Acting governor’s chief aide advised impeachment witness

March 15, 1988

By LARRY LOPEZ
Associated Press

PHOENIX, Ariz. — A chief accuser of impeached Gov. Evan Mecham got legal advice on how to deal with Mecham from the lawyer who has become acting Gov. Rose Mofford’s chief of staff.

Andrew Hurwitz, who also served as chief of staff during part of Bruce Babbitt’s governorship, confirmed Monday that he provided legal advice to Department of Public Safety Director Ralph T. Milstead for reduced fees.

The attorney-client relationship with Milstead is not disclosed on Hurwitz’s conflict-of-interest forms but he confirmed it after The Associated Press learned of it.

“I just don’t see that it was necessary,” he said. “There certainly is no personal interest here. I don’t gain or lose anything at all.

“Am I a longstanding friend of Ralph Milstead? That’s pretty clear,” he added. “The fact that I like him I don’t think is a big issue.”

Milstead testified at Mecham’s impeachment trial that the governor ordered him not to cooperate with a state attorney general’s inquiry into an alleged death threat. Defense lawyers subsequently accused Milstead of denying Mecham a fair trial by attempting to intimidate defense witnesses.

Mecham, a Republican, wrote a letter Monday to Mrs. Mofford, a Democrat, demanding that Milstead and two assistants be placed on leave. Hurwitz, who supervises Milstead’s department for Mofford, said the three would not be placed on leave pending an FBI investigation and another inquiry he is supervising.

Hurwitz, a private attorney on loan to Mrs. Mofford by his firm, acknowledged it might be inappropriate for him to continue supervising the internal investigation.

Mrs. Mofford, elected as secretary of state, became acting governor when the House impeached Mecham and will become the permanent governor if the Senate convicts him or if she wins a multi-candidate May 17 recall election against Mecham.

Hurwitz, who only last Friday said that full disclosure of potential conflicts was vital for public confidence, acknowledged that publicity about his relationship with Milstead could harm Mrs. Mofford politically.

Hurwitz said Milstead came to him and law partner Jack LaSota after Mecham was elected in 1986.

Mecham was widely thought to be thinking of trying to fire Milstead despite the state police chief’s four-year contract, and Milstead “called us up and sought some legal advice,” Hurwitz said.

He declined to elaborate, citing attorney-client privilege, but said he believed that the bill, discounted to “something like half-rates” because Milstead was a friend, came to less than $2,000 and probably less than $1,000.

Hurwitz said he had not done any work for Milstead in about six months, adding “I don’t represent him now.” Hurwitz said he stopped advising Milstead before the events occurred that are at issue in the impeachment trial.

But LaSota said in a separate interview he considered the relationship to be ongoing.