Acting governor prepares to take charge, speaks with Mecham

February 7, 1988

By LAURIE ASSEO
Associated Press

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) — Acting Gov. Rose Mofford spoke by telephone with impeached Gov. Evan Mecham on Sunday and met with advisers to plan taking charge of the state.

Meanwhile, police in suburban Glendale said a shotgun blast was fired at Mecham’s house overnight Saturday and Mecham’s car dealership was heavily vandalized in a glass-breaking spree a few hours later. Police arrested a man in connection with the vandalism and were investigating his possible connection with the shooting.

Mrs. Mofford, the Democratic secretary of state, said she talked with Mecham only briefly, and that thus far neither of them had received official notification of the Mecham’s impeachment by an overwhelming House vote on Friday.

“I just talked to him and he was most cordial,” Mrs. Mofford said in a telephone interview from her home. “I just said that I think we should meet (after they receive official notice) and he agreed. I have his private number and he has mine.”

Mecham, a Republican, said Saturday he thought his impeachment by an overwhelming House vote Friday was a “political bush-whacking.”

“It’s a lynch-mob psychology,” he said. “I think the whole program was designed to drive me out of the office with resignation.”

Mecham’s Senate trial on the impeachment articles is expected to begin Feb. 22.

Mecham also faces a recall election May 17 and a March 9 criminal trial on charges of illegally concealing a $350,000 campaign loan, one of the three accusations that led to his impeachment.

Mecham, who has been in office slightly more than a year, also has come under fire for rescinding the state’s Martin Luther King holiday and for comments that have offended blacks, homosexuals, Jews, women and Japanese.

Mrs. Mofford planned to meet Monday with four former Arizona governors, Jack Williams, Raul Castro, Paul Fannin and Sam Goddard. Also, spokeswoman Athia Hardt said the acting governor was expected to meet with leading lawmakers soon and may address the Legislature on Tuesday.

The House is expected to vote Monday on specific articles of impeachment to back up the impeachment resolution that was approved 46-14 on Friday.

In the vandalism spree at Mecham Pontiac in suburban Glendale, 22 cars and three buildings were damaged, said Glendale Police spokesman Marshall Downen, adding that the damage estimate could go into six figures. Most of the damage involved broken glass, he said, but office supplies and equipment in one building also were extensively damaged.

Vernon Bradley Jordan, 21, the son of the dealership’s service manager, was arrested on three counts of burglary and one count each of criminal trespass and criminal damage, Downen said.

Downen said officials did not know the motive, and he declined to say whether Jordan made any statement when he was arrested at the scene. The governor’s son, Dennis, has operated the dealership since Mecham became governor.

Later, the state Department of Public Safety notified local police that officers making a routine patrol at Mecham’s house noticed damage from shotgun pellets over a bay window.

A 20-gauge shotgun was found in Jordan’s vehicle parked at the dealership, Downen said. He said another felony count, reckless endangerment, was being investigated against Jordan in connection with the shooting and tests were being run to determine how recently the gun had been fired.

Mecham apparently was home when the gun was fired, Downen said. However, he said, apparently neither Mecham nor his neighbors heard the blast.

Calls to Mecham’s home were not answered Sunday. Mecham spokesman Ken Smith said earlier he knew nothing about the vandalism, and he could not be reached later to comment on the shooting.

Mrs. Mofford met Sunday with members of her transition staff, including several former aides to former Gov. Bruce Babbitt, now a Democratic presidential candidate. Shenamed former Babbitt chief of staff Andrew Hurwitz to head her transition team, said spokeswoman Athia Hardt, who was Babbitt’s press secretary.

Former Senate Minority Leader Alfredo Gutierrez, a Democrat, said the team members were serving on a voluntary basis and viewed their roles as short- term.

Among the team’s immediate concerns is the need to cut more than $100 million from the state budget, Ms. Hardt said. Arizona by law must have a balanced budget and revenues have not kept pace with spending.

The articles of impeachment were being drawn up by House attorneys over the weekend and were to be presented to the five-member impeachment board of managers Monday. The board includes five House members who will oversee the prosecution effort in the Senate.

The articles will break down the three main allegations against Mecham: that he concealed the $350,000 campaign loan, misused $80,000 from the governor’s protocol fund by loaning it to his auto dealership and tried to thwart an investigation of an alleged death threat by a state official.

The Senate will approve rules and organize itself into an impeachment court Thursday, said Majority Leader Bob Usdane.