The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has given Allister Adel two weeks to prepare a report on the failure of her office to file timely charges in 180 misdemeanor cases.
The request, made in a letter signed by Attorney General Mark Brnovich, cites the attorney general’s statutory authority in Arizona law to “exercise supervisory powers over county attorneys of the several counties in matters pertaining to that office and require reports relating to the public business thereof.”
“I am concerned that justice will not be secured for crime victims,” Brnovich said in the letter.
“Additionally, the failure to pursue these charges has nullified the hard work of law enforcement agencies and the peace officers working these cases.”
Adel’s said in an email Friday her office “will respond accordingly.”
“As previously stated, I take full responsibility for everything that happens within this office,” Adel said. “The office took steps to notify law enforcement agencies and victims of this error and will continue to redirect resources to ensure it does not occur in the future.”
The Arizona Republic on March 14 first reported Adel’s office was forced to drop the 180 misdemeanor cases — including drunken driving, assault and domestic violence cases — because a supervisor failed to assign them to prosecutors before the statute of limitations expired.
The botched filings — and Adel’s response to them — come as concerns continue over her ability to run the office, which has been under scrutiny since The Republic raised questions in February about her sobriety and physical absences from the office for weeks at a time.
The attorney general’s March 17 letter asks Adel to prepare a report on how her office is structured, who is responsible for assuring the timely filing of cases, and a list of cases that were not timely filed and an explanation for why, and what steps are being taken to prevent similar problems from occurring again.
Brnovich’s demand follows a rare rebuke by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who said Adel should take accountability for the failure to file cases instead of blaming her staff.
Adel initially told The Republic the error was a failure of a few employees to complete their assigned tasks and alert supervisors to issues.
“To assume that I have knowledge of every action my deputies or their supervisors perform or fail to perform, is simply absurd,” Adel said in a March 10 email. “I cannot personally touch or handle every matter that falls under my statutory authority.”
Ducey on March 15 said he was concerned over the accountability and competence of Adel’s office and said she needed to turn it around.
Adel initially declined comment on Ducey’s remarks. She said in a statement March 16 the governor was right and echoed his words that county prosecutors are heroes.
“The governor is absolutely correct that the line prosecutors are the unsung heroes of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office,” she said. “All the employees of this office are dedicated public servants who strive for justice every day.”
Dropping the cases without filing charges means those arrested or cited will not face any criminal penalties for their alleged wrongdoing.
Of the 180 misdemeanors, about 90 involved driving under the influence. Twenty involved assaults and 20 more disorderly conduct, both of which could be tied to domestic violence cases.
The botched cases come amid a growing call for Adel to resign as leader of the nation’s third-largest prosecutorial agency.
Five of the County Attorney’s Office’s top criminal prosecutors said in a letter last month Adel’s behavior is jeopardizing cases and eroding confidence in the office. They sought investigations by the State Bar of Arizona and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
They said Adel has shown “obvious signs of impairment” while conducting county business and has been frequently absent since seeking treatment in late August for anxiety, alcohol abuse and an eating disorder.
Former County Attorney Rick Romley also has called for Adel to step down. He said she is incapable of leading the office, which he said is in turmoil. If she won’t resign on her own, then a grand jury should be empaneled to remove her, he said.
Adel was appointed to lead the agency in 2019 and elected in 2020. She is the first woman to hold the job.
Adel underwent emergency surgery for a brain bleed on Nov. 3, 2020, election night. She was hospitalized at two medical centers for more than a month. She spent the beginning of 2021 recovering.
Adel went into rehab on Aug. 29 and was out of the office for 13 days before Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone forced her to publicly acknowledge she was getting treatment.
Nineteen days after checking into rehab, Adel checked out and returned to work.
She has made contradictory statements about how much time she has spent in rehab and the number of times she has relapsed or had “slip-ups.” Adel has also given different accounts about a reported drunken after-hours phone call to a member of her leadership team.
Adel maintains she is capable of running the office and has no intention of resigning. She dismissed the complaints from her division chiefs as distractions and said they could stick it out or resign.
Adel said as an elected official, she does not answer to the Board of Supervisors.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Mark Brnovich demands report from Allister Adel on 180 botched cases