Lawmakers suggest Mecham resign after indictment

January 9, 1988

By LARRY LOPEZ
Associated Press

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) — Opponents and some supporters of Gov. Evan Mecham urged that he consider stepping aside while he responds to his indictment on charges of fraud, perjury and filing a false campaign finance report.

Mecham, a Republican, did not comment directly after a state grand jury indicted him on six felony counts Friday, but was quoted as saying that he had no intention of resigning.

Mecham expressed a “sense of relief because at least this formalizes some of this. … There’s no longer jousting at windmills,” press secretary Ken Smith said. “It was no surprise. He did not seem surprised.”

In the past, the governor has called his failure to report the $350,000 campaign loan from Tempe developer Barry Wolfson an “honest mistake” and blamed it on his brother and campaign treasurer, Willard Mecham, who also was indicted.

The Arizona House has already been considering whether to impeach the governor in connection with the loan.

House Minority Leader Art Hamilton, a Democrat, said Mecham “may very well have reached a point where he simply finds himself unable to govern” because of the time it will take to defend himself.

Another state House member, Republican Jim Hartdegen, called on the governor to resign, and Rep. Bobby Raymond, a Democrat, said it would be the “statesman like thing to do” for Mecham to consider resigning.

“I personally believe the best thing the governor could do for the state of Arizona is resign,” Hartdegen said.

Ed Buck, founder of a petition drive to force a recall election, said that Mecham should step down because “the state of Arizona certainly deserves better than this.”

“It’s time for Mecham to resign, way past time for him to resign,” said Buck. “We would like to see the quickest resolution possible, a resignation.”

Mecham and his brother were each charged with perjury, fraud and false filing in connection with a campaign-finance disclosure report that omitted the $350,000 Wolfson loan. Mecham also was charged with fraud and two counts of perjury in connection with the loan’s omission from two personal-finance disclosure statements filed with the secretary of state’s office.

The woman Mecham defeated for governor a year ago, Democrat Carolyn Warner, called it “a sad day for Mr. Mecham for his family, an equally sad day for all of Arizona.” She has already said she will run against Mecham if a recall election is held.

Wolfson said Friday, “I think certainly the governor is guilty – guilty of bad judgment and having incompetent people around him. But being guilty of perjury, willful concealment and filing false eports, I would say it’s highly unlikely.”