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Gowan asks attorney general to investigate travel expenses

Speaker of the House David Gowan praises the work of legislators in finishing the legislative session quickly on April 15, 2015. (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)

Speaker of the House David Gowan praises the work of legislators in finishing the legislative session quickly on April 15, 2015. (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)

House Speaker David Gowan is asking Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate his travel expenses in a bid to clear his name ahead of his congressional race.

In a letter released this morning, Gowan said news reports “have created the false impression that I knowingly requested some $12,000 in reimbursements to which I was not entitled.”

“The media continues to portray my actions as improper — even to the point of stating that I have committed a Class 2 misdemeanor,” he said. And Gowan said a threat by a private attorney to seek an investigation never materialized.

“Meanwhile, the citizens of Arizona are left to wonder what the truth is,” Gowan wrote to Brnovich. “I urge you to investigate and provide them with an answer.”

Mia Garcia, spokeswoman for Brnovich, said the request is being turned over to the agency’s criminal division. She said that follows standard procedures when complaints are received.

But Garcia said that everyone — including Gowan — needs to understand that if her agency does delve into the expenses, that won’t necessarily lead to a finding that he did nothing wrong. She said what happens will depend on what investigators find.

“If that’s where it leads us, I think you know that Attorney General Brnovich isn’t afraid to take on politically charged investigations,” she said.

Tom Ryan, the private attorney who has raised the issue, said he’s confident that Brnovich and his staff will do a thorough investigation.

But Ryan said Gowan’s request does not go far enough.

He said Brnovich also needs to investigate whether Gowan was engaged in his bid to become the Republican nominee for Congressional District 1 while using state vehicles and being driven around by a state employee. Ryan also said that House staff have been on trips where Gowan was seeking campaigning.

“Let’s make it complete,” he said.

Stephanie Grisham, Gowan’s House press aide, said her boss believes that Brnovich should investigate any and all allegations.

Grisham, one of the staffers who Ryan said has been helping Gowan’s congressional bid, said he did nothing improper. She said he was traveling around the state in his official duties as the speaker.

Ryan called it “a frolick and detour.”

“He wasn’t down in Nogales, he wasn’t over in Yuma, he wasn’t up in Parker,” he said. “Every city he went to was in CD 1.”

Ryan said Gowan, who lives in Sierra Vista — which is not in CD 1 — was talking about his congressional campaign.

“That’s not state business,” he said. “If he’s out there conducting a campaign (using state resources), he’s violating state law.”

Grisham did not dispute that her boss might have said something about the race.

“You cannot separate the office from the man,” she said.

“If he’s there as speaker and he’s speaking on the budget or anything legislative, and they ask him a question (about the race), he can answer it,” Grisham said. “It’s not campaigning.”

But the evidence, much of it unearthed by the Arizona Capitol Times, shows it’s not quite that clear.

For example, Gowan was driven to Flagstaff in a state vehicle last October with the stated purpose of meeting with local leaders.

But Gowan sent out a tweet that day with a picture of him at a table with others, saying he was in Flagstaff “listening to voters and talking about my vision to make DC accountable.” And it ended with the hashtag #AZ01.

He also was on the radio discussing his congressional campaign.

Gowan, in his letter to Brnovich, said he ordered his own internal review after the Capitol Times first reported on his travels in January.

“I was surprised and embarrassed to learn that errors in reporting and lapses of communication resulted in a total of $12,066 in over-reimbursements over the course of the year,” Gowan said. “I promptly repaid that amount in full with personal funds.”

He called them “errors and nothing more,” saying there was no “nefarious intent, despite the cynicism that pervades some of the newspaper accounts.”

In his letter to Brnovich, Gowan promised “unfettered but confidential” access to any records, saying he has instructed House members and staffers “to cooperate fully and to divulge personal knowledge of relevant facts.” But Gowan refused to comment further or explain why he believes the records he will make available are confidential.

In January, after a report in the Capitol Times, Gowan repaid the state more than $12,000 for mileage reimbursement he claimed for trips he took in state vehicles.  The Arizona House of Representatives created a new travel policy after the Capitol Times story.

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One comment

  1. “… I think you know that Attorney General Brnovich isn’t afraid to take on politically charged investigations,” she said.

    Very funny, and not accurate.

    The AG has a shameful history of a limp and lazy approach when it comes to government corruption and crime.

    Some examples:

    ACC commissioner Bob Stump is still not charged with destruction of state property after he freely admitted to throwing away his state-issued phone (which many feel was done to hide evidence). I have brought this fact to the AG’s attention many times but he does not seem to care. Dear Reader, you try destroying any state property, admitting it in the newspaper, and see what happens to you.

    No search warrants or subpoenas were issued in the ACC whistleblower “investigation” that’s gone exactly nowhere in a year’s time. The ACC and former commissioner Pierce’s house should have been sealed off with yellow crime scene tape as computers and files (and yes, state-issued phones) were hauled out for examination. And again, why no charges brought against then Chairman Stump for sitting on the whistleblower’s complaint for six months and not doing a thing about it? Surely that’s got to be against some law(s), like at least facilitation of a crime. Oh wait, if there’s no crime then there’s no facilitation. Best not find a crime then. Here’s an easy prediction: That “investigation” ain’t going nowhere and everyone gets off. By the way, because Brnovich’s election campaign got $425K from APS parent company Pinnacle West, Brnovich recused himself from the investigation and handed it over to his two top assistants, John Lopez and Don Conrad. But guess what? Lopez gave $450 to Brnovich’s campaign and Conrad gave $200. It’s the “Brno Brothers!” Does anyone doubt to whom they are loyal? Does anyone think the Brno Brothers “investigation” would be any different than if Brnovich himself was running it?

    The AG found “no criminal wrongdoing” in my complaint that the ACC secreted public records from me despite the solid proof I provided. Regarding the emails that I caught the ACC withholding from me, one person I spoke with at the AG office actually had the gall to tell me there was no criminal pattern. Hello? Giving the ACC three chances to get it right and getting stonewalled each time isn’t a pattern? Besides, there’s nothing in the law about a pattern. The law only has to be violated once, not repeatedly. Thanks to Brnovich, there are people walking free at the ACC right now who should be in jail for committing felony public records law offenses. Nothing like friends in high places, “professional courtesy” and an AG asleep on the job.

    What’s up with unpaid private citizens having to file the complaints to get rid of usurpers at the ACC anyway? Brnovich gets paid $90K/yr. to supposedly work for us. He also has more lawyers working for him than any law firm in the state. Under the law, he doesn’t have to wait for a citizen to file a complaint to get rid of an ACC usurper; he can do it himself. Unless Brnovich doesn’t follow the news, he got the same information that unpaid private citizen Tom Ryan did. Yet it was Ryan who filed the complaint against ACC commissioner/lobbyist Susan Smith. Ryan handed Brnovich the entire case against Smith on a platter, and it still took Brnovich 3 months to finally get it together to petition the AZ Supreme Court for her removal. Brnovich never did file criminal charges against her.

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