Ethics committee picks former Brewer aide to lead Stringer probe

Joe Kanefield
Joe Kanefield

The House Ethics Committee has retained the law firm Ballard Spahr to handle the ethics investigation against Rep. David Stringer.

Attorney Joe Kanefield will lead the Ballard Spahr team, according to a press release announcing Ethics Chairman Rep. T.J. Shope’s decision on Monday.

Kanefield is the head of the firm’s politics and election law arm, and served as general counsel to former Gov. Jan Brewer, state elections director and in-house counsel to the secretary of state and as assistant attorney general among other posts.

Kanefield did not immediately return a call for comment.

Reps. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, and Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, have filed separate ethics complaints against Stringer, R-Prescott. The complaints target recorded comments Stringer made twice last year on race and immigration and multiple sex offense charges he faced in the ‘80s as reported by the Phoenix New Times.

Shope has urged anyone with additional relevant information to come forward to the committee, which may still widen the scope of the investigation if necessary.

Stringer will have an opportunity to provide his own comments to the committee regarding the allegations. He has so far ignored repeated calls for his resignation and has not returned multiple requests for comment on the investigation.

Second ethics complaint filed against Stringer

Rep. David Stringer (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)
Rep. David Stringer (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

Democrat Rep. Reginald Bolding is bringing his own House ethics complaint against Rep. David Stringer and dropping his push for an immediate vote to expel his Republican colleague.    

Bolding, D-Laveen, moved for a vote to expel Stringer, R-Prescott, on Jan. 28, an effort that failed as House Republicans opted instead for an investigation by the House Ethics Committee before determining how to move forward.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, filed the first ethics complaint the same day Bolding made his motion, asking that the “egregious” charges against Stringer be explored.

While Townsend’s complaint focuses on the most recent allegations against Stringer reported by the Phoenix New Times, Bolding added emphasis to racially charged comments Stringer made on at least two occasions last year.

“His conduct undermines the public’s confidence in this institution and violates the order and decorum necessary to complete the people’s work in this state,” he wrote.

The New Times story, based on a court records, alleged Stringer was indicted in 1983 on multiple sex offenses, including child pornography.

Stringer acknowledged to Capitol Media Services that he accepted a plea bargain in which

prosecutors offered him something called “probation before judgment” on two misdemeanors. That is not a conviction, with the records expunged after the probationary period ended.

Bolding said he filed his own complaint because his is very different from Townsend’s in what the two direct the committee to look in to, broadening the scope of the ethics investigation.

“If you ask 59 members here what issues they should bring up with regard to Rep. Stringer, you’d get 59 different complaints, 59 different issues to highlight and focus on,” he said.

But Bolding’s motion to expel is still on the table.

He told reporters that he intends to hold his motion until the investigation is completed and the committee makes its recommendations, and that Democrats and Republicans alike have said they will move forward with expulsion if the allegations against Stringer are true.

But Bolding could bring the motion back sooner than the investigation can be completed. If he finds that the investigation is just wasting time, he said he may move forward.

State Bar closes Stringer investigation without misconduct finding

Rep. David Stringer (Capitol Media Services 2017 file photo by Howard Fischer)
Rep. David Stringer (Capitol Media Services 2017 file photo by Howard Fischer)

The Arizona State Bar has dismissed its investigation into Rep. David Stringer.

The Bar had opened an investigation regarding his application to practice law, in which he was required to disclose any convictions to the state Supreme Court’s Committee on Character and Fitness.

The move followed a Phoenix New Times report revealed he had been charged with multiple sex offenses, including child pornography, in 1983. The Bar sought to determine whether Stringer made all appropriate disclosures of that criminal matter before he was admitted in 2004.

The District of Columbia Disciplinary Counsel in the 1980s dismissed a review of Stringer’s record following his arrest and took no action against him.

In a letter sent today to Stringer’s attorney Carmen Chenal, Bar counsel Matthew McGregor said there’s no evidence that Stringer didn’t disclose his decades old legal troubles with the Arizona State Bar when he moved here.

As part of the investigation, Stringer said he made all the appropriate disclosures about his past when he became a member in Arizona. Stringer also said during that interview that when he was arrested in 1983, he was licensed to practice law in Washington, D.C. But following the arrest the Washington, D.C. disciplinary council reviewed his case, took no action and dismissed the case in early 1984.

“At this time there does not appear to be clear and convincing evidence or that such evidence could be developed to support the allegation that Representative Stringer failed to make the required and appropriate disclosures in seeking admission to the State Bar of Arizona,” according to the letter sent to Stringer’s attorney.

Stringer told Capitol Media Services on Jan. 25 he was never convicted of a crime. Stringer acknowledged that he accepted a plea bargain in which prosecutors offered him something called “probation before judgment” on two misdemeanors.

Through the course of the Bar’s investigation, Stringer was granted a protective order that allowed a letter of dismissal from the D.C. Bar related to its investigation to be disclosed to the Arizona Bar but kept sealed from the public.

In Chenal’s request for the order, she argued the letter was in connection to a sealed investigation and contained “sensitive personal matters” that should be kept from all government agencies, public and private media, business entities, private individuals and the general public.

“Disclosure of information in the letter could be used by political opponents to impugn [Stringer’s] reputation and character, harm him politically, or influence the outcome of an election, causing irreparable harm to [Stringer], his constituents, and the governance of the State of Arizona,” Chenal wrote in her request.