Investigators: Petersen Didn't Neglect Duties, But Still Broke County Rules

By Scott Bourque, Steve Goldstein, Mark Brodie
Published: Friday, December 6, 2019 - 12:34pm
Updated: Friday, December 6, 2019 - 1:16pm

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Paul Petersen
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
Paul Petersen

A report released by investigators found no evidence that embattled Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen neglected his duties. But the County Board of Supervisors believes Petersen’s suspension is justified based on the report, which accuses Petersen of misusing county resources for criminal activities.

Investigators spoke with every member of the Assessor’s Office leadership team and found no grounds to suspend Petersen for neglect of duty.

“The County Assessor’s Office, under Mr. Petersen’s leadership, has reportedly not missed any statutory deadlines or otherwise failed to meet its obligations,” the investigation report said. “Our investigation did not uncover any evidence that the Office has not complied with its statutory duties.”

However, the report alleges Petersen violated the county’s policies on computer use. An assessment conducted after his arrest found Petersen’s county-issued desktop computer had a “substantial” number of documents unrelated to county business and specifically related to his personal adoption business.

Since Petersen is an elected official, he can’t be disciplined the same way a regular county employee could be. Under state law, elected county officers must be indicted, tried and convicted of a felony to be removed from office.

Petersen is appealing his suspension and has a hearing scheduled for Dec. 11.

“If the information exonerated Mr. Petersen, the Board of Supervisors would cancel the hearing,” said Fields Moseley, a spokesperson for Maricopa County, in a statement. “That is not the case.”

The Board of Supervisors justified Petersen’s suspension based on his 20 days spent in federal custody and subsequent inability to lead the office, as well as using his county computer to conduct unofficial business during work hours.

“Mr. Petersen was calling adoption agencies and OBGYN offices on taxpayer time ... he was storing sensitive, highly personal ultrasound images and medical records on his County computer without encryption or even the most rudimentary safeguards for the privacy of these sensitive materials; and that his computer also included documents and wire transfers associated with individuals identified in the Arizona and Utah criminal indictments, including his co-defendant,” Moseley’s statement said.

To talk about what the report could mean, The Show reached out to Dillon Rosenblatt, who obtained the report for the Arizona Capitol Times Thursday night.

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