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  • Writer's pictureK.M. Bell

Allister Adel resigned as Maricopa County Attorney. Here’s what comes next.

On Monday, March 21, Allister Adel announced her resignation as Maricopa County Attorney, effective at the end of that week. Her resignation followed years of misconduct and controversy at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO), including:

  • PPD and MCAO officials conspiring to lie to a grand jury and invent a fictitious gang in order to unlawfully prosecute protestors;

  • Ongoing investigations on Allister Adel and Chief Deputy Ken Vick (who is supposedly in charge until an interim County Attorney is appointed) by the state bar;

  • Continuing ethical violations by MCAO prosecutors, such as failing to turn over evidence that might show a person accused of a crime is innocent, with no action taken by Adel or other supervisors.

These events — combined with the Office’s commitment to a harsh, “win-at-all-cost” prosecutorial approach — made it clear that it was time for Adel to step aside but unfortunately, corruption in the Office runs deep and the road to reform is long. So where do we begin?

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors holds the power before voters head to the polls in November.

Before resigning, Adel purportedly granted Ken Vick acting authority until the Board of Supervisors appointed an interim County Attorney. Now, the Board must determine an appointment process and select an interim county attorney until Maricopa voters decide who will serve as attorney to the 4th largest county in the U.S. Right now, the Board of Supervisors has an incredible opportunity to appoint someone who will pave the way towards transparency, accountability, and reform.

People’s lives, families, and communities have been torn apart by wrongful, overturned convictions and unnecessarily long prison sentences. Every day that goes by without efforts towards aggressive change at MCAO counts. That’s why we joined with partner organizations to send a letter demanding an appointment process that is transparent with opportunities for community feedback. Additionally, we’ve asked that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors appoint an interim county attorney who will:

  • end the culture of impunity and discipline prosecutors who engage in misconduct,

  • fire prosecutors who present false testimony or withhold evidence to get conviction,

  • address the racial disparities in MCAO’s prosecutions, and

  • ensure public transparency.

In 2019, we joined twelve advocacy organizations and four lawmakers to send a similar letter to the Maricopa County Supervisors following the departure of previous County Attorney Bill Montgomery. Unfortunately, the requested demands were ignored, and the Board appointed Allister Adel as interim county attorney, who later won the 2020 election. We can only hope that they’ve learned their lesson and will take the voices of the community into serious consideration this time around.

What happens after the Board makes a decision?

Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors has the power to call the shots right now, no matter what the community demands. But our real power will come through at the polls.

Following Adel’s resignation and the Board’s decision to hold a special election, candidates had just 13 days to collect enough signatures to make the 2022 ballot. Four candidates met the April 4th deadline:

  • Anni Foster (Republican)

  • Julie Gunnigle (Democrat)

  • Gina Godbehere (Republican)

  • Rachel Mitchell (Republican)

Now is the time to pay attention to these four names and make sure they’re adopting a platform that includes criminal justice reform.

Far too many in our community have suffered from the overly harsh and often unfair prosecutorial practices of MCAO. During both the interim appointment and the 2022 elections, we need a County Attorney who will fight against decades-long misconduct in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

Want to join the fight for criminal justice reform at every level?

Join our Smart Justice Campaign to learn about upcoming events and actions.

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