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Political Notebook: Constable accused of falsifying signatures

Pima County’s newest Constable, Deborah Martinez-Garibay, is facing accusations of falsifying petition signatures in her effort to make the ballot in Justice Precinct 8, which covers part of midtown Tucson.

Assistant County Administrator Mark Napier, the former county sheriff, has submitted a 100-page report to the Pima County supervisors outlining complaints the constable’s office has received over Martinez-Garibay’s conduct, concerns she forged signatures on her petition to run for the constable and allegations she doesn’t live in the precinct in which she’s running for election.

The board appointed Martinez-Garibay to replace former JP 8 constable Kristen Randall in March. Martinez-Garibay is seeking election this fall to the same constable position, responsible for serving legal summons such as eviction notices and protection orders from the justice courts.

The constable positions have long ranked with state mine inspector among the least noticed races on Arizona ballots, but in Pima County they have become increasingly hotly contested in part due to disputes over how to handle evictions.

Presiding Constable Michael Stevenson alerted Napier to the concerns over Martinez-Garibay’s conduct and provided documentation “specifically addressing the validity, and potential falsification, of signatures on the nomination petition forms” and “raised concerns (Martinez-Garibay) had a valid residence in JP8 when collecting signatures,” the report said.

Martinez-Garibay could not comment extensively on the matter Thursday, she said, but called the allegations a “smear campaign.”

“They’re twisting things around,” she said. “Whatever happens that they’re going to, you know, whatever they look into, they’re going to find that I’m vindicated, that this is all so false.”

Opponents enjoined

Stevenson’s information came from South Tucson Police Sgt. Chris Toth, who considered running against Martinez-Garibay but dropped out “due to some alleged aggressive tactics” from Martinez-Garibay.

Toth collected signatures to run for the JP8 constable position, he said Thursday, and he had planned on filing a challenge to Martinez-Garibay’s signatures. But when he was at the courthouse on the deadline day, April 18, he ran into Martinez-Garibay, who said she was planning to file a harassment injunction against him.

Toth said he worried an injunction could harm his police career.

“She told me she was going to put out an injunction against harassment against me,” he said. “I was under the impression if I withdrew she wouldn’t do that.”

He decided not to file his challenge to her signatures and the same day withdrew from the race. Martinez-Garibay has filed against him anyway, Toth said, but nobody has served him with the papers.

Martinez-Garibay did serve an injunction against harassment on another political rival, longtime local Democratic activist Sami Hamed. He said Thursday that he had heard there might be problems with her signatures, so he requested to see them on April 4, the day they were submitted — a routine request in contested political campaigns.

On April 18, the deadline day for challenges, Hamed was served with an injunction against harassment obtained by Martinez-Garibay, he said. Later, he challenged the validity of the injunction in court, noting he had never seen nor met Martinez-Garibay before. Pima County Superior Court Judge pro tem Deborah Pratte dismissed the injunction May 4.

Suspicious signatures

In Napier’s review of Martinez-Garibay’s nomination petition forms, he found signatures of voters without addresses in JP8 as well as several entries that seemed to be written in the same handwriting.

“I am not a forensic handwriting analyst,” Napier wrote. “However, in the case of these entries, one does not necessarily have to be. The writing is so obviously similar as to leave nearly no reasonable doubt that the entries were made by the same person.”

If the alleged falsification is real, it could constitute forgery, fraud and tampering with a public record under state statutes, Napier wrote.

Napier also outlines allegations that Martinez-Garibay doesn’t live in JP 8, which would violate state law. The address she provided on her nomination petition forms is in JP 8, but it is the residence of a former constable and current employee of the county assessor’s office, Joe Ferguson, according to Napier. He wrote “substantive evidence indicates” she lives outside of the precinct she’s seeking election in.

The second address provided in Napier’s report as Martinez-Garibay’s potential residence is listed on assessor’s records as beonging to her.

Napier recommended the board consider suspending Martinez-Garibay, seek advice from the county attorney’s office on “initiation of a possible criminal investigation,” and that the allegations be transferred to the state board charged with investigating claims of misconduct among constables.

“As a constable, (Martinez-Garibay) holds a position of trust in the community,” Naper wrote, later adding, “her continued performance of the duties of constable may pose a liability and potential embarrassment to the county.”

Tim Steller and Nicole Ludden</&h6>

Arizona Mirror next Gawker?

U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, a Tucson Republican, is continuing his campaign against the Arizona Mirror, a small online news outlet based in Phoenix.

An article posted Friday May 6 by the Mirror said that Masters wants to give states the right to ban contraception. It was based on Masters’ statement on his campaign website that he would like to see the Griswold v. Connecticut case overturned. That’s the case that established a constitutional right to privacy and prevented states from interfering in married couples’ use of contraception.

After the story was published, Masters said the reporter had made an inadequate effort to get comment from him, sending an email to a non-functional email address 90 minutes before publication. He said he thinks that the case was wrongly decided, not that contraception should be banned.

Later, Masters threatened the Mirror with trying to shut them down through a lawsuit. “Hey @ArizonaMirror and @DillonReedRose: preserve your documents! If I get any free time after winning my elections then you’re getting sued, and I’ll easily prove actual malice. Gawker found out the hard way and you will too.”

Masters’ longtime boss and political sponsor, Peter Thiel, secretly funded a lawsuit that led to the closure of Gawker, an online news site that had covered Thiel critically. But the circumstances now are vastly different: As a public figure running for office, Masters has a much higher legal threshold to prove defamation, and the Mirror’s main sin was that it did not reach out to him adequately for comment.

Tim Steller</&h6>

Candidate kicked off ballot

A candidate for state Senate in Legislative District 16 has been kicked off the ballot.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Republican Daniel Wood submitted too few valid signatures.

The district reaches from southern Maricopa County, across Pinal County and into the far northwestern reaches of the Tucson metro area.

Tim Steller</&h6>

Contact columnist Tim Steller at tsteller@tucson.com or 520-807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter


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Nicole joined the Star in 2021. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism at ASU’s Cronkite school in 2020 and has won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, AC Press and Arizona Press Club.

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