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Mofford Takes Reins as State Chief in Arizona

February 09, 1988|From Times Wire Services

PHOENIX — Democrat Rose Mofford officially took over as acting Arizona governor Monday, vowing to be healing yet forceful in running the state while impeached Republican Gov. Evan Mecham goes on trial by the state Senate.

Mofford, a Democrat, said she will extend "every courtesy" to Mecham.

The Republican-controlled state House voted Friday evening, 46 to 14, to impeach Mecham. On Monday, it voted 42 to 18 to adopt the specific articles of impeachment before sending them to the Senate, which is expected to organize as an impeachment court Thursday. The Senate trial is scheduled for Feb. 22.

Although the state constitution specifies that the secretary of state becomes acting governor when the governor is impeached, Mofford had declined over the weekend to take the title until she received official notification Monday of the impeachment vote.

Retains Title

Mecham, 63, retains his title pending the trial but is stripped of his gubernatorial powers.

The articles of impeachment against Mecham contain the three charges outlined in House special counsel William P. French's impeachment report--obstruction of justice, filing false sworn statements and misuse of funds.

Mecham also faces a May 17 recall election and a criminal trial on charges of concealing a $350,000 campaign loan.

Mofford immediately made one crucial staff change, placing Mecham ally Max Hawkins, state director of administration, on paid leave pending the outcome of the impeachment.

She met with four former governors--Democrats Sam Goddard and Raul Castro and Republicans Jack Williams and Paul Fannin. Mecham's predecessor, Democrat Bruce Babbitt, a presidential candidate, also contacted Mofford.

Mofford also had a cordial meeting with Mecham, said Athia Hardt, Mofford's spokeswoman.

Trial Postponed

The criminal trial had been scheduled for March, but has been postponed until April.

Meanwhile, the son of the service manager at Mecham's suburban car dealership was charged Monday with firing a shotgun blast at Mecham's home and vandalizing the business because he was mad at Mecham's son, who operates the dealership.

Bond for Vernon Jordan, 21, was set at $10,960.

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