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AG office investigating complaints against county supervisors

SIERRA VISTA — The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is investigating complaints linked to the appointment of Justice of the Peace Pat Call to the county’s Justice Court in 2019.

The appointment was made last winter by Cochise County supervisors Ann English and Peggy Judd, after then-Justice of the Peace Timothy Dickerson became a Cochise County superior court judge.

Call was the third member of the Board of Supervisors at the time of the appointment, and naming him to the position has not been without controversy.

Two complaints have been filed against the Board of Supervisors — one of them by attorney Sandra Russell, the other by David Welch — claiming that the panel violated the state’s open meeting and conflict of interest laws when they named Call to the position last February.

“There are two investigations ongoing,” Katie Conner, a spokeswoman with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office wrote in an email to the Herald/Review earlier this week. “Back in 2019, we received an Open Meeting Law complaint from an anonymous person. This is ongoing with our civil department. Additionally, our criminal department is looking into the matter.”

Russell, who is vying to become a superior court judge in Division 5, said she received a call from Assistant Attorney General Matt Eklund this week informing her that her complaint remains under investigation. Russell’s husband Chris Russell, and another attorney, represent Welch.

Russell was also a juvenile prosecutor with the Cochise County State Attorney’s Office. She lost her job on Jan. 16.

On her Facebook page, Russell stated that she was retaliated against at her workplace after she filed the complaint: “I personally filed a formal criminal complaint with the Attorney General’s office. Since that time, I have experienced a hostile work environment. Yesterday, I raised ethical issues presented regarding the county’s implementation of its new case management system for which no training was provided. As a result, my employment with the Cochise County Attorney’s Office has ended.”

State Attorney Brian McIntyre said in an email that he could not comment on personnel matters.

Chris Russell sent the Herald/Review an email referring to his wife’s termination and the complaint: “All we can say at this time is that Sandy was terminated on January 16, 2020. The County Attorney gave no basis/reason for her termination. Sandy knows the law and is committed to equal application of the law, and if she doesn’t know it, she figures it out. She is committed to ensuring everyone in the system is ethically represented. She is willing to stand up for what is right.

“We know that she did, at one point, file an AG complaint against the Cochise County Board of Supervisors, which raised issues with the Cochise County Attorney’s Office. We also know that at the time of her termination she was assisting with the implementation of a new case management software system. Sandy has been running for Judge since last spring. There are those, of course, that do not support her.”

Both Judd and English told the Herald/Review they could not comment on active complaints.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story mistakenly referred to Pat Call as the city's Justice of the Peace in the first paragraph. The Herald/Review regrets the error.

BUILD IT UP: Rotarians undertake several projects to support local nonprofit

SIERRA VISTA — Members of Sierra Vista Sunrise Rotary Club gathered at Wanderlust Kaffee on Saturday to work on projects in support of a shelter for women in transition.

Founded by local businesswoman Danielle Sheppard, the Jennifer House assists women who are struggling to turn their lives around while going through drug recovery or recent release from incarceration.

Because it’s often difficult for women with criminal records to find jobs, Sheppard gives them the opportunity to work at Wanderlust Kaffee — a coffee shop with pastries and other menu items, television area and computer cafe — while they focus on getting back on their feet.

One-hundred percent of the profit from Wanderlust goes to Jennifer House in support of the shelter and women who live there.

“Sunrise Rotary is setting up a learning center with a few desks, chairs and computers here (at Wanderlust) to provide these women with computers and other resources in a quiet space,” said Sunrise Rotarian Scott Weiss, the club’s service project director. “The learning center also works in conjunction with Hoops’, which is a shelter for men in similar circumstances.”

Along with the learning center, Sunrise Rotarians also worked on a new conference center at the coffee shop, complete with tables, chairs, white boards and a large screen TV.

“The learning center is capable of seating between 20 and 25 people” said Weiss, who added that the Wanderlust Kaffee/Jennifer House project represents Sunrise Rotary’s big service project for the year.

“We purchased the tables, chairs, computers and large-screen TV for around $8,000,” he said. “Half of the funding came through a matching grant from Rotary District 5500 and we also received RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) money from the Cochise County Attorney’s Office.”

About 17 Sunrise Rotary members worked on Saturday’s project, which involved assembling tables and chairs as well as installing the computers and wide-screen TV.

Sunrise Rotary President Jessica Gatmen said that she and other members of the rotary club support Sheppard’s compassion for women who need a boost as they turn their lives around.

“Danielle (Sheppard) helps provide these women with life skills, training, clothing and job opportunities so they can get back on their feet,” she said. “And she gives them a place to stay while they work at re-establishing themselves in the community. When our club was looking for a big service project, the Jennifer House is what they wanted to support.”

Rotarian Jenn Wantz said that Sunrise Rotary has accomplished a diverse range of projects throughout the community.

“We’ve helped improve school playgrounds, we built a new bathroom for CANTER (therapeutic riding school for disabled individuals), we built a teen room at the Boys & Girls Club along with Sierra Vista Rotary and now we’re helping the Jennifer House. Anything that we can do to help people in the community better their lives benefits everyone,” she added.

While one group of Rotarians were busy installing computers in the learning center, another was constructing tables in the conference room.

Among them was Judge John Kelliher, a Sunrise Rotary member for 18 years, tapping table legs in place.

“Along with putting up with my fellow rotarians, we’re assembling furniture for the conference room and we mounted the large screen-TV,” Kelliher said. “The projects test our ability to read simple directions,” he joked.

Some of the women who stay in the Jennifer House have young children they bring with them. The women stay at the shelter for one year while they search for work and find a place to live. They are drug tested periodically during their stay, and must remain drug free in order to live in the shelter.

Wanderlust Kaffee, located at 84 Second Street in Sierra Vista, also houses Cindrealla’s Closet, another one of Sheppard’s charitable projects. Through Cinderella’s Closet, donated clothing is given to women and men who need appropriate attire for job interviews.

Formal wear donations also are accepted, with the clothing loaned out to women and young girls who have formal functions they want to attend, but don’t have the means to purchase expensive gowns and accessories for the event.

“I’ve known Daniella (Sheppard) for a few years now, and am always amazed by all she has done for struggling women through her charitable work,” Gatmen said. “There are women in this community who have completely changed their lives because of the support they received from Daniella’s programs.”