New effort to oust Corbin; judge removes self

November 14, 1987

By LAURIE ASSEO
Associated Press

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) — Embattled Gov. Evan Mecham has launched another attempt to have Attorney General Bob Corbin removed from the investigation of an allegedly unreported $350,000 campaign loan.

Mecham’s attorneys filed court papers on Friday accusing the attorney general’s office of “chicanery and trickery” in its handling of the probe.

Meanwhile, Superior Court Judge Thomas O’Toole disqualified himself from the case Friday, saying he had signed a Mecham recall petition a few months ago. O’Toole said he wanted to avoid any appearance of bias or impropriety.

The attorney general is investigating a campaign loan from Tempe developer Barry Wolfson that is not listed on Mecham’s campaign or personal finance reports, despite state law requiring disclosure of loans of $1,000 or more.

Mecham, who is also the target of a drive, begun last year, to recall him from office, has said the loan was reported but has declined to specify how or where.

In court papers Friday, Mecham attorney Murray Miller accused Chief Assistant Attorney General Steve Twist of falsely characterizing the loan as secret “to inflame and prejudice the public and the grand jury.”

Miller also alleged that Corbin or his office gave the governor specific advice on the loan and on Mecham’s campaign finance reports, disqualifying the attorney general from leading the investigation.

“I definitely have an unequivocal response to make,” Twist said, “but we are going to make our response in the courtroom.”

Judge Michael Ryan, who was assigned to the case after O’Toole stepped down, set a hearing on the allegations for Monday morning, but did not block the grand jury proceedings also scheduled to begin then.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Corbin could be removed only if Mecham proved he gave the governor advice and represented him on the loan matter. The court said Mecham has not provided such proof.

Mecham spokesman Ken Smith said Friday the governor wold go on live television next week “to fully explain with charts, graphs, blowups, arrows, Xeroxes of receipts, canceled checks, whatever, showing that in fact there may have been errors in the filings of all this.”

O’Toole had been scheduled to hear a request Friday to void subpoenas issued to people – including former gubernatorial chief of staff Jim Colter and the governor’s brothers – to testify before the grand jury. Ryan will consider the matter Monday.

O’Toole two weeks ago refused a request by the governor to disqualify Corbin, saying such a motion was premature because no indictment has been issued.