Arizona threatens to sue Mecham over missing protocol fund

March 26, 1988

By TAMARA JONES
Los Angeles Times

Ousted Gov. Evan Mecham says he won’t relinquish the $92,000 governor’s protocol fund despite a lawsuit the state threatened to file if he didn’t do so by Wednesday afternoon.

State Attorney General Bob Corbin demanded the money in a strongly worded letter released Tuesday.Asked in an interview if the money would be turned over, Mecham said: “Nope. Why should it be? It isn’t his (Corbin’s). It isn’t the state’s.”

Mecham said the money was still “safely in the bank” and that he planned to handle it properly, although he would not give details.

“He (Corbin) would have tried to confiscate it long ago if he thought he could,” Mecham said.

Corbin, in a letter to former top Mecham aides Jim Colter and Edith Richardson, asked them to surrender the money by 5 p.m. Wednesday. If they don’t, he said, “I will direct the commencement of all appropriate actions against each and both of you.”

Gubernatorial spokesman Vada Manager said Gov. Rose Mofford planned to ask Corbin to file a lawsuit if the money is not returned. “State funds rightfully ought to revert to the state,” Manager said.

Mecham was convicted in his Senate impeachment trial April 4 of misusing $80,000 from the governor’s protocol fund by loaning it to his auto dealership. During the trial, Mecham aides testified that the protocol fund — created with receipts from the January 1987 inaugural ball — totaled $92,000 and was being kept in a Valley National Bank account.

Mecham also was convicted by the Senate of trying to thwart an investigation of an alleged death threat. The former governor faces a May 19 criminal trial on charges of concealing a $350,000 campaign loan.

During the Senate trial, Mecham’s defense contended the protocol fund was not state money and that it was loaned to Mecham Pontiac in an effort to get a higher rate of interest for the protocol fund.