Corruption runs deep in Maricopa County as lawsuits continue

Maybe Andrew Thomas was right about Judge Gary Donahoe

james houstonJames Houston, after obtaining evidence he strongly believes caught Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe being less than honest in open court, said, "[E]very year I hike in and out of the Grand Canyon in one day but this 'mountain of corruption' I am dealing with in Arizona makes all of that a walk in the park."

andy kunasekPHOENIX – Last week, Andy Kunasek (l), chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, issued a news release that began, “This has been a good week for Maricopa County.”

Kunasek said the supervisors voted unanimously on Wednesday to return the county attorney’s civil division, which he said “the board took out of necessity due to Andrew Thomas’ incompetence and unethical behavior.”

Kunasek fails to mention the board was ordered by the Arizona Court of Appeals to return the civil division five months ago.

Referring to what he called the “feud” or “county craziness,” Kunasek announced: “We’re all still here. All five board members. Same county manager, same management staff. We weren’t the problem.”

Kunasek said former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, former Maricopa County Sheriff Chief Deputy David Hendershott and former Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon were now gone and stated “the battles left with them.”

He concluded with, “It just took a handful of bad apples to nearly destroy an otherwise well-functioning organization. Times have changed. Today we open a new chapter.”

judge gary donahoeKunasek also fails to mention Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe (r, on left with wife Cherie), also still there, who Thomas charged with bribery, obstructing a criminal investigation and hindering prosecution back in 2009.

Although those charges have since been dropped, in December 2009,, a website dedicated to rooting out and ridding the Phoenix Police Department of corrupt and dirty cops, had this to say about Donahoe: “We could have told you a long time ago that there is nothing ‘honorable’ about Phoenix Judge Gary Donahoe. We always thought he was inept and just as corrupt as the leadership in the Phoenix Police Department.”

BadPhoenixCops accused Donahoe of being the “go to guy” for corrupt police officers to obtain any kind of warrant they wanted and said “it didn’t matter if the warrant was surreptitiously obtained … Donhoe gave them away like candy.”

We recently received a press release from Citizens for Educated Choices about Dr. James M. Houston and his legal battles with government officials, including former Arizona State Superintendent of Schools Tom Horne, the Arizona Board of Education, of which Horne was also a member, and most recently Donahoe, about whom Houston has recently obtained documented evidence indicating Donahoe may have lied in open court.

Houston’s complaint alleges he was denied teacher certification by the Arizona Board of Education because he previously accused the Educational Leadership doctoral program in the College of Education at Northern Arizona University of being “nothing more than a diploma mill.”

Houston also filed a lawsuit against NAU for educational consumer fraud and breach of contract.

Upon graduating with distinction from the educational leadership program in 1995, Houston appeared before the Arizona Board of Regents where he made his now famous “I Want My Money Back” speech.

Houston garnered a great deal of local and national media attention when he requested the board refund his tuition in exchange for returning his diploma and awards.

He picketed commencements from 1995 through 1998 with a placard stating, “I Want MY Money Back” on one side and “Diploma Mill” on the other.

Houston called his Ph.D. “a fraud,” claiming the education he received was unworthy of a degree, while accusing professors of being more interested in consulting contracts with school districts that paid them huge fees than in providing quality instruction.

In any event, Houston believes this was the reason the state board of education voted to deny him certification and to publish defamatory statements Horne attributed to Houston, including a statement that the Navajos have “stupid superstitions” and other stereotypical statements about racial groups, which Houston says he never made and which Horne later denied saying, under oath, despite a recording of him making such statements.

Houston notes when the state board rejected the recommendation from its own advisory committee to grant him certification; he had licenses in good-standing to teach in three other states.

However, that’s not what this is about. This is about Donahoe and what he said in court on Sept. 7, 2010 preceding oral arguments on motions Houston filed with regard to tampering with evidence and if Horne lied under oath in his deposition.

According to the audio recording and transcript of the proceedings, after determining Houston wished to be addressed as mister rather than doctor, Donahoe stated, “I don’t know if I need to do this or not but since Mr. Horne’s a defendant in this, I’m going to disclose that I made a $200 campaign contribution to Felicia Rotellini (Horne’s Democrat opponent for attorney general). So, if that makes a difference to anybody, I will recuse myself.”

Houston responded, “Not to me.”

Donahoe replied, “I didn’t think it would make a difference to you. I don’t know about the state defendants.”

Assistant Attorney General James Bowen said, “No, your honor, I don’t think that would have any effect on your judgment in this case.”

Donahoe responded, “OK. If anyone changes their mind, let me know.”

Houston later discovered Donahoe never contributed $200 to Rotellini’s campaign.
He contacted Rotellini’s campaign assistant, time and time again, who verified and re-verified Donahoe had never donated to Rotellini’s campaign.

In fact, Sonoran News confirmed Donahoe hasn’t made a contribution to anyone’s campaign since 2000, when he contributed $25 each to the Harry Mitchell for State Senate and Hartley for Senate campaigns.

When Houston contacted Rotellini’s campaign on Oct. 3, 2010, asking them to “double check to make sure Judge Donahoe didn’t make a $200 donation to the campaign,” a Rotellini staff assistant responded via e-mail two days later stating, “The donation was never made.”

When asked what prompted him to verify the contribution, Houston said after Donahoe denied his motion for reconsideration concerning the use of two transcripts, which an expert witness of Houston’s was willing to testify had been “edited” or otherwise “tampered with,” he began to realize things weren’t as they should be.

He also just learned Donahoe had been under investigation for corruption. 

However, Houston never expected to learn what he did, believing at first Donahoe’s unfavorable rulings were “an attempt to keep the trial simple.”

On March 15, 2011, after confirming, once again, Donahoe never made a contribution to Rotellini, Houston, deeply concerned over being denied crucial evidence to be presented at trial, filed a “Notice for the Disqualification of Trial Judge Based upon Cause.”

Judge Robert Oberbillig responded on March 28 with a minute entry stating, “This court requests that Judge Donahoe research his bank records and provide a copy of the check, any bank statement at issue, and any declaration regarding same … for in camera inspection by March 30, 2011.”

On April 4, Oberbillig issued a minute entry order stating, “Per this court’s March 28, 2011 minute entry, the court has received from Judge Donahoe a signed declaration (filed within) and the attached copy of the check register, the carbon copy of the check, and the account statement (filed under seal).”

In denying his request to disqualify Donahoe, Oberbillig stated Houston “failed to meet his burden of proof to establish any legal grounds for striking a judge for cause ...”

Houston now wonders if “the fix is in” with Oberbillig, who reviewed, in closed chambers and placed under seal, documentation, which did not include a copy of the canceled check, somehow proved to Oberbillig’s satisfaction that Donahoe donated $200 to Rotellini’s campaign; a $200 donation Rotellini’s campaign has asserted repeatedly was never received.

Sonoran News contacted Rotellini last week to ask if she knew anything about this issue. She said she didn’t, but suggested the “missing” contribution was most likely “a clerical error,” or made by his wife, whom she thought went by another name.

Rotellini said, “Let me look into this before I comment,” she’s yet to call back.

Donahoe’s wife, who goes by Cherie Donahoe, also never contributed to Rotellini.

Still waiting to receive a copy of Donahoe’s declaration, Houston, who now lives in Oregon, said, "I've climbed a lot of mountains and every year I hike in and out of the Grand Canyon in one day, but this 'mountain of corruption' I am dealing with in Arizona makes all of that a walk in the park. My biggest concern here is what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ This is what my fight with them is about."