An unusual encounter with the clerk of the court
Editor: I received a jury summons from Graham County Superior Court on or about Sept. 11, 2019, to appear for jury selection.
I was worried that this might present issues for me, so I called the phone number on the summons to let someone know how difficult it was going to be for me to be at the courthouse on Tuesday, Sept. 24, when I was the only one who could open my store at 9 a.m. Instead of being able to speak with a real person, I listened to the prerecorded message explaining that I would need to appear. This phone call did not offer me any opportunity to ask questions or leave a message making any declarations as to the availability of myself to appear today.
So I decided that the best thing for me to do was to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. before my business opened at 9 a.m., and take my chances of being able to appeal to the court that jury service would be a hardship on my livelihood. I knew that Tuesdays are one of my slowest days of the week, so I decided that even if I didn’t get to open my store until 10 a.m. or so, I’d probably be OK if I were released from duty as I hoped.
The jury selection process was delayed by a computer glitch and did not begin until approximately 9:45 a.m. I remained patient, sitting in the courtroom knowing that there was no one in my office or sales floor until my deliveryman was to arrive to work at noon. My name was called to sit in the box along with 25 or so other potential jurors, and the process began.
After the initial process of sorting out potential jurors who knew either court personnel or the defendant on trial, the judge came around to asking the jury pool if anyone had any personal or business issues with being able to serve on the jury. I was about the seventh person to raise my hand and, when called on, I simply stated that I was the sole proprietor of my business and that currently the only thing attending to my business was my answering machine, which was the absolute truth.
After all the responses had been given, the judge spoke up and stated that the first person he was going to excuse from jury duty was me. Following the example of previous jurors, I graciously stood up and left the courtroom, retrieved my cell phone, walked to my truck and drove immediately to my business somewhat worried that I could have missed a customer or important phone call. I unlocked the optional entrance to my store, walked in and started turning on my computers, etc.
Within seconds of unlocking my side doors and beginning the process of opening my cash register and computers, I looked up and was surprised to see Cindy Woodman, clerk of the Superior Court, stroll into my business through the main front doors. I immediately asked Cindy why she followed me to work since just a few minutes earlier I had just left her standing near the front part of the courtroom when the judge excused me from jury duty.
My immediate thought was that Cindy had come to let me know that I had forgotten to sign some official document back at the courthouse or something, but she just started telling me that she had seen that our front doors were already open and that she had seen a customer just leaving the building. It took me a while to realize that she thought I had lied to the judge, that my business was actually running OK without me. I tried explaining to her that my brother and I run separate businesses in the same building.
Cindy turned around and walked out while I was still trying to explain to her my business’ unique arrangement. I then walked outside to a customer’s car that I had seen to ask if there were something they needed from me, as I felt bad that a potential customer left because there was no one to serve him.
Cindy had already backed her car out but then stopped her vehicle, rolled down her window and exclaimed, “Don’t worry, Tom, I’m not going to tell anyone.” My mouth dropped open and I became very upset, knowing that Cindy still didn’t understand that I had told the judge the truth and she thought I had lied, but she wanted me to know that she wasn’t going to rat me out.
Upset, I walked back to my office and placed a call to the clerk of the Superior Court. I asked to speak with Cindy Woodman but was told that she was not back yet and was asked if I wanted to be transferred to her extension. I told them, yes, please, without any mention as to why I was calling. I left a fairly scathing message on Cindy’s answering machine demanding an apology from her and telling her I didn’t think it was her right or duty to play policewoman.
Just a very few minutes after leaving the message, Cindy reappeared in my store and apologized, and started telling me how difficult it was to fill a jury, how she knew that I could have been a fair and impartial juror and how disappointed she was that I asked to be excused. I told her I had served on a jury before and knew well what it meant, and that under different circumstances, I would gladly serve as a juror.
Cindy apologized again and left.
What really upsets me is knowing that now the possibility exists that Cindy Woodman will be going around town telling her friends and associates that, in her opinion, Tom Green shirked his duty by telling a lie to the judge in order to be excused from jury duty. To say the least, I was embarrassed to have the clerk of the Superior Court personally track me down immediately after being dismissed for good reason by the judge.
I’m also embarrassed not being able to serve on this jury, as under other circumstances I would have.
Be a smart voter, don’t vote straight ticket
Editor: In response to the editorial in the Eastern Arizona Courier (“Swift conclusion hoped for in court clerk situation,” Sept. 11, 2019) and other media regarding the recall of Cindy Woodman as clerk of the Graham County Superior Court, I would like to share my thoughts on the matter.
The problems arising from the Clerk’s Office and the recall efforts taking place can be blamed on the voters of Graham County, who boast of voting a straight Republican or Democratic ticket when going to the polls without giving any weight to the candidate’s name on the ballot. The only thing they are looking for is an “R” or “D” behind a name.
I can only compare those people to a coach who picks his starting lineup by blindly drawing players’ names from a hat. It takes knowledge and decision making to be an effective coach; likewise, it takes knowledge and decision making to cast an educated vote for your local city and county officials.
It is understandable that when voting for the president of the United States, the governor of Arizona, state offices and/or legislators, you would have a strong opinion and desire to stay within your own party type because these positions hold a lot of political power. However, at the local level, there is no political power in the county elected positions, such as: clerk of the Superior Court, treasurer, recorder, etc. County elected officials are sworn to faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office they are elected to, and they are prohibited from showing favoritism to any political party.
These local officials will not be making laws regarding gun control, immigration, abortion, etc., but these officials will be in charge of your local public offices and their salary will be paid with your local tax dollars. So please do your homework when it comes to voting. You should concern yourself with what type of individuals the candidates are, and what knowledge and experience they have because they will be in charge of providing services in this county for you and your family. The candidate’s party should be the last thing you consider, not the first.
Sadly, this is not the only time Graham County citizens have voted an individual into office who has no knowledge about his or her new position. County and city employees are well aware of the election process, and they understand that their new boss will need their help, assistance, knowledge and guidance to lead an efficient office. To assume that these employees are unwilling to assist their new boss is an insult to them.
Likewise, comparing any of these offices to a presidential cabinet that needs to be “cleaned out” is quite overreaching. These employees have mortgages to pay, families to feed and have a desire to keep the insurance and benefits the county provides. They want and need to keep their jobs that they have a vested interest in, and they desire to be accepted by their new boss. What these employees do not have control of is the attitude, personality and integrity of their new boss. These characteristics are what voters should have been looking at during the election process.
In regard to the recall of Cindy Woodman as clerk of the Superior Court, I urge you to do your homework and become knowledgeable and ask around about:
• What qualifications does this candidate have to run for clerk of the Superior Court?
• What are her leadership skills, and where and when has she utilized them?
• Has she ever supervised employees?
• Why was she fired from her last place of employment?
• Why did she leave her profession of a dental hygienist?
• What do her previous co-workers say about her and her integrity?
• What organizations has she been involved with and does she have their support?
These are questions concerned voters should be asking about anyone running for public office. In Graham County, we have very limited tax dollars, so do your part in using them wisely and don’t be a robot at the polls.
If you have any questions regarding this recall or wish to sign a petition you may contact myself at 928-651-8418 or Darlee Maylen at 928-792-7477; or reach us via Facebook Messenger.
Mary Jo Howes