The chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors indicated on Friday that the board could move to suspend indicted county assessor Paul Petersen, who faces dozens of charges in conjunction with an allegedly illegal adoption ring involving women from the Marshall Islands.
Following a closed-door session on Friday afternoon that lasted for more than two hours, Supervisor Bill Gates told reporters that the board is waiting for the results of an audit that was ordered Oct. 14 to determine whether any public resources were used in Petersen’s adoption business or in the crimes he’s accused of.
Petersen, an attorney who specializes in adoptions, faces charges from Arizona, Utah and federal prosecutors in Arkansas.
Gates said he expects the audit to be completed early next week.
Once that audit is finished, Gates said the board can determine its next step, including whether to try to remove Petersen from office. Though statute does not appear to give the supervisors the power to remove Petersen permanently, Gates noted that state law allows them to temporarily suspend him.
That law permits county supervisors to suspend their assessors and treasurers for up to 120 days for misuse of public funds or neglect of duty. After 120 days, the suspended official must be reinstated unless he or she is indicted by a grand jury for “willful or corrupt misconduct in office.”
“There are certain statutes that could be utilized in certain circumstances. But again, in the end, that’s going to be a decision of the board based upon the facts as they’ve been presented both in the audit and other information that is available to us.”
Petersen’s attorney could not be reached for comment.