Grand Jury Isn’t Finished With Arizona Governor

January 12, 1988

New York Times

The state grand jury that has indicted Gov. Evan Mecham on six felony counts will take a few weeks off but has not concluded its investigation of him, Attorney General Bob Corbin said today.

Mr. Mecham, who has maintained his innocence, prepared to open the 1988 Legislature with a State of the State address on Monday that his press aide, Ken Smith, said would not mention the indictment.

Mr. Corbin declined to say what matters would be taken to the grand jury when it reconvenes. But his investigators are known to be looking at whether Mr. Mecham violated laws by lending money from a protocol fund to his automobile dealership and by telling state police bodyguards not to report an alleged threat against a former aide who had testified before the grand jury.

The grand jury indicted Mr. Mecham Friday on six charges of willful concealment, perjury and filing a false contributions report. The counts center on a $350,000 campaign loan from a Tempe developer, Barry Wolfson.

Funds for Inaugural Ball

The protocol fund was established after lawyers determined that money raised from corporations to help pay for Mr. Mecham’s inaugural ball last year could not be used to help retire his campaign debt.

The Governor’s dealership, Mecham Pontiac, put up real estate as security and borrowed $80,000 from the fund, then repaid the money with interest, according to Mecham aides who say the money is privately held.

The allegations of a threat, according to state police officials, stem from a discussion between Lee Watkins, who heads Mr. Mecham’s prison-construction unit, and Edith Richardson, then a special assistant to Mr. Mecham.

According to the officials, Ms. Richardson reported that Mr. Watkins had said that a former lobbyist for Mr. Mecham, Donna Carlson, might be in danger over her grand jury testimony about the Wolfson loan. Mr. Mecham then told his bodyguards that he would take care of the matter and that they should not report it.

Mr. Mecham, who took office a year ago, also faces an impeachment inquiry in the State House of Representatives and a campaign to remove him from office that is likely to force an election this year.