Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: A recall effort has begun against Graham County Clerk of the Superior Court Cindy Woodman.
Must gather 2,697 signatures by January 2020
By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – An application for a recall petition was filed with Graham County Election Director Hannah Duderstadt on Tuesday, against Graham County Clerk of the Superior Court Cindy Woodman.
The application was filed by The Committee for the Recall of Cindy Woodman as Graham County Clerk of Superior Court. The committee lists its Chairman as Darlee Maylen, with its Treasurer as Amelia Sainz – the two women who previously held the position of Graham County Clerk of the Superior Court for the previous 39 years prior to Woodman being elected. Maylen came on board in the clerk’s office when Sainz became Graham County Clerk of the Superior Court in 1979 and was initially appointed to the office by Governor Jane Hull in 1999 and won re-election multiple times until retiring at the end of 2018.
Former dental hygienist Woodman ran on the Republican ticket in the November 2018 election and bested her Democratic opponent, Heidi Torrio, 55 percent to 45 percent with about 1,000 more votes out of the roughly 10,786 ballots cast. She has come under fire for reportedly mishandling evidence in a felony case and has been blamed for an exodus of clerks from her office since she began in January.
Graham County Republican Party Chairman John Duane Rhodes said he felt the recall petition was “a lot of sour grapes” over losing the election and having a Republican in the office for the first time. He said Woodman should have been sent off for training that did not occur.
“Everybody who is elected to office, including the President of the United States, has training in their specific office that they get,” Rhodes said. “And none was really offered by the county.”
Rhodes said it has been a concerted effort by the former clerks to remove Woodman since she was elected and that she came into a hostile workplace from the start.
“Cindy is a good clerk and will make a better clerk once she gets some education and time under her belt,” Rhodes said.
Woodman said she wasn’t surprised by the recall effort because she has felt the push back from Maylen for Woodman improving the clerk’s office to be more compliant. Woodman mentioned an issue with the security of the clerk’s file stamp, evidence storage, and the office being able to pass its tri-annual audit.
“Why are they concerned with getting me out of office if the office was compliant? If my predecessor was so concerned with the office having perpetuated in a positive manner and if it had been so well operated, why didn’t she continue to run and hold that office? I mean, a 60-year-old individual is still quite young,” Woodman said.
Now that the recall petition application has been filed, the group has until Jan. 1, 2020, to gather 2,697 signatures, which is 25 percent of the total votes cast for both candidates in the 2018 election.
If the group gathers the required amount of signatures and turns them in prior to the deadline, the signatures will then have to be verified. Once verified through the Graham County Recorder’s Office, Woodman will be given the option to resign or to fight the recall effort.
If Woodman refuses to resign her position, she will have to run for re-election in the next consolidated election – as long as there is an opponent to run against her. On Wednesday, Woodman told the Gila Herald that she felt it would be a disservice to those who voted for her to not fight the recall effort.
“I believe that the people of this Valley voted for me for a reason to begin with,” Woodman said. “And it was because they knew that they were supporting an individual who has the spine to stand up to the good ol’ boy attitude of this county and they’re tired of oversight and not being compliant and they knew that I had the backbone to stand up and do what was right.”
Maylen said her recall effort is a grassroots organization and that volunteers will be canvassing the area asking people to approve of the recall by getting signatures throughout Graham County over the next few months.
“A lot of people asked me what could be done about the situation and the ultimate answer is the only way that she can be removed from office is by a recall by the voters,” Maylen said.
On the 2018 election night, Woodman told the Gila Herald that she was humbled with her victory and would put in the hard time to perform well in her new office.
“Regardless of whether I won or not, people deserve better,” Woodman said after her victory last November. “I expect, at this point, for them to hold me to the fire as much as I would have my opponent if my opponent would have won. Now is when the work begins.”
However, in July, Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson found Woodman to have committed a violation of procedure when she demanded the Thatcher Police Department take back evidence used in the Manuel Campos trial, which was bifurcated and was to be used in his upcoming trial as well.
Additionally, Campos’ defense attorney, Daisy Flores, accused Woodman of giving false statements under oath while giving testimony on why she believed the evidence had to be removed from the court storage site.
Woodman advised that the issue with the evidence arose out of her concern for the safety of evidence in the large vault next to the courtroom on the second floor. Since then, she has transferred all the evidence she has found in the large vault to a different vault inside the first floor of the clerk’s office, which is kept locked and those who unlock it are required to sign a logbook while doing so.
Judge Peterson has also noted in open court on many occasions that he has had to take on additional duties that should be done by the clerk’s office due to the lack of ability in the office. The additional work could be attributed to lack of knowledge of the position and/or lack of employees in the office.
Seven clerks have resigned during Woodman’s first eight months on the job. Rhodes advised that upon a change of leadership in the clerk’s office, just like when a new head coach is hired in the NFL, the new leader brings in their own people and there is high turnover in the office at the start.
However, one of the clerks who resigned, Caitlin Young, wrote a pointed resignation letter that suggested Woodman should follow her lead.
“My time with Graham County had been a very meaningful opportunity in which I was able to grow both professionally and personally; with exception to the last few months, that is,” the resignation letter stated. “I feel that I should note that I have had the pleasure of working with many elected officials from many counties and various departments, but never have I seen such disrespect for an elected office. Because that is what you have shown: disrespect, by offering your candidacy. I cannot begin to describe how insulting it is that you ran for an office in which you had no experience or even a basic understanding of the duties required of you. I cannot fathom how you expected to lead an office with no leadership or interpersonal skills for that matter. You do a great disservice to the voters of Graham County by continuing to hold an office in which you are incapable of appreciating, let alone respecting . . . the changes you have been trying to implement are not ones of reason or improvement but only serve to feed your arrogance. I implore you: resign before you further damage this honorable office of the Clerk of the Superior Court.”
It was that sort of troubling news that spurred Maylen to act in the only way she knows how to correct the situation.
“I filed this recall petition because I spent two-thirds of my life working in the clerk’s office and even though I retired from it, I still care about it, the staff and the local county judicial system and I don’t like what is happening to it,” Maylen told the Gila Herald. “My career was spent learning and training employees of the duties of the Clerk of the Superior Court’s Office. Ms. Woodman, who admittedly knew nothing about the duties of the elected position before applying for it, felt after two or three days of job shadowing a county 10 times larger than Graham, knew more than her experienced staff. It is that type of attitude and arrogance that has continued to cause an enormous amount of turnover in staff and an irreplaceable amount of knowledge to walk out the door. Her lack of integrity, leadership and interpersonal skills will continue to leave the office in turmoil and understaffed.”
Woodman said she believes she is doing what is right for the county and office and will continue to do her duty.
“My lack of having spent a lot of time in the courtroom is because I was addressing a lot of things just to bring the office into compliance to begin with,” Woodman said. “And as far as learning this office, I feel that I have done as much as possible without having the direction from the courthouse trainer, or from the state, or from the judge. There were no procedures in place from this office. And I’m working on trying to establish (procedures.) That’s a long road to go for any office to have a procedures book but it’s really necessary in being able to serve people . . . That’s what we need to be able to serve everyone fairly and within as efficient a manner as possible.”
“If they manage to succeed we’ll get the paperwork out, Cindy will run again, we’ll back her and, hopefully, get her back in,” Rhodes said.