Supes set date for Petersen to appeal suspension, order investigation

This undated booking photo provided by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office shows County Assessor Paul Petersen, who has been indicted in an adoption fraud case. Photo courtesy Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

After spending three hours in executive session with lawyers, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to give Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen a date to appeal his suspension and requested the county attorney investigate Petersen’s performance. 

The appeal will be heard Dec. 11. 

Petersen is currently facing state and federal charges over his adoption business which is still being investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and involves three states. 

Late last month, the board voted to suspend Petersen for 120 days, referencing an audit conducted of his computer which showed only 5% of files on his computer related to his official duties. 

Last week, Petersen’s attorney, Kory Langhofer, filed a letter requesting the appeal and a multitude of similar records on the board itself, other Maricopa County politicians and other county employees. 

The board voted to set the date for the appeal with no further discussion. 

Immediately following that vote, the board voted to have Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel conduct an investigation into Petersen. 

The law authorizing the supervisors to request an investigation into the assessor says that “county attorney shall provide a written notice and report of findings, including a statement of charges, to the assessor… and the board.” 

After the short public meeting, Board Chairman Bill Gates told reporters that he anticipates the investigation will be done before the Dec. 11 hearing, and stressed that it is not a criminal investigation but an investigation into Petersen’s “neglect of duty.” 

“We will turn over all the records they are entitled to,” Gates said of Langhofer’s request letter that included requests for things such as copies of the hard drives of all computers, cell phones and other county devices issued to the supervisors, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone and Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel. 

Gates said he was unsure if the Board will be able to make a decision on Dec. 11 about Petersen’s appeal. 

Petersen, who has pleaded not guilty to 32 felony charges in Maricopa County Superior Court, has pleaded not guilty. He is also facing federal charges, and faces up to 315 years in prison if he is convicted of those.