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Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel resigns

Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel is stepping down.

"Today I announce my decision to resign as the Maricopa county attorney effective Friday, March 25, 2022, at 5:00 p.m. Voters supported me in November 2020 as the first woman elected to be Maricopa county attorney, and it is an honor I will always cherish," Adel said in an email statement Monday afternoon.

Adel had resisted calls to resign as she denied allegations of drinking on the job and not showing up for work.

Five division bosses in the Maricopa County Attorney's Office were among those who had called for Adel’s resignation.  Her initial reply was that they should quit, if they don’t believe in her leadership.

Adel is a Republican who was appointed as county attorney in 2019 after Bill Montgomery went to the Arizona Supreme Court. Voters then elected her in 2020. 

Adel sought treatment last year for an eating disorder and alcohol abuse

→  Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel: 'I have nothing to hide'

Last week, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked for an explanation from Adel about the  failure to file charges in 180 cases. Her office was forced to drop the cases when charges were not filed before the statute of limitations expired. 

The 180 misdemeanor cases included drunk driving, assault and domestic violence. Adel was given a March 31 deadline to explain the dropped cases.

Initially the county attorney blamed her staff, but later accepted responsibility following widespread criticism including from Gov. Doug Ducey saying she needed to accept responsibility for the dropped cases. 

Ducey released a statement on Monday afternoon thanking Adel for her service.

“Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel made a difficult, brave and very personal decision. I respect her choice and wish her and her family the best. I want to thank her for her service to the people of Maricopa County," said Ducey.

Her announcement surprised former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, who says her actions have caused problems for employees of the County Attorney’s Office.

“It’s the end of the beginning but they know they have a long road ahead of them to be able to rebuild the office. They know that there’s still a lot of challenges out there. I know morale is very very bad, so I think that there is a bit of hope right now," said Romley.

Romley added that he believes Adel made the right decision, and wished her well. 

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors accepted Adel's resignation in an emergency executive session on Monday afternoon.

“I appreciate Allister Adel's service to residents as the duly elected county attorney. She brought to the office fresh ideas and important reforms, including increased focus on diversion in criminal cases. In her direct interactions with the Board of Supervisors, she served us well,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates in a statement. “I believe Allister's resignation represents what is best for her, her family, the County's Attorney Office, and the criminal justice system.”   

The board said in a statement it will "establish a process for appointing the new county attorney in the coming days and weeks." State law says the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors have to appoint a Republican as interim county attorney. The board has also voted to hold an election for the top prosecutor’s job on Aug. 2.

Among local groups that took part in 2020 marches against police brutality was the W.E. Rising Project. Founder Jacob Raiford said it’s hard to celebrate Adel’s departure because he does not think she should have been county attorney for this long.

"We expect that this office will be filled by someone who is capable, who is empathetic,” he said.

KJZZ's Greg Hahne contributed to this report.

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Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.