Voters to decide for clerk in Woodman recall election

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: The recall election of Cindy Woodman as the Graham County Clerk of the Superior Court will apparently take place in May.

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – Graham County Clerk of the Superior Court Cindy Woodman has declined to resign her petition, and if the voters of Graham County want her out, they will have to vote her out. This will likely be done during a special election May 19 with a straight forward election choice between Woodman and whoever else is running for the position. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher Sgt. Kevin West transports the evidence in the Manuel Campos case back to the Thatcher Police Department after an evidentiary hearing. During hearings, it was found that Clerk Cindy Woodman mishandled evidence and a defensive attorney accused her of lying while under oath.

The recall effort began in September 2019. The Committee for the Recall of Cindy Woodman as Graham County Clerk of Superior Court 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. Committee Chairman Darlee 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, which then initiated the next phase that includes notifying Woodman and waiting for her response. 

Woodman had until Jan. 30 to resign from her position. Since she did not notify the Elections Department of her choice by that date, the process moves forward. Woodman will be allowed to submit a defense statement of up to 200 words that will appear on the ballot, according to Duderstadt. The Graham County Board of Supervisors has 15 days to declare that an election takes place. When the announcement occurs, the board will also invite anyone who wishes to run for the office to obtain nomination papers. 

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 later came under fire for reportedly mishandling evidence in a felony case, her apparent inability to learn the position, and has been blamed for an exodus of clerks from her office since she began in January among other accusations of ineptitude.

Woodman was relieved of her duties on Oct. 11 with the issuance of the Supreme Court of the State of Arizona’s Administrative Order No. 2019-123. Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert M. Brutinel stripped Woodman of her duties and instead turned the oversight of the day-to-day operations over to Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson.

In the order, Judge Peterson was given total administrative control and oversight of the clerk’s office, including having the authority to reassign the duties of the Clerk of the Court and all personnel, manage court and financial records, revoke signing authority on any governmental bank accounts and to access computer systems and to expend funds budget for the office. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Darlee Maylen delivers the 3,147 signatures to the Graham County Elections on Nov. 18, 2019.

Chief Justice Brutinel wrote that the “action is necessary to restore proper operations of the Clerk’s Office in Graham County.”

Since then, Woodman has not been back at the office in any capacity and her duties were given to a newly chosen “lead clerk”. Instead, Judge Peterson has placed Woodman at Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 in Pima, where she has reportedly been involved in processing passports. Maylen said the recall effort kicked into high gear once the Supreme Court’s order was issued because the taxpayers were essentially still paying Woodman for not doing any real work.

According to Maylen, Woodman’s annual salary is $63,800, which approximates to $110,000 after adding in the county’s employee-related expenses. She said her committee will continue to educate the public on the situation up to the recall election so the county doesn’t find itself in the same boat after the election.

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