint was filed with the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, which also enforces campaign finance laws.

Among other things, the complaint refers to a Border Patrol binder Horne allegedly kept in his office.

“By way of example, Tom Horne kept a white three-ring binder on his shelf behind his desk. The spine of the white binder was deliberately mislabeled, “BORDER PATROL.” The contents of the binder had nothing to do with the border patrol. Instead, the binder contained a substantial list of donors from the 2010 campaign and the 2014 campaign with Tom Horne’s handwritten notes he made to donors,” the complaint says.

Horne would not consent to an interview. But in a prepared response, he said some staffers do campaign work “on their own time, as is their First Amendment right.” And he said all “significant campaign work,” including meetings, were one off-site, at lunch or after work.

He accused Beattie of being bitter about having to work eight hours a day on legitimate state business,. And he called the charges “desperation, opportunism and political games.”
Ryan, however, said since Beattie first quit and made verbal allegations she has been the subject of a smear campaign by Horne and allies.

“It’s been vile, it’s been filthy,” Ryan said.

The complaint comes just as Horne was hoping to put legal issues involving his 2010 race behind him.

An administrative law judge concluded there was insufficient evidence to support a charge that he had illegally coordinated that campaign with what was supposed to be an independent committee headed by Kathleen Winn. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, who inherited that probe, must decide this week whether to accept those findings or ignore them and demand that Horne cough up more than $400,000 in campaign donations.

Now Horne could face a new round of hearings if Secretary of State Ken Bennett finds evidence of new violations, some of which involve Winn who now works in Horne’s office. Ryan said there is plenty of documentation to support the allegations.

“The plain fact of the matter is, Tom Horne and the executive office is doing a substantial amount of campaigning on taxpayer money,” Ryan said. That includes not only use of paid staffers but also soliciting donations out of the office.

“The constitution mandates purity of elections and our top police officer in the state of Arizona is violating that daily,” he said.

Ryan produced several exhibits he said prove the point.

One was a document produced by Brett Mecum, Horne’s lobbyist at the Legislature, promoting a Sept. 18 fundraiser for Horne. A copy went to Beattie.

The “metadata” attached to the file — essentially electronic tags attached to word-processing programs — shows that it was worked on over more than 20 hours including what would otherwise be normal office hours. There is no indication of what computer was used to create the flyer.

Ryan acknowledged that senior staffers have no set hours and can take time off during the day to do non-state business. But he said the sheer amount of time spent on this paints a different picture.

“That’s not coffee breaks, that’s not lunch hours,” Ryan said. “That’s somebody abusing the privilege of executive office to run for reelection.”

Beattie produced another email from Horne at 4:26 p.m. on Dec. 26 with a script of a “robocall” to push for his reelection and undermine attacks from “a liberal group.” And there’s a response back from Horne staffer Carmen Chenal at 11:16 a.m. the following day saying the script “looks good.”

Horne also sent an email this past January, during normal business hours, where he had crafted a memo about “negatives on (Felecia) Rotellini,” the Democrat who he narrowly defeated in 2010 and who is the presumptive Democrat nominee this year. The memo went to various staffers at the Attorney General’s Office.

Beattie, in her affidavit, also said she witnessed Horne actually trying to raise money from his state office, albeit on his personal cell phone, using a list of donors he kept in his office in a notebook labeled “Border Patrol.”

She also produced copies of calendars produced by Debra Scordato, Horne’s executive assistant, sent out on Scordato’s personal email account, which listed campaign and fundraising events. And Beattie stated that Horne would bring senior staffers into meetings where they would discuss campaign matters.

Beattie’s allegations that staffers did work on the taxpayer dime got a separate boost when Horne press aide Stephanie Grisham admitted Monday that Winn, still on Horne’s staff, had used a state vehicle to attend a campaign event.

Grisham said Winn drove it from an official meeting to “an off-site campaign meeting.” She said Winn was formally reprimanded by her supervisor that same day and asked to pay $10 to cover the mileage put on the vehicle.

If Bennett finds evidence of a campaign law violation he is required by state statutes to forward it to the Attorney General’s Office. But Ryan said he expects that to bypass Horne and his staff and instead go to Solicitor General Robert Ellman who, in turn, would likely farm it out to a county attorney, just like what happened in the earlier case that wound up in Polk’s hands.

The Clean Elections Commission, by contrast, gets to decide violations on its own.
In either event, Ryan said the penalties are all civil and involve reimbursement of improperly spent state resources and possible fines equal to three times the misspent amounts.

Beattie’s affidavit


Exhibits


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