Prosecutors call for Maricopa County Attorney Adel to resign over job, sobriety concerns
Feb 15, 2022, 11:10 AM | Updated: Feb 16, 2022, 7:14 am
(Facebook Photo/Maricopa County Attorney's Office)
PHOENIX — Top prosecutors in Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel’s office are calling on her to resign amid continued concerns she hasn’t been able to perform the duties of the job while battling alcoholism and other health problems.
Five MCAO criminal division chiefs sent a four-page letter Monday to Adel asking for her resignation, accusing the Republican of continuing to drink following treatment and letting the problem bleed into her work performance.
The letter was also sent to Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates.
Adel told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News as recently as Feb. 7 she believed she was fit to perform her high-profile job.
“The totality of your actions have led to grave concerns with your ability to continue leading the third-largest prosecution agency in the country,” the letter reads.
Adel issued a response Tuesday afternoon saying she planned to stay in office.
“While I respect their opinion, I vehemently disagree with the characterization of me in this letter and I have no plans to resign,” she said in a statement.
“I am honored to have been duly elected county attorney and will continue to perform my duties as I was elected to do.”
The division chiefs said they met with Adel on Nov. 30 to discuss drinking concerns with her, where Adel admitted to relapsing on two occasions, according to the letter.
During the meeting, the chiefs asked Adel to be more present in the office in order to alleviate concerns about her job performance, a request she agreed with.
In early February, following reports that she’d been missing work, she released a statement saying she and her children contracted COVID-19 in January.
However, the letter says she was only in the office for “perhaps a few half days” from mid-December to the end of January.
“While we understand that the holidays encompassed some of this time and that your family contracted COVID during this time, it was disappointing and quite frankly shocking in light of our Nov. 30 meeting,” according to the letter.
Concerns about Adel’s sobriety and ability to perform the job have persisted.
An MCAO bureau chief said an 11 a.m. Monday phone call with Adel led him to report that the county attorney “displayed obvious signs of impairment during the conversation.”
On Wednesday, Adel’s communications director, Jennifer Liewer, submitted her resignation, citing a mutual loss of trust and confidence in professional interactions.
A day later, Adel chose to have Liewer escorted out of the building and ordered her to have no contact with other MCAO employees, a decision described as “illogical and irrational” in the prosecutors’ letter.
“We did not come to this decision lightly — far from it,” the letter from the division chiefs says. “We were hopeful you would change course after our Nov. 30 meeting and show the leadership that seemed so promising when you first took office.
“Unfortunately, things have gotten worse, not better.”
Adel, the first female elected to the position, sought in-patient services in Arizona for anxiety and “unhealthy coping behaviors” on Aug. 29, 2021.
A week later, Adel was transferred to a facility in California.
She revealed to the public on Sept. 10 she would be away from the office, 12 days after first seeking help for her problems.
“We informed you that while your personal life was ordinarily none of our business, it becomes our business if/when it spills into the work of the office,” the letter reads.
Adel defeated Democratic challenger Julie Gunnigle in the November 2020 election to retain her position after she was appointed to replace Bill Montgomery, who left for a seat on the state Supreme Court.
Adel spent election night in the hospital having emergency surgery for a brain bleed, the result of an earlier fall at home.