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Pinal County officials criticize supervisor's legal action against elections chief

At a hearing Wednesday, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors waived attorney-client privilege to allow County Attorney Kent Volkmer to publicly refute allegations made against himself and County Recorder Dana Lewis.

And supervisors scoffed at one of their colleagues’ threat of legal action against Lewis, the county’s top election official.

Supervisor Kevin Canvanaugh filed a notice of claim against the county based on anonymous emails his office received accusing Lewis of misusing funds and using faulty election equipment. Cavanaugh also accuses her of defamation, citing claims in the anonymous emails that Lewis has told people she’s afraid Cavanaugh has wire-tapped her office.

Cavanaugh has also accused Volkmer of failing to properly investigate the claims.

The notice is a precursor to a lawsuit, which the other supervisors were not pleased about. 

Acting Board Chairman Jeffrey McClure called it “another attempt to tear down and cast out” Lewis and Volkmer.

“Ms. Lewis, our recorder, continues to get smeared publicly and she's not really able to defend herself because she’s not the one that did the investigation and I couldn't tell the truth without this today,” Volkmer told the board. 

Until the attorney-client privilege was waived Wednesday, he wasn’t able to respond to the claims Cavanaugh made.

Volkmer told supervisors he found nothing illegal about Lewis’ actions.

Going forward, the “carrier” for the county has roughly 50 days to respond to the notice of claim. They can pay damages as demanded by Cavanaugh, deny the claim or simply do nothing in response.

The “carrier” is the Arizona County Insurance Pool, which forcefully declined to comment.

After the 50 days, Cavanaugh will then have 180 days to file a lawsuit.

“Then the ball really starts rolling, because we’re probably looking at spending money on outside counsel, more and more taxpayer dollars used for something that has no substantial evidence at all,” Supervisor Stephen Miller said.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.