Arizona county delays decision on Paul Petersen, who is facing smuggling charge

(Rick Bowmer | AP file) Paul Petersen, an Arizona elected official accused of running a multi-state adoption scheme, leaves court after an initial appearance on charges filed in the state in Salt Lake City on Nov. 15, 2019.

Phoenix • An Arizona county won’t decide before Christmas whether to reinstate an elected official who was suspended when he was accused of directing an international human smuggling scheme, a spokesman said Thursday.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is waiting for a final investigative report into Assessor Paul Petersen's handling of his official duties before deciding whether to end a 120-day unpaid suspension, county spokesman Fields Moseley said. The report, which is being prepared by a Phoenix law firm, is expected to be done before the end of the year, but it's not clear if the county will decide Petersen's fate before January, he said.

Petersen, a Republican, is challenging his suspension from his position determining the value of millions of business and residential properties for tax purposes. He says the county failed to prove that he neglected his duties and lacks authority to remove him from office.

Prosecutors allege Petersen, who ran an adoption attorney in addition to his elected position, paid women from the Marshall Islands to give their babies for adoption by American families. He’s pleaded not guilty in Arizona and Arkansas to charges that include human smuggling and fraud. He has not yet entered a plea in Utah on similar charges.

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