PHOENIX (Legal Newsline) - Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne says allegations by a state criminal investigator that he, along with other state officials, are engaging in a cover-up are "false, absurd and completely without merit."
Horne, in a statement released Thursday, said he is "confident" that the courts will see it that way.
"This is an attack from a partisan Democrat who enjoyed working under Democrats, and resented working for a Republican who was elected by the people of Arizona," the attorney general said.
"It is sad that good and honest people have to be dragged through the mud."
Horne has been under investigation for allegations that he worked with an independent expenditure committee to run ads against his 2010 Democratic opponent -- which is not permitted under Arizona law.
Horne has denied being involved with Business Leaders for America, which raised and spent $500,000 to run television advertisements attacking Felecia Rotellini.
Horne, a Republican, defeated Rotellini in 2010 to become the state's top lawyer.
The attorney general has said the accusations were "conjured up" by a disgruntled employee and former campaign supporter, Don Dybus.
But Supervising Special Agent Meg Hinchey, in a notice of claim filed Thursday, said she reported criminal activity revealed by two witnesses implicating Horne to the FBI.
Hinchey, who says the attorney general's behavior and actions were overlooked, alleges he then tried to destroy her files and that he undertook a "smear campaign" to discredit her and destroy her career.
"The conduct has been intentional, malicious and negligent, and is motivated by AG Horne's desire to protect himself and his associates from potential criminal liability arising from illegal campaign activities," Suzanne Dallimore, Hinchey's attorney, wrote in the notice.
Hinchey also alleges that Deputy Attorney General Rick Bristow went as far as hire an outside attorney to conduct a special investigation of allegations against her -- after, she contends, she was branded a "liar" by Horne and certain staff members.
"According to current and former tenured high ranking AGO employees, this has never been done before and there is only one reason to do it now," Dallimore wrote in the notice.
"AG Horne needs to discredit SAS Hinchey to throw up a defense to potential charges of criminal campaign funding violations.
"He wants to be able to claim that if SAS Hinchey was not credible, any follow-up investigation was built on feet of clay."
Hinchey is seeking $10 million in damages for the "likely loss of her career," for future earning losses and personal injuries, including pain and suffering.
Horne fired back Thursday that Hinchey's allegations are "fabrications."
He said his office's refusal to cover-up an investigation charging that Hinchey had fabricated evidence in testimony she gave to a grand jury, which resulted in an indictment of a number of police officers, "appears to be what led to" Hinchey's notice of claim.
The attorney general contends that Hinchey -- who says in her notice that she feared Horne would come to focus on her party affiliation and fire her -- misrepresented herself.
"Tom Horne did not and does not pay attention to the political party of employees of the Attorney General's Office," his office said in a more detailed statement. "When he took office, the prior attorneys general had been Democrats for 12 years, and there were obviously a great number of Democrats employed.
"Unlike many of his predecessors, Tom Horne fired no one upon taking office. He treats all employees as professionals, regardless of political party."
His office noted that a number of people who were not only Democrats but who also had contributed to Rotellini's campaign are treated as "trusted and important members of the staff."
"Meg Hinchey misrepresented herself as someone who was apolitical," Horne said.
"In fact, prior to my taking office, she made statements to three other investigators stating how horrible it will be to have a Republican attorney general, and that one could not work for a Republican. They were offended by these statements."
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at email@example.com.