Mon, July 15

Springer reported assessor concerns to county attorney

Yavapai County Supervisor Carol Springer says she was concerned enough about Yavapai County Assessor Victor Hambrick to talk to Board of Supervisors Attorney Dave Hunt about her concerns this past summer.

Springer said she met with Hunt and then-County Administrator Jim Holst to talk about Hambrick's connections to then-Arizona Senate candidate Elise Townsend.

Townsend announced her Senate candidacy in May 2006 and withdrew from the race Aug. 10.

Springer said she and Mal Barrett, Sr., a former state and county Republican Party official, talked to Townsend about their concerns a few weeks before Townsend dropped out of the race. Townsend has stated that's the reason she dropped out.

Springer voiced support for Townsend when she announced her candidacy, before finding out about Townsend's connections to Hambrick.

"I guess that's why I felt obligated personally to go talk to her," Springer explained.

Although Springer had heard rumors of Townsend's financial troubles (Townsend's construction company declared bankruptcy in April), Springer said her main concern was Townsend's business dealings with Hambrick, especially the fact he was working for Townsend while he was the assessor.

Springer learned about a Safford land transaction in which Hambrick and his partners grossed $2.9 million from Townsend, and she had concerns about whether Hambrick's financial disclosure statements were complete. Elected officials must complete such statements annually.

"Whether there was actually anything illegal going on or not, the point is, in the public's mind it will not look good," Springer said. "Appearance in politics is important."

Springer said she talked to Hunt and Holst within a few days after talking to Townsend about her concerns.

"I was uncomfortable not passing this information along, so I thought the appropriate place to go was to the county attorney," Springer said. Hunt technically works for the Yavapai County Attorney's Office.

Based on the limited information he had back then, Hunt said he did not uncover any clear law violations so he did not contact any other law enforcement officials.

Hunt said he had only anecdotal information along with access to Hambrick's financial disclosures.

"Frankly, there was not enough in there that allowed me to make any conclusions one way or another about the sufficiency of the disclosure," Hunt said. "The disclosure statements are not terribly helpful.

"They're so equivocal and vague ... It was a little hard to tell from the disclosure exactly what work was being done for whom."

Springer agrees that the disclosure statements don't explain much.

"I can tell you from having to fill out those forms, they are extremely vague," Springer said. "I can see where people who have a lot of investments and things like that, where it gets very tricky as to what you should report and what you don't have to report."

Hambrick's accountant Robert Mizer agreed that the state financial disclosure law is complicated.

"At the time we did (the original disclosure), we honestly felt (Safford and Paulden land holdings) didn't have to be reported," said Mizer, who also was a former accountant for Townsend.

He advised Hambrick Monday to add those land ownerships because they don't have anything to hide, Mizer said.

He also recommended other previous amendments to the disclosures, either to be clearer or because he believed the information was necessary.

Hunt said if he had found any evidence of potential violations of the law, he probably would have talked to others in the Yavapai County Attorney's Office about it first.

"I would not be in a position to say that working for a developer per se would be a conflict of interest," Hunt said. "It was going to require more investigation than I was in a position to do."