ARIZONA NEWS

Maricopa County picks $72-an-hour fill-in for suspended assessor

Oct 30, 2019, 5:11 PM | Updated: 9:57 pm
Bill Wiley (US Army Corps of Engineers Photo)...
Bill Wiley (US Army Corps of Engineers Photo)
(US Army Corps of Engineers Photo)

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday named an interim replacement for Assessor Paul Petersen, who was suspended this week after being charged with human trafficking.

In a unanimous vote, Bill Wiley was appointed acting administrator for the metro Phoenix assessor’s office.

Wiley’s experience with the county includes stints as Flood Control District chief engineer and Air Quality Department director.

He’ll be paid more than $72 per hour in the temporary role, about double Peterson’s assessor salary.

Petersen was suspended without pay Monday for 120 days, the maximum allowed under state law.

The board called for Petersen’s resignation after his Oct. 8 arrest, but he hasn’t complied.

He pleaded not guilty to federal charges in Arkansas on Tuesday. He was released on $100,000 bond and ordered to wear an ankle monitor.

He’d been in custody since his arrest in Arizona following his indictment on 32 counts in three states, including sale of a child, conspiracy and fraud.

He also faces charges in Arizona and Utah.

The case spans three years and involves some 75 adoptions, authorities said, with about 30 adoptions pending.

Petersen is accused of illegally paying women from the Marshall Islands to have their babies in the United States and give them up for adoption. The women were crammed into homes owned or rented by Petersen, sometimes with little to no prenatal care, court documents say.

Petersen charged families $25,000 to $40,000 per adoption, prosecutors said.

He also is accused of claiming the women were Arizona residents on paperwork to get them state-funded health care coverage, bilking Arizona’s Medicaid system out of more than $800,000.

County auditors found hundreds documents related to Petersen’s adoption business on his county-issued computer, a fact cited by the board in its decision to suspend him for neglect of duty.

Petersen’s attorney has said prosecutors have miscast his client as a human smuggler.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Maricopa County picks $72-an-hour fill-in for suspended assessor