AF constable up for re-election faces ethics investigation - Ahwatukee Foothills News: News

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AF constable up for re-election faces ethics investigation

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Posted: Saturday, October 2, 2010 2:00 pm

Constable Jon Levenson, whose district includes Ahwatukee Foothills, is facing possible criminal charges for allegedly failing to carry out the duties of his office, such as serving eviction notices and orders of protection, according to a state oversight board.

Levenson, a Democrat, currently is running for re-election in November, seeking a second term as constable of the Kyrene district, which encompasses Ahwatukee Foothills, Guadalupe, and parts of Tempe, Phoenix and Scottsdale. His opponent, Republican Brandon Schmoll, on Wednesday called on Levenson to resign, saying the incumbent has violated the public's trust.

"The community relies on the constable's office to execute orders of protection and eviction, and when that doesn't happen it can cause significant physical and financial harm to the community," Schmoll said.

Levenson said he's innocent of any alleged ethics violations.

"I think that by the time we're done, basically the truth is going to come out that I didn't do anything improper or anything considered against the law or unethical," he said.

Constables, who are elected to four-year terms, are responsible for such things as serving eviction notices, orders of protection, and civil and criminal summons and subpoenas; for seizing property to satisfy judgments; and for providing judicial security to the justice courts. On Sept. 14, the Arizona Constable Ethics Standards and Training Board, a state oversight committee that investigates complaints against constables, submitted Levenson's name to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and Superior Court for possible criminal prosecution for allegedly failing to serve several writs.

Jeff Curwen, the board's spokesman, said Levenson has received six censures during his single four-year term for failing to carry out his duties.

"We've tried to remedy this and we've reached the end of our solutions," Curwen said. "The County Attorney's Office requested complete copies of all the cases. They will be reviewing it."

If the county attorney decides to pursue the case, Levenson could face criminal charges of nonfeasance of office, a low-level misdemeanor with minor penalties, Curwen said. However, if Levenson is convicted, he could be removed immediately from office, he said.

Bill Fitzgerald, spokesman for the County Attorney's Office, said the matter is under investigation, but would not provide additional comment.

In the oversight board's Sept. 14 letter of censure to Levenson, chairman and Pima County Constable Vince Roberts rejected Levenson's defense that complaints against him were politically motivated and said Levenson had been given multiple opportunities to correct his conduct.

"You hold an office of public trust, and it is clear to this Board you are not performing the duties of that office," Roberts wrote.

In his letter to the county attorney on the same day, requesting an investigation, Roberts said Levenson has long been the subject of criticism.

"This is far from the first time we have received such a complaint against this constable," Roberts wrote. "This Constable has been counseled multiple times by his peers, including members of this Board, and officially admonished on numerous occasions, yet he continues to receive the same complaints for the same misconduct."

Levenson said that on several occasions, he did not serve court-issued writs because the plaintiffs in the cases managed to resolve their disputes by other means, and they asked him not to serve the defendants.

"The plaintiff is the one who decides whether it's going to be served," he said. "I have nothing to hide about any of this."

The job of constable often is emotionally charged and upsetting to people, he added.

"It's one of those things. That's the price you pay for being in public office," Levenson said. "You're not going to make people happy all the time."

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