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Apache County prosecutor accused of harassing employees who called for his resignation

APACHE COUNTY, Arizona (AZFamily)— One day after drafting a letter asking his boss to resign, three top Apache County prosecutors issued an order to stop harassing Apache County Attorney Michael Whiting.

On Thursday, June 6, three prosecutors wrote a letter to Whiting asking him to resign following a search by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office of the district attorney’s office and Whiting’s residence in St. Johns. In a letter, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office informed the Apache County Board of Supervisors that the search was related to an investigation into the misuse of public funds and threatening or intimidating a political opponent.

Apache County Chief Deputy District Attorney Celeste Robertson, Chief Deputy District Attorney Tyron Jensen, Chief Prosecutor Garet Kartchner and Chief of Staff Celilia Diaz addressed St. John’s Justice Court for non-harassment orders against Whiting.

Kartchner told the court on June 7, the day after he and two other prosecutors asked Whiting to step down due to what Kartchner called “egregious ethical violations and an ongoing investigation,” he saw Whiting walking past his home.

Other prosecutors also noted that people were driving around their homes.

“My colleagues and I wrote a letter to Michael asking for his resignation as district attorney. Since then, he has been parking in front of one of my co-workers’ house as an act of intimidation,” said Tyron Jensen.

In his petition to the court, Robertson detailed the letter, which could reveal part of the Attorney General’s investigation into allegations of intimidation of a political opponent. Robertson told the court she received a letter from the county elections director regarding opponent Joy Whiting, Apache County’s school superintendent and wife of the district attorney.

“In April 2024, I received a letter from the County Director of Elections. The letter was written by Fernando Madrid, a political opponent of Joy Whiting, Michael’s wife. “The letter indicated that Madrid was withdrawing from the race because Michael Whiting had threatened, intimidated and attacked him.”

Robertson said that shortly thereafter, two office workers began following her. Arizona’s family reached out to Madrid for comment but did not receive a response.

The orders prohibit Whiting from being within 100 meters of the four employees, including their residences or workplaces.

In response to the harassment allegations, Whiting sent Arizona’s family a lengthy emailed statement describing his relationship with each staff member who requested the order. In it, he described his relationships with Robertson and Diaz: “They have actually confided in me over the years about various issues related to their personal professional lives. I always treated them with respect and kindness and cheered on their victories as they grew into hardworking and competent professionals.”

Whiting said that regarding employees claiming to see people, including Whiting at times, following them, “In terms of surveillance, I have never done that or asked anyone to monitor anyone’s home from the office.”

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 16, 2009 file photo, Apache County Prosecutor Michael Whiting...
FILE – In this Tuesday, June 16, 2009 file photo, Apache County Prosecutor Michael Whiting speaks with reporters outside the St. Patrick’s Courthouse. Johns, Arizona. An Arizona boy accused of killing his father and another man when he was 8 years old was accused of winning a judge’s approval to be placed in foster care and enroll in public school, sparking outrage from prosecutors and victims who fear for the safety of others. The boy pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in connection with the death of 39-year-old Tim Romans. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors dropped the premeditated murder charge in connection with the death of the 29-year-old father. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)(Felicia Fonseca | AP)

WHITING’S HISTORY

Whiting has served as district attorney in Apache County for the past 16 years and was first elected in 2008. His Arizona State Attorneys’ Advisory Council biography shows he has been a lifelong resident of the county. Apache County has on file a declaration of intent to run in the 2024 Democratic primary, scheduled for July 30, 2024.

In 2011, the Arizona State Bar Association reprimanded Whiting and another attorney for allowing “investigators from the Apache County Prosecutor’s Office to transfer a represented defendant in a criminal case awaiting a plea deal outside of his defense attorney’s presence.”

The State Bar of Arizona confirms to Arizona’s family that a bar charge or complaint has been filed regarding Whiting, but it is in the preliminary review stage.

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