SAFFORD — Graham County is in for a recall election.
With a petition to recall Graham County Clerk of the Superior Court Cindy Woodman having collected sufficient valid signatures, Woodman was offered five days to decide whether to resign by giving written notice to the county Elections Department.
Graham County Elections officials confirmed Monday that the deadline for that decision, Jan. 30, passed without a resignation from Woodman, meaning a special recall election will proceed.
Woodman was then given until Tuesday to write and submit a rebuttal statement as to why she should not be removed from office that will be included on the ballot.
The recall effort, launched last September, cited “conduct unbecoming of an elected official,” based on a July 2019 Graham County Superior Court finding that Woodman mishandled trial evidence and was “derelict in her duties,” an “unprecedented” turnover among Clerk’s Office employees (seven of nine employees, including one hired after Woodman took office, resigned or transferred), “continued alienation of Clerk’s Office staff and other colleagues” and “lack of basic knowledge of court procedures.”
In a July 24 evidentiary hearing, Woodman attributed her mishandling of evidence to communication problems with the court, testifying that Superior Court Judge Michael Peterson was away at the time. When Peterson produced a calendar showing otherwise, Woodman admitted her statement may have been inaccurate. It was further believed by defense attorneys that she committed perjury during the hearing.
One former employee described the Clerk’s Office as a “toxic” environment, saying Woodman, who was elected in 2018, “bullied” staff and refused to take advice from experienced employees.
Woodman also allegedly turned away people who came to the Clerk’s Office to make payments, stating no one could help them.
Based on those factors, Peterson informed the Arizona Supreme Court there was a risk the office would become unable to perform its required duties. In October, Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, after meeting with Woodman, issued an administrative order placing the CIerk’s Office under Peterson’s direct supervision and stripping Woodman of her duties. The order also stated that her actions had potentially increased the state’s liability risk.
The administrative order, and Judge Peterson’s letter, can be read at https://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/22/admorder/Orders19/2019-123.pdf?ver=2019-10-15-113214-453
Despite being prohibited from conducting the clerk’s duties or accessing the Graham County Courthouse, Woodman continues to draw the clerk’s full salary.
The Graham County Board of Supervisors now has 15 days from the Jan. 30 deadline to call for a special recall election, with Woodman’s name on the ballot, on the next consolidated election date. The board will also issue a call to the public announcing that anyone wishing to run may obtain nomination papers at county offices. Woodman has the option to place a statement of dissent on the ballot.
Graham County Election Director Hannah Duderstadt said she believed the next consolidated election date will be May 19, 2020.
David Bell contributed to this article.