The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors formally accepted the resignation of County Assessor Paul Petersen on Wednesday.
Petersen’s resignation from office comes almost three months to the day after his arrest on numerous criminal charges in connection with his private adoption and legal practice. Board members called on him to resign that same week.
The Board of Supervisors suspended Petersen on October 28, 2019 pursuant to ARS 11-664 as a result of his absence from office while in custody, and a county audit that found Petersen had misused taxpayer resources while in office. Mr. Petersen appealed the suspension and filed a written request on November 7, 2019 asking the Board to hold a hearing regarding his suspension. The Board set a hearing for December 11, 2019 and requested the County Attorney conduct an investigation. Mr. Petersen’s counsel presented at the December 11th hearing. The independent investigation uncovered evidence that Petersen may have violated additional statutes. Thousands of files related to Petersen’s adoption business were found on his county-issued computers and network. The investigation also found that Petersen’s government-issued laptop was wiped clean the day after he was released from jail and again two weeks later. The Board of Supervisors sustained Petersen’s suspension on December 27, 2019. Mr. Petersen was in the process of serving the remainder of the 120-day suspension when he chose to resign.
State law assigns the Board of Supervisors responsibility for appointing a new county assessor in the case of a vacancy. The process for making that appointment is not defined by statute and the Board will determine next steps in the coming weeks. While the office is vacant, acting administrator Bill Wiley will continue to lead the Assessor’s Office.