Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Heidi Torrio is seeking to challenge Cindy Woodman in the recall election of the Graham County Clerk of the Superior Court.
By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – After much reflection and discussion with family members, Heidi Perez Torrio has decided to take a leave of absence from her job as Graham County Probation Finance Operations Manager to run for Graham County Clerk of the Superior Court in the recall election of Cindy Woodman on May 19.
“I care a lot about this office,” Torrio told the Gila Herald. “I began my career with Graham County in the Superior Court Clerk’s office.”
Torrio has more than 27 years of experience in the judicial court system between her time at the clerk’s office and as a probation officer.
“I’m going to bring my experience, integrity, leadership, and dedication to this office,” Torrio said.
According to Graham County Chief Probation Officer Josh Halverson, in this particular case, any judicial employee seeking the office must first resign from their position or be granted a leave of absence. Halverson said Torrio was granted a leave of absence Monday.
Graham County Probation Officer Irvin Talley had taken out an election packet and was granted a leave of absence last Tuesday, however, due to issues regarding his retirement he begrudgingly dropped out of the race and encouraged Torrio to take his place. A third candidate, Marianne Clonts, has also taken out a candidate packet, according to Graham County Elections Director Hanna Duderstadt.
Since Clonts is not a judicial employee, she does not have to resign from any employment. However, both Clonts and Torrio have until 5 p.m. on March 23 to turn in their candidate packets with at least 211 signatures.
The May 19 special election seeks to recall Graham County Clerk of the Superior Court Cindy Woodman, who was elected in November 2018 but was removed from her office by an administrative order from the Supreme Court of the State of Arizona on Oct. 11, 2019, after Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson requested administrative control and oversight. After meeting with Woodman, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert M. Brutinel stripped her of her office and gave control to Judge Peterson, who then appointed a lead clerk to run the office. Since then, Woodman has been placed in Justice of the Peace District 2 in Pima.
In his letter, Judge Peterson wrote, “In consideration of the foregoing, I submit that there is conclusive evidence that Ms. Woodman is unwilling or unable to perform her duties as clerk of the court. Ample time has passed since Ms. Woodman was unequivocally made aware of the systemic problems which plague the clerk’s office. She has completely failed to acknowledge responsibility for her actions and has utterly failed to remedy the problems. Instead, these problems have increased to the extent that they have seriously impacted the judicial function of the court.”
While Woodman has been removed from the office and physically placed 10 miles away at the small Justice of the Peace facility, county taxpayers are still paying her $63,800 annual salary, which actually equates to roughly $110,000 after adding in the county’s employee-related expenses. That was one driving force for former Clerk of the Superior Court Darlee Maylen, who has led the recall effort as chairman of the Committee for the Recall of Cindy Woodman as Graham County Clerk of the Superior Court.
The committee had until Jan. 1 to gather 2,697 signatures, which is 25 percent of the total votes cast for Woodman and her previous opponent during the 2018 election. Maylen dropped off 3,147 signatures to the Graham County Elections Department on Nov. 18, 2019. Duderstadt told the Gila Herald that on Jan. 21 she had received 2,800 verified signatures back from the Graham County Recorder’s Office.
On Monday, Feb. 10, the Graham County Board of Supervisors voted to move forward with the May 19 election and transfer $30,000 from the county’s contingency funds to pay for the election, which is expected to cost less than the transfer.
There will no party designations on the ballot, only the names of the candidates. Voters who are not registered have until April 20 to register to be eligible to vote in the recall election.