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Select Panel Appointed in Mecham Case

Associated Press

Arizona House Speaker Joe Lane on Monday named a 10-member special select committee that will begin organizing today and hold its first hearing Wednesday on whether to impeach Gov. Evan Mecham.

County officials, meanwhile, turned in more than 300,000 petition signatures aimed at forcing Mecham to face a recall election.

House special counsel William French reported Friday that he had found that Mecham violated the law on several grounds, including failure to report a $350,000 campaign loan and borrowing money for personal business from the governor’s protocol fund.

The embattled first-term governor has denied violating any laws and has rejected repeated calls for his resignation, including one last weekend by Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain and three GOP members of Arizona’s U.S. House delegation.

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More Than Needed

The county officials Monday reported that a total of 301,057 Mecham recall petition signatures had been validated statewide, many more than the 216,746 needed to force Mecham to face a recall vote.

“Congratulations, Arizona,” Mecham Recall Committee founder Ed Buck said. “Unless Mecham resigns, is impeached and convicted or something else takes him out of office, we’re going to have a recall election.”

Deadline for Name Tally

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Secretary of State Rose Mofford has until next Monday to tally the petition signatures. If she determines that enough are valid, she must give Mecham five working days to resign or face a recall. If Mecham does not resign, on Feb. 1 she would schedule a recall vote, probably for mid-May.

Gubernatorial spokesman Ken Smith said the governor does not plan to resign but will not challenge the petitions’ validity.

Lane, who like Mecham is a Republican, said the select committee, composed of six Republican Arizona House members and four Democrats, will “try to find out what the truth of the whole thing is” by questioning French about his report. Mecham also may be called to appear, Lane said.

Will Not Vote

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The select committee will not vote itself but will gather information House members need to make a decision, Lane said.

Ironically, the twin recall and impeachment actions that could lead to Mecham’s ouster both came on the federal holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One of Mecham’s first actions after he took office a year ago was to cancel the state’s holiday, which he said had been enacted illegally by his predecessor. The move drew widespread criticism.

Mecham also was indicted on Jan. 8 on six felony charges of perjury, fraud and filing false documents for allegedly concealing the $350,000 loan from Tempe developer Barry Wolfson.

Mecham telephoned KTAR radio during a talk show Monday to say that with the indictment in the open, “Now we finally have the opportunity to do some things ourselves. Now that they handed down the indictment, now we have some rights in defending ourselves.”

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