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Updated May 12, 2014 - 4:44 pm

Lawyer files campaign complaint against Arizona AG Tom Horne

PHOENIX -- Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne was hit with a new complaint Monday alleging that he violated state election laws by directing his executive staff to work on his re-election campaign while on state time.

Attorney Tom Ryan filed the complaint with the Arizona Secretary of State's office and the Arizona Citizens Elections Commission on behalf of Sarah Beattie, a Horne constituent services staffer and political operative who resigned from her job last month.

Beattie, who was hired last August, said in the complaint that most of her work was actually for Horne's campaign. She also wrote that Horne's executive staff has been violating state laws by working on his 2014 re-election effort on state time.

Beattie's complaint contained a number of emails that she says shows staffers doing Horne campaign work on state time.

``The plain fact of the matter is Tom Horne and the executive office is doing a substantial amount of campaigning on taxpayer money, and it is unfair to the process,'' Ryan said. ``Our Constitution mandates purity of elections, and our top police officer in the state of Arizona is violating that daily.''

Horne released a statement saying some of his employees do campaign work on their own time but significant work is done off-site. He also said employees are expected to put in 40 hours a week for the state and many put in more hours.

``Several people will testify that at an off-site meeting, Ms. Beattie had an emotional crying fit over the fact that her hours were being watched,'' Horne said. ``Her bitterness apparently stems from the fact that she was expected to work eight hours on legitimate state business.''

Horne went on to call Ryan ``a known political hack,'' who regularly attacks Republicans.

``In a political season, this entire sideshow reeks of desperation, opportunism and political games and the truth will come out,'' Horne said.

The new claims come as Horne is gearing up for re-election and are just the latest in a string of negative news for him. Horne faces a challenger in August's Republican primary and a Democratic challenger if he advances to the general election.

An administrative law judge who heard a mini-trial in February ruled last month that Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk had not proven Horne and aide Kathleen Winn broke campaign laws in his 2010 election. Winn was running an independent group backing Horne, and she and Horne were accused of illegally coordinating efforts to attack his Democratic opponent.

Polk, however, isn't bound by the judge's ruling and must decide by Wednesday whether to reinstate her findings and her demand that Horne repay $400,000 to donors and up to three times that amount in civil fines.

That case also involved other intrigue, with FBI agents following Horne during an investigation; concluding that he was having a noontime tryst with a woman who is not his wife; and leaving the scene of a parking-lot accident without leaving a note.

Horne cleared the hit-and-run case in May 2013 by pleading no contest, and the possible end of the campaign-finance case could provide a boost- at least before Monday's filing.

Even if Polk decides to drop the 2010 campaign finance case, Beattie's complaint means those issues will remain political fodder for GOP challenger Mark Brnovich and, if Horne advances to the November general election, Democrat Felecia Rotellini.

Rotellini was beaten by Horne in 2010 by about 63,000 votes out of a total of 1.6 million ballots cast in the 2010 general election for attorney general after Winn's group launched attack ads targeting her.

In Monday's filing, Beattie said she first worked for Winn after being hired as a $32,000-a-year staffer, then complained that Winn was having her do campaign work on state time. Horne moved Beattie to another post and gave her two pay raises, bringing her pay to $45,000.

Beattie said executive staff in Horne's office frequently mixed campaign meetings with regular office meetings and Horne himself fundraised while in his office, using his personal cellphone.

Data for one document Beattie provided show that more than 1,200 minutes were spent working on the item, Ryan said.

``The plain fact of the matter is that's not coffee breaks, that's not lunch hours, that's somebody abusing the privilege of the executive office to run for re-election,'' he said.

The Secretary of State's office will review the complaint and determine if there is sufficient evidence to pursue a complaint. If that occurs, the case will be forwarded to Horne's office. Grisham said last week that the office would refer it to an outside prosecutor if needed.

The Clean Elections Commission can pursue a separate case.

Ryan said several Arizona laws have been violated, including one that bars state employees from using public offices to campaign. All would be civil violations.

He also said he expected attacks on Beattie.

``Sarah Beattie is a profile in courage- she stands to gain nothing from this action. There will no lawsuits filed by Sarah Beattie,'' Ryan said. ``But she knew that by filing this complaint today that she would be the subject of a huge smear campaign- and the attorney general's office has not disappointed.''

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