Chronology of Mecham’s term in office

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The Mecham term: A chronology of the administration
from inauguration to impeachment.

Compiled by The Arizona Republic

Published February 6, 1988

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Evan Mecham is sworn into office.

JANUARY 1987

Jan. 5: Mecham take the oath office, heralding a “new beginning” for Arizona.

Jan. 5: Mecham’s inaugural ball, underwritten by some prominent Arizona firms, raises $90,000 to pay Mecham’s campaign debt.

Jan. 6: The governor’s office announces the state’s consumer advocate, Susan Williams, has been asked to remain through spring. Three days later, she is replaced by Ted Humes.

Jan. 7: In an unprecedented move, Mecham rejects three nominees to the state Supreme Court, saying they do not “represent what I would hope to get as far as a judicial attitude on the bench.” After sharp exchanges with Chief Justice Frank X. Gordon Jr., Mecham picks one of the three, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James M. Moeller, a Republican.

Jan. 8: Mecham appoints his chief fund raiser, Ralph Watkins Jr., to the Board of Regents. In March, Dale Gaggard, Watkins’ son-in-law, is hired to be in charge of state buildings.

Jan. 9: Attorney General Bob Corbin launches an investigation into how money was raised during Mecham’s inauguration.

Jan. 12: Mecham rescinds the state holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying the issue should be put on the ballot.

Jan. 26: Mecham signs a bill cutting $157 million to balance the current year’s state budget.

Jan. 27: The governor unveils a $2.35 billion budget for 1987-88, calling for a 1 percent sales tax cut. The proposal, a Mecham campaign pledge, draws hows of outrage from lawmakers who believe it would be impossible to cut $300 million from the budget without hurting state programs.

FEBRUARY

Feb. 2: Mecham files a personal financial disclosure statement but fails to list some property he owns, and at least one personal loan he has acknowledged taking our during the campaign.

Feb. 11: Mecham calls for a special drug task force of 200 officers as well as a partial dismantling of the Department of Public Safety.

Feb. 12: The governor angers gays by labeling homosexuality an “unacceptable lifestyle.”

Feb. 16: Demonstrators converge on the The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette, protesting what they see as unfair coverage of the governor. “The jackals out to destroy the governor,” one placard proclaims.

Pro-Mecham protesters take their message to the offices of Phoenix Newspapers Inc.

Pro-Mecham protesters take their message to the offices of Phoenix Newspapers Inc.

Feb. 24: Mecham persuades the nation’s governors to support repeal of the 55-mph speed limit.

Feb. 25: The governor’s education liaison, former state Rep. Jim Cooper, tells a legislative committee that if parents tell their child the Earth is flat, a teacher should not try to convince them otherwise.

MARCH

March 3: The Mecham Watchdog Committee announces it will begin circulating petitions to recall Mecham in early July. Ed Buck is the driving force behind the group.

March 3: Mecham declares Phoenix Gazette columnist John Kolbe a “non-person” for his criticism of the Mecham administration and is banned from future news conferences.

March 24: The governor brings a new awareness to an old label for black children, “pickaninny,” when he defends a book that uses the term.

APRIL

April 3: Mecham abandons his campaign promise to repeal the 1 percent sales tax, vowing to renew the drive next year.

April 15: The appointment of Alberto Rodriguez, the controversial state liquor superintendent under investigation in a 1955 Mexican national’s slaying, is withdrawn. A judge later rules the state has no jurisdiction in the case because the death occurred in Mexico.

April 24: Bob Corbin advises Mecham that the proceeds from his inaugural ball may not be used to pay off campaign debts. Meeham’s campaign in July channels the money into a state protocol fund, to be used for the good of the state.

MAY

May 1: The Republic reports that Mecham has failed to make payments on a building he is buying in Tacoma, Wash., and has been served with a notice of default. Mecham eventually makes a $20,000 payment through Mecham Pontiac after borrowing $80,000 from the state protocol fund.

May 12: The governor asks for $1.5 million to study waste and inefficieney in government. Mecham says he plans to prove that enough waste could be cut in order to justify cutting the sales tax.

JUNE

June 6: Mecham claims recall organizer Buck’s homosexuality will not be an issue in a recall.

June 18: The governor declares a non-paid Sunday holiday in honor of King, the third Sunday in January.

JULY

July 6: The Mecham Recall Committee launches its drive to recall Mecham as virtually every political pundit predicts it will fail dismally.

July 6: Responding to the cancellation of Phoenix as the National Basketball Association’s site for its annual meeting, a protest against Mecham’s cancellation of the state’s King holiday, Mecham says, “I guess they forget how many white people they get coming to watch them play.”

July 21: Eleven House Republicans denounce recent actions by Mecham and state GOP Chairman Burt Kruglick, saying they have alienated mainstream party members. Lawmakers said they were “outraged” by Kruglick’s characterization of leaders of the Mecham recall movement as “homosexual agitators”.

July 21: Mecham denies reports that he would withdraw support from Arizona’s bid to lure the federal super-collider project to the state unless his friend, Fred Craft, is hired as a lobbyist.

The governor listens during a radio talk show on KTAR (620 AM).

The governor listens during a radio talk show on KTAR (620 AM).

AUGUST

Aug. 2: Mecham says he does not believe the First Amendment gives homosexuals the right to have a club at Arizona State University.

SEPTEMBER

Sept. 8: Halfway through the four-month recall drive, Mecham backers send out a pro-Mecham tabloid to 900,000 Arizona voters, stressing his accomplishments, which, he said, the state’s media were ignoring.

Sept. 30: Conflcting stories abound about a letter sent by Mecham supporters to 25,000 people nationwide imploring conservatives to “sell your house, pack your belongings, quit your job and come to the most beautiful state in the nation,” to help fight “the militant liberals and the homosexual lobby.” Mecham denies signing the letter, which bears the stamp of his signature machine, because “it isn’t like I’d say it,” and halts the mailing of an additional 20,000 letters.

OCTOBER

Oct. 6: Leaders of the Pima County Democratic Party become the first party officials to formally call for Mecham’s resignation.

Oct. 9: The governor signs an agreement promoting trade with Taiwan and opens the first trade office by a U.S. state in Taiwan.

Oct. 12: A Phoenix television station reports that a fund-raising letter prepared by Mecham aide Sam Steiger is a fraud. The letter, which bore a signature attributed to retired Army General John Singlaub, blames the recall on “lesbians, militant homosexuals, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Communist Party.” Mecham officials are “appalled.” Steiger refuses comment.

Oct. 17: In a first, more than half of those asked in a statewide poll say Mecham should be recalled.

Oct. 16: Steiger is charged with extortion after allegedly threatening Ron Johnson, assistant director of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles and a part-time justice of the peace, with the loss of his job if he voted to ask for the resignation of the board’s Executive Director Patricia Costello.

Oct. 21: The Republic reports Mecham failed to disclose a $350,000 loan from Tempe attorney and developer Barry Wolfson despite state laws requiring such disclosure.

Oct. 22: Corbin confirms he is investigating the Wolfson loan. The $250,000 balance still owed, much of which is guaranteed by Mecham aides and allies, comes due Nov. 1.

Oct. 25: The word “impeachment” begins to be heard at the capitol as House Speaker Joe Lane announces plans to hire an attorney to investigate Mecham. Former Maricopa County Superior Court Judge William P. French is hired the following day.

Oct. 27: Mecham, calling Corbin’s involvement a “clear conflict,” asks the attorney general to turn his state grand jury investigation of Mecham over to another agency and to allow him to hire a defense attorney at state expense. Both requests are denied.

NOVEMBER

Nov. 1: Mecham fails to meet the deadline to repay the Wolfson loan.

Nov. 2: Mecham confirms that he plans to sell some of his assets to pay off the Wolfson loan. Earlier, Mecham had said that he had not personally borrowed any money from Wolfson and, thus, would not repay it. He later explains that he meant his campaign had taken out the loan for him. The loan finally is paid Dec. 4 with a check from his campaign account.

Nov. 2: Recall workers march on the Capitol to present 388,988 signatures on recall petitions. The petitions were delivered to Secretary of State Rose Mofford earlier after recall officials had received death threats and bomb threats.

Recall leaders Ed Buck and Naomi Howard deliver petitions.

Nov. 9: Steiger and Mecham aide Edith Richardson take leave without pay from the governor’s administration, further depleting the original inner circle of aides. Steiger’s reasons involve his court case, while Richardson becomes coordinator of the anti-recall effort.

Nov. 13: Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Thomas O’Toole removes himself from the grand jury investigation of Mecham after disclosing that he signed a recall petition months earlier.

Nov. 16: Former Mecham legislative liaison Donna Carlson, a key witness in the grand jury probe of Mecham, is offered DPS protection — several days after Mecham aide Lee Watkins allegedly threatens her life.

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Nov. 16: Mecham says in a television interview that he knows little about the alleged death threat. He also claims that “never in my life before have I been accused of anything more than a traffic ticket.” He labels his failure to report a $350,000 loan from Barry Wolfson an “honest mistake.”

Nov. 19: The governor’s supporters vow to verify every recall petition signature.

Nov. 20: Mecham appears on ABC’s Nightline and points a finger at the Arizona media as the real evil that plagues his administration.

Nov. 21: $15,000 is raised by Mecham supporters at a Mesa fund-raising picnic to finance photocopies of the recall petitions, which number more than 33.000.

DECEMBER

Dec. 1: Mecham fails to pay $236,000 in political and business debts due on Dec. 1, according to Wolfson and Thomas Sturgeon, Mecham’s business partner in Tacoma.

Dec. 4: Mecham pays off the Wolfson loan, but refuses to reveal the source of the payment.

Dec. 15: In a letter to House Speaker Lane, Mecham attorney Murray Miller claims bias among legislators whose “very bone marrow is infused with hatred” for Mecham.

Dec. 18: Mecham’s bank records are subpoenaed by the House special counsel. Mecham’s legal counsel denounces the action as “an unbridled abuse of governmental power.”

JANUARY 1988

Jan. 6: Mecham and brother Willard are called before a state grand jury.

Jan. 8: The governor is indicted on six felony counts charging that he intentionally hid the Wolfson loan. Willard Mecham, the governor’s campaign treasurer in 1986, is indicted on three counts.

Jan. 9: Mecham lashes out at Corbin and brands the indictments “a mockery and miscarriage of justice.” He reiterates that “resignation is not an option.”

Jan. 11: In a session covered by the nation’s media, the embattled governor in his State of the State speech vows to work with lawmakers and assures lawmakers “that state government is functioning and is functioning well.”

Jan. 14: On the eve of French’s report to the House, Mecham writes a letter apologizing “for any of my actions or mistakes which may have sparked embarrassing publicity for our state. I have been well-intentioned, but I now know that I may have been the cause of legitimate concerns.”

Jan. 15: In an unprecedented session, French tells the House his three-month probe of Mecham has produced evidence that Mecham committed felonies and malfeasance in office. The evidence, he said, “sometimes, in vernacular, is referred to as “the smoking gun.”

Jan. 16: The four GOP members of Arizona’s five-member congressional delegation call on Mecham to resign, saying the governor’s problems are close
to paralyzing the state.

Jan. 16: Miller delivers what many lawmakers called a theatrical rebuttal to the French report. He fires a toy pistol that unfurls a flat that says “Bang,” ridiculing French’s “smoking gun.”

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Jan. 19: The House adopts rules for the impeachment hearings.

Jan. 21: Mecham says he has “intercepted” a laser beam trained on his office and other eavesdropping devices.

Jan. 22: Evan and Willard Mecham both plead not guilty in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Jan. 25: Mofford certifies 301,032 Mecham recall-petition signatures.

Jan. 26: Mofford notifies Mecham that he has until Jan. 30 to resign or face a recall election.

Jan. 28: Three weeks after vowing not to raise taxes, Mecham unveils a series of “tax-equity proposals” aimed at raising $93.9 million to help balance the state budget for 1988-89.

Jan. 28: Former U.S. Rep. John Rhodes says the state is “in a period of near crisis” and announces formation of an exploratory campaign committee.

Jan. 30: Mecham, declaring, “I have broken no laws,” vows to fight to remain governor in the recall election.

FEBRUARY

Feb. 1: Mofford sets May 17 as the date of the recall election.

Feb. 5: The House votes to impeach Mecham.


Compiled by Virginia Dittrich of The Arizona Republic from staff reports.