State Investigator Files Scorcher|Against Arizona A.G. Tom Horne

     PHOENIX (CN) – Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne defamed and tried to ruin the career of a state criminal investigator who told the FBI in good faith that she believed Horne may have received $500,000 in illegal campaign contributions, the woman claims in court.
     Margaret J. “Meg” Hinchey sued Attorney General Tom Horne and Chief Deputy Attorney General Richard Bistrow, in Maricopa County Court.
     The lengthy complaint begins: “During the course of an unrelated internal investigation, assigned to and conducted by supervising Special Agent Margaret J. ‘Meg’ Hinchey, (‘plaintiff’), witnesses revealed possible criminal activity implicating Attorney General Tom Horne, (‘Horne’) and his aide Kathleen Winn.”
     Eighty-one paragraphs later, the complaint adds: “Horne [also] wanted to find out who within the AGO was leaking negative information about the State Bar of Arizona licensing problems of his alleged mistress, AAG [assistant attorney general] Carmen Chenal, (‘Chenal’), to the Phoenix New Times.”
     As for the “possible criminal activity” involving Horne and Winn, Hinchey says in her complaint: “Faced with the obvious conflict of interest in reporting this information to
     Horne or to Chief Deputy Attorney General Rick Bistrow, (‘Bistrow’), plaintiff correctly reported it to an outside law enforcement agency, the FBI.
     “The FBI undertook an investigation that resulted, on October 2, 2012, in the Maricopa County Attorney’s charging Horne and Winn with a civil penalty for Horne’s receipt of approximately $500,000 in illegal campaign contributions, money raised and handled by Winn through a sham Political Action Committee.
     “On about January 23, 2012, Horne learned and advised his chief deputy, defendant Rick Bistrow, (‘Bistrow’), that plaintiff had been the source of the original information that prompted the FBI investigation.
     “Beginning about that time Horne, Bistrow and various attorneys and aides employed with the Attorney General’s Office, (‘AGO’), agreed to and did launch a smear campaign intended to discredit plaintiff and are currently engaged in attempting to drive her to quit her position and to destroy her law enforcement career.
     “Horne personally, Bistrow and their co-conspirators have used express and implied threats, slander, libel, spreading salacious rumors, concealment and possible destruction or obstruction of evidence implicating Horne.
     “Horne has personally been involved in slander against plaintiff; Bistrow has been involved in libel, among others in the AGO acting under Horne’s and Bistrow’s direction.
     “Horne and Bistrow, and various co-conspirators, despite the obvious conflict of interest, agreed to and did initiate a sham, illegal process to conduct an ‘internal investigation’ of plaintiff based on false allegations by former criminal defendants asserted in a statutory Notice of Claim.
     “Horne’s conduct is motivated by Horne’s desire to protect himself and Winn from potential criminal and civil liability arising from illegal campaign activities.
     “Horne, Bistrow and their co-conspirators continue the attack on plaintiff, now motivated by discrediting plaintiff as a potential witness against Horne and Winn in upcoming hearings to determine whether Horne will have to pay $1.5 million in civil penalties for illegal campaign financing.
     “Bistrow’s motivation is his desire to protect Horne and his own position of
     power and authority.
     “Separately, Horne’s and Bistrow’s attacks on plaintiff are part of Horne’s persistent efforts to identify and punish employees who he deems are not loyal to him and/or who are Democrats and/or who supported his Democrat rival in the 2010 Attorney General elections, attorney Felecia Rottelini.
     “Plaintiff’s claims are: conspiracy; defamation; defamation – false light; unlawful disciplinary action against s worn peace officer violating A.R.S. §38-1101; unlawful retaliation against state employee, violating A.R.S. §38-532; abuse of process; intentional infliction of emotional distress with personal injury; invasion of privacy; violation of State and federal civil rights under color of state law, (First Amendment,) Violating 42 U.S.C. § 1983; respondiat superior).”
     As for Horne’s alleged in-house mistress, Hinchey says in the 72-page complaint that a number of employees in the Attorney General’s Office told her they believed “the leak was likely Winn, who had claimed to be ‘closer’ to Horne than was Chenal and who talked about her dislike of Chenal publicly within the AGO.”
     Hinchey claims that in a July 28, 2011 meeting with Horne, Bristow and others, she “briefed Horne that the evidence suggested that Winn was the most likely source of the Phoenix New Times leak.”
     The complaint continues: “Horne said: ‘I can’t fire her. She can really hurt me.'”
     It continues: “Without prompting or invitation, in about July and August of 2011, a number of AGO personnel told plaintiff that AGO Winn had been engaged in the following apparently illegal conduct:
     “a. Working on her real estate business on AGO time;
     “b. Providing false information to the Arizona Governor’s Office in connection with a grant application; and
     “c. That Winn and Horne had coordinated and managed an ‘independent expenditure’ election fund for AGO Horne in connection with his campaign for Attorney General in connection with the Home campaign.
     “Plaintiff discovered corroborative information that Winn was engaging in her private real estate business while being paid by the state. …
     “Plaintiff later learned that one or more employees who had given information about Winn to plaintiff had been previously threatened and/or reprimanded for reporting this information to the AGO executive office.”
     Hinchey claims that Bistrow met with former Criminal Division Chief Jim Keppel on Dec. 12, 2011, “to discuss whether or not the AGO could destroy plaintiff’s internal investigation file and/or wipe her computer of all related documents,” and that Keppel told Bistrow “that would be illegal as a violation of public record laws.”
     Hinchey claims Bistrow told her the next day that “he wanted the confidential internal investigation considered ‘inactive,'” and instructed her not to write up memos from her interviews, but she wrote them anyway.
     In the next month, January 2012, upon learning that she had talked to the FBI, Horne and Bristow commenced their smear campaign, Hinchey says in the complaint.
     She claims that Assistant Attorney General Gerald Richard told her on Feb. 13, 2012 “that Winn had relayed statements to various AGO employees and to Horne that contained information that had come directly from plaintiff’s investigative interview memos plaintiff had given to the appropriate person in her chain of command.” Winn’s statements “implied either that Winn had access to plaintiff’s internal investigative files or that Horne or Bistrow were disclosing information from witness interviews to a potential target,” Hinchey claims.
     She claims that Horne and Bristow conspired to “incite former PPD [Phoenix Police Department] criminal defendants who had been investigated by plaintiff to serve a statutory notice of claim on the state claiming that plaintiff had lied or ‘fabricated’ testimony in a grand jury proceeding that had resulted in a now-publicly known remand order or to seize upon the PPD notice of claim as a vehicle to discredit and ultimately deprive plaintiff of her position.”
     On April 11, 2012, “four former PPD officers who had previously been indicted by the AGO in a case investigated by plaintiff and other AGO and PPD investigators, filed a notice of claim alleging that plaintiff had fabricated facts to the grand jury that had indicted them,” according to the complaint.
     Hinchey claims Horne “distributed the PPD former defendants’ notice of claim alleging plaintiff had lied to a grand jury to all AGO employees” and to the media on June 11, 2012, “with the intent that the media, the public and at least some AGO employees would believe these allegations against plaintiff.”
     Hinchey says she is still under investigation by Horne’s office, and has had to seek medical treatment since she has been “blamed as the cause of Horne’s legal troubles.” She also fears she will be fired if falsely accused of wrongdoing in the investigation.
     She seeks punitive damages.
     She is represented by Suzanne Dallimore, of Tempe.

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