SAFFORD — An administrative order issued Friday by the state’s high court has put the Graham County Clerk of the Court’s Office directly under the supervision of the presiding judge.
The order, signed by Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel on Oct. 11, orders that Cindy Woodman, the elected clerk of the court, only perform “duties assigned to her by Judge (Michael) Peterson, to be performed at a location he designates. Duties assigned to the clerk may be limited to non-court-related functions, such as issuing passports, and may include attending educational and training programs to acquire the knowledge and skills required to competently perform the functions of the Office of the Clerk of the Superior Court.”
Peterson informed the Supreme Court, which oversees operation of all Superior Courts in Arizona, about ongoing problems in the Clerk’s Office, stating that there was a risk the office would not be able to perform duties as required under the state’s Constitution. It was also believed that the ongoing crisis in the Clerk’s Office could put the state’s liability at risk.
“I find that the information presented provides sufficient, credible evidence and good cause to assign administrative supervision over the Clerk’s Office in Graham County to Presiding Judge Michael Peterson,” Brutinel wrote.
Under the order, Peterson now has the authority to assign duties to all employees within the Clerk’s Office, manage the court and financial records, as well as expend funds as required, and revoke signing authority on any governmental bank account and access to computer systems.
Peterson is also required to recommend to Brutinel a “lead clerk” who will be responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the office, “including hiring employees to fill vacant positions in the Clerk’s Office,” as well as file-stamp and certify documents, and perform any other duties normally undertaken by the elected Clerk of the Superior Court.
Woodman, who was elected in 2018, has been accused by former Clerk’s Office employees of creating “a toxic work environment,” leading to a number of resignations.
She was also found in July to have mishandled evidence, allegedly demanding the Thatcher Police Department hold the evidence rather than the Clerk’s Office as required by law, and not documenting the evidence transfer. Under oath, Woodman said she did not consult with Peterson before transferring the evidence due to his being absent from court; however, Peterson immediately produced a calendar showing he was at the courthouse the day Woodman was referencing.
An effort to recall Woodman has been initiated; however, no paperwork has been filed with the county’s Election Department to date. If organizers gather enough signatures — least 2,698 valid signatures of registered voters — by Jan. 1, 2020, voters will be asked if Woodman should remain in office or be removed.