Ugenti: Legislative privilege prevents search for evidence of affair with co-worker

Hank Stephenson//May 30, 2014

Ugenti: Legislative privilege prevents search for evidence of affair with co-worker

Hank Stephenson//May 30, 2014

Rep. Michelle Ugenti, R-Scottsdale, wants ballots in Arizona to note that voter-approved laws are difficult for lawmakers to change. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Jessica Boehm)
Rep. Michelle Ugenti, R-Scottsdale,  (Cronkite News Service Photo by Jessica Boehm)

Republican Rep. Michelle Ugenti is citing her legislative privilege in an attempt to block a subpoena to obtain her text messages in what is becoming a contentious divorce battle with her husband, Frank Ugenti.

According to court documents filed by the legislator’s attorney, the husband is seeking several months of Ugenti’s text messages because he believes she is having an affair with an unnamed co-worker at the Arizona House of Representatives.

According to court documents obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times, Frank Ugenti is subpoenaing Verizon Wireless for “true and exact copies of all text messages” sent from Michelle Ugenti’s cell phone since Feb. 1.

David Rose, Michelle Ugenti’s attorney, argued in a May 28 motion to quash the subpoena that Frank Ugenti “seeks these records because he seems to think that (his) wife is having an affair. Whether or not (she) is having an affair is completely irrelevant, under Arizona law, to any of the remaining issues in this case.”

Rose filed a motion for protective order to block the subpoena, stating that the request is “nothing short of harassment” and asked that the court order “that the discovery or disclosure not be had” in order to “protect (Michelle Ugenti) from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression or undue burden or expense.”

In a May 16 letter to Frank Ugenti’s attorney, Falynn Baum, that was included as an exhibit to the filing, Rose wrote that the husband is seeking the records because “Frank apparently has some sort of vendetta with Ms. Ugenti’s co-worker and while I am not going to fight their particular fight, this subpoena simply proves my point.”

Rose wrote that the records are also protected by legislative privilege, which “protects against inquiry about a legislative act or communications about that act.”

Rose claimed that the text messages fall under legislative privilege because the lawmaker’s texts “will contain communications with staff members and other legislators, in addition to information regarding the coordination of (Ugenti’s) re-election efforts.” Rose further argued that the texts are subject to attorney-client privilege because he has exchanged text messages with Ugenti.

He wrote that the couple has agreed to custody arrangements for their three young children, and said Frank Ugenti already knows his wife’s finances and cannot learn anything new about them from the text messages.

Ugenti was first elected to the House in 2010, and represents Legislative District 23, a Republican-leaning district that includes Scottsdale, Fountain Hills and the Fort McDowell-Yavapai Nation. She is running for re-election in the 2014 primary against three Republican challengers for the two House seats.

Ugenti filed for divorce from her husband in March.

Messages left for Baum and Rose were not immediately returned.

Frank and Michelle Ugenti issued a joint statement in response to messages left for both.

“This is a private matter between the two of us, and we will not be commenting to the press about the decision to end our marriage or any legal proceedings surrounding the divorce,” they said in a written statement issued by her campaign.