Two Arizona prosecutors fight over Gov. Katie Hobbs investigation amid conflict of interest concerns

"With the clear politicization of both Kris Mayes and Rachel Mitchell’s offices, neither should be tasked with the investigation and possible prosecution," Abe Hamadeh said.

Published: June 23, 2024 9:53pm

Two Arizona prosecutors are conducting independent investigations into Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) regarding an alleged pay-to-play scheme, with both accusing the other of having a conflict of interest.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) and Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell (R) are both investigating Hobbs for alleged criminal conduct, but each are telling the other prosecutor to stand down from their investigation because of potentially improper motivations.

Last Friday, Mayes opened a criminal probe into corruption allegations involving Hobbs and donations from a group home business.

Mayes notified the state legislature that she had received a criminal referral from a GOP lawmaker involving allegations with Sunshine Residential Homes.

“The Criminal Division of the Attorney General’s Office is statutorily authorized to investigate the allegations and offenses outlined in your letter. To that end, the Attorney General’s Office will be opening an investigation,” Mayes wrote.

Criminal Referral.pdf

The announcement came after The Arizona Republic reported that the group home business that cares for vulnerable children was approved for a 60% rate hike after it donated about $400,000 to Hobb’s inauguration and the state Democratic Party.

Sunshine requested the rate hike to address financial hardships amid the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, the newspaper reported.

State Sen. T.J. Shope (R) requested the probe following The Arizona Republic report. "I have to believe that they, at the very least, see the allegations the same way that I do, which is troubling at best and possibly worse," Shope said.

The senator referred the allegations to Mayes, Mitchell, and the state auditor general.

Hobbs’ office said in a statement regarding the probe, "Just like past investigations instigated by radical and partisan legislators, the administration will be cleared of wrongdoing.

"Governor Hobbs is a social worker who has been a champion for Arizona families and kids. It is outrageous to suggest her administration would not do what’s right for children in foster care."

As Mayes took up the investigation into Hobbs, she asked the Maricopa County attorney to stand down from investigating the same allegations. “It would not be appropriate or in the best interest of the state to conduct parallel investigations into the same matter,” the attorney general wrote.

However, while Mayes is investigating Hobbs, some Arizona House Republicans called for her impeachment just last month over her alleged abuse of power.

The Arizona House Committee on Executive Oversight, which was created by House Speaker Ben Toma in March, wrote a report last month on Mayes’ actions as attorney general and recommended that she be impeached.

“The Committee concludes that Attorney General Mayes has committed impeachable offenses,” wrote Rep. Jacqueline Parker (R), who chaired the committee. “The Committee recommends the House adopt a resolution impeaching Attorney General Mayes and appointing a board of managers to prosecute her at a Senate trial.

“Moreover, the House should carefully scrutinize all appropriations made to the Attorney General's Office, continue to exercise oversight over Attorney General Mayes' abuses of office, and consider legislation in the next legislative session to strengthen and clarify Arizona laws aimed at preventing further weaponization of the Attorney General's Office,” Parker continued.

The report concluded that “Mayes abused her power and committed malfeasance in office” by threatening “the Mohave County Board of Supervisors in November 2023 with personal criminal and civil penalties if they voted contrary to her unsolicited legal opinion.”

Mayes also allegedly “used the legal system to attack her political opponents by suing Cochise County and its Board of Supervisors and making irrelevant and inflammatory accusations against them,” according to the report.

The attorney general “issued a consumer alert filled with deception, fraud, and misrepresentations about Arizona organizations providing health care services to women” and used “public resources to attempt to influence an election and proposing action—filing a lawsuit or referring a measure to the ballot—the Attorney General does not have authority to take,” the report reads.

The attorney general’s office told the Arizona Mirror regarding the report, “The investigative report released today by the sham House ad hoc oversight committee isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

“This partisan stunt by far-right members of the Legislature makes a mockery of real legislative oversight. It is based on nothing more than political and policy disagreements that legislators like Rep. Jacqueline Parker have with Attorney General Mayes.”

“These comments from Rep. Parker are outrageous and absolutely unacceptable from a member of the Legislature,” the attorney general’s communications director added. “There is zero truth to her assertions.” 

In response to questions about the investigation of Hobbs and the House panel’s recommendation of Mayes’ impeachment, the attorney general’s office told Just the News on Friday regarding the investigation that it “does not comment on ongoing investigations.”

After Mayes told Mitchell to stand down on her investigation into Hobbs, the county attorney wrote a letter to the attorney general, telling her to recuse herself from the investigation.

"I want to be clear: This is not an accusation against you or the many fine employees in your office," Mitchell's letter reads, ABC15 Arizona reported. "We are in a time when people are increasingly distrustful of government. Your insistence on being the sole investigator in this matter will greatly contribute to people's district but also to their belief that nothing can change."

Mitchell also suggested that Mayes should end her investigation into Hobbs.

“I agree with you that two simultaneous investigations could have a negative impact,” Mitchell wrote, according to KTAR News. “Therefore, I am asking that you not complicate an already complex investigation by duplicating efforts.”

The Maricopa County attorney’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Just the News.

Last Sunday, when asked by local NBC News affiliate 12News if she would drop her investigation after Mitchell asked her to, Mayes said, “No, that’s ridiculous.”

Mayes added that she’s already started the investigation, saying, “There’s no reason for me to stand down. In fact, there are reasons for County Attorney Mitchell to stand down. It’s just a waste of taxpayer dollars, and one can only assume that this is a highly political decision on her part, made related to the fact that she’s got a primary coming up.”

While Mayes acknowledged that Mitchell also received a referral for the criminal investigation into Hobbs, she said that the Maricopa County attorney only represents one county, whereas the attorney general represents the entire state.

Abe Hamadeh, a Republican candidate for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, said that neither Mayes nor Mitchell should investigate Hobbs.

Hamadeh posted on X last Sunday, “The allegations of Katie Hobbs ‘bribe’ are serious enough to warrant an investigation. However, the public’s trust and confidence in the investigation should be of paramount concern. With the clear politicization of both Kris Mayes and Rachel Mitchell’s offices, neither should be tasked with the investigation and possible prosecution. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona should be put in charge in order to reassure any findings of the investigation’s conclusions.

“Katie Hobbs shouldn’t have withheld evidence in our election lawsuit. Rachel Mitchell shouldn’t have withheld evidence in our election lawsuit. Kris Mayes is an illegitimate Attorney General.”

Arizona State Rep. David Livingston (R) asked Mayes earlier this month to recuse herself from the investigation into Hobbs and let Mitchell and the state auditor general take over.

Regarding Mayes’ letter to Mitchell about standing down, Livingston wrote, “You either grossly misunderstand Arizona law or are making a desperate attempt to claim jurisdiction over the pay-to-play investigation to protect Governor Hobbs and/or the ADP. Either way, it is difficult to conclude that there is any ‘integrity’ left in the investigation you opened last week.”

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