What Maricopa County Supervisors Found In Their Audit Of Assessor Paul Petersen's Office

Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - 1:12pm
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Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
Paul Petersen's booking photo

LAUREN GILGER: Now, Maricopa County has released a report on the audit of its assessor's office. The review was ordered following the arrest of Paul Petersen in connection with these allegations that he ran an illegal adoption ring. The four-page document was released not long after the board of supervisors voted to suspend Paul Petersen without pay. And I'm joined now by KJZZ's Matthew Casey to dig into the findings. Good morning, Matt.

MATTHEW CASEY: Hey, good morning, Lauren.

GILGER: So what exactly did this audit look at?

CASEY: So the scope looks pretty wide. Auditors combed through Petersen's computer and his office files. They also analyzed his internet search history, emails, phone records and use of county resources.

GILGER: And Supervisor Clint Hickman had hinted that lots of files on Petersen's computer were related to his work as an adoption lawyer. What specifics did this audit reveal?

CASEY: So since he Petersen was hired as an employee in 2006, 86% of roughly 1,500 documents found on his desktop's hard drive were tied to his work as a private lawyer, and most of those were about adoptions and bankruptcy. Now, to drill down on that a little bit further, since Petersen became the assessor in 2013, only 5% of his digital files were actually tied to county business. Officials were unable to get their hands on a county-owned laptop that was given to Petersen more than a decade ago. They recommended that county lawyers reach out to police and ask if it was seized when Petersen was arrested.

GILGER: What about other files found in Petersen's office?

CASEY: The report doesn't have any specifics on those. It says that early on in the process, officials ran across documents about adoptions. So they stopped working, called the lawyers and secured the office. I asked county spokesman Fields Moseley about this yesterday, and he told me the locks have been changed on Petersen's office, so those records could be saved. But he didn't know if police had gotten a search warrant for the office or if it's considered a potential crime scene.

GILGER: The auditors also reviewed Petersen's travel on the county dime. What's the result of that?

CASEY: So they concluded that Peter's travel on behalf of the county was in line with his job as assessor and that he had the right documentation to back it up. Officials also looked at whether Petersen tried to change property values. And they concluded that he didn't have the access he would have needed to do that on his own.

GILGER: All right. That's KJZZ's Matthew Casey. Matt, thanks so much.

CASEY: Thank you, Lauren.

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