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'She should step down': Maricopa County Board to look at options on dealing with Allister Adel

Board meeting Tuesday will get outside attorney's advice on possible next steps. Former County Attorney Rick Romley says Adel should step down now.

PHOENIX — Embattled Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel will be the subject of a closed session Tuesday of the Maricopa County Board, as the board gets legal advice from an outside attorney on whether it has any power to remove Adel. 

Meantime, Rick Romley, a longtime Republican county attorney and Adel endorser in her 2020 campaign, says it's time for her to resign, amid questions about her conduct and leadership.

"If I could talk to her right now, I would say, 'Allister, it's time you really... step back and think of what's good for yourself, your family, but most importantly, the community that you were elected to serve," Romley said in an interview last week. "Right now, I personally think that she should step down.

"I don't think she's up to the job right now. And I don't say that lightly. I say it with real sadness."

Last week, Adel's five criminal division chiefs called on her to resign.

In a three-page letter, they said her acknowledged alcohol addiction had become a distraction to their work as prosecutors and she had lost their trust.

RELATED: 'Your conduct has become a distraction': Maricopa County Attorney's deputies urge her to resign

In response, Adel declared she had "no plans to resign."

This marks the gravest challenge to Adel's tenuous leadership of the nation's third-largest prosecutorial office. 

Here's what comes next:

  • The County Board meeting was set in motion last week, when Board Chair Bill Gates said the board would seek guidance from an outside attorney.

"State law generally holds county elected officers accountable to voters, not to boards of supervisors, but we will seek outside legal counsel to ensure we fully understand our role in this matter," Gate said in a statement.

Three years ago, the board faced a similar question after County Assessor Paul Petersen was charged with running an illegal adoption scheme. 

The board suspended Petersen and directed Adel to review whether he could be ousted from office for "willful misconduct."

Petersen resigned before he could be removed.

  • Romley said there's a state statute that allows for the removal of a county officer by a grand jury for willful misconduct. 

The statute was last used in a case involving Romley's predecessor, Tom Collins, in the 1980s. That case ultimately fell apart.

  • A State Bar of Arizona spokeswoman confirmed to 12 News that the Bar was investigating the allegations in the letter from Adel's top prosecutors. 

"The State Bar received the letter and is investigating," spokeswoman Carol Rose said via email. "Matters under investigation are confidential..., so we can't provide any further information or answer questions specifically about the allegations in this case."

In general, Bar investigations move very slowly. 

But Romley pointed out the investigation is a potential threat to Adel's qualifications to serve as county attorney. 

"The State Bar can look into her sobriety," he said.

"The one constitutional requirement for a county attorney ... is that it must be an attorney in good standing with the Bar. And if the Bar feels that her sobriety is such a question that she can't provide adequate representation, then she loses that good standing, and then she is no longer technically eligible for his county attorney."

Romley added that's never happened before.

  • In response to the actions by the County Board and State Bar, Adel sent the Arizona Republic in a prepared statement.

"The investigation launched by the Arizona State Bar and the upcoming discussion by the Board of Supervisors are part of the due process," Adel said. "I have no concerns over my ability to present these entities with facts if asked to do so. As I have stated in the past, these allegations are only a distraction to the work of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office."

RELATED: Maricopa County Attorney Adel's top deputies send letter calling on her to resign, 12 News has learned

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