Ask any journalist what makes the biggest difference in covering public agencies, and they’re not likely to name the top dog.

As helpful or unhelpful as an elected official may appear, they are rarely the first stop on a reporter’s quest to get information. Instead, they turn to an organization’s front line of defense public service—the public information officer, or PIO.

That’s why it’s nice to see good folks be recognized for their work assisting the public and the Fourth Estate.

The annual Phoenix New Times “Best of Phoenix” arrived, and “Best PIO” goes to a couple of staffers at the Superior Court for Maricopa County—Vincent Funari and Karen Arra. Congratulations!

(If you’re surprised the New Times has such a wonky category, you may not have noticed that the alternative news weekly has been in court a time or three. If anyone desires a transparent and fair court process, it’s the New Times and its soon-to-be-vamoosed owners!)

I first came across the good news on the court’s own Facebook page, but there was no link to read the glowing tribute penned by the digitally-ink-stained wretches. Whazzup, I thought? I mean, if anyone knows social media and how to link up a storm, that court and these PIOs do.

So I shuffled over to the PNT’s own site, searched, located the item—and had a good chuckle at how the newspaper heaps praise along with a side of sarcasm. You can read it here.

Given how accomplished Vincent and Karen are, it’s no wonder that they decided to excerpt only the pertinent portion and leave the snarky history lesson aside.

But here at AZ Attorney, we enjoy the whole, unvarnished story!

If you come across either of these great professionals when you pass through the court, give them your best wishes; they’ve earned it.

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Lawyers may not be tea-leaf-reading kind of folks, but even those famously left-brained professionals must see the signs.

Oddity is all about us, people. And that is nowhere more clear than in the signs that line our roads. Let me share.

First, the depressingly inaccurate.

We have witnessed a Mesa battle this week over signs that contain inaccurate information—but it will apparently take a court to have them removed. The recall election of Russell Pearce already occupied too much of the time of newsfolk. Now, we are confronted with signs that operate simply through misdirection.

Here’s the story.

And here is the sign making all the hubbub. (Oddly enough, the Arizona Republic didn’t include the photo with its news story. I had to head over to the Phoenix New Times, that visual bunch, to find it. You can read the NT story here.)

To counterbalance the tawdry signs of politics we see all around us, I direct you northward. There, drivers came across a (we hope) playful warning—about an escaped panda bear.

The story, not nearly as good as the photo below, is here.

Enjoy.

Victor Riches, Arizona House Chief of Staff

Two stories percolating this week demonstrate solidarity in the face of adversity. Oddly enough, both come out of the Arizona Legislature.

I say “oddly” because recent actions from lawmakers demonstrate an almost unwavering support for a variety of themes: law and order, personal responsibility, a dislike for excuses. But those things fall away when it’s one of your own whose ox is being gored.

The first story is about the chief aide to the House Speaker. He was stopped for extreme DUI, and cocaine was even found in the car he was driving. But both Speaker Andy Tobin and former Speaker Kirk Adams stand by Victor Riches. They say they appreciate his “candor” about the 2010 incident.

Here is another story about the arrest. It quotes a criminal defense attorney who muses on the different type of treatment that differently situated defendants receive.

House Speaker Andy Tobin and former Speaker Kirk Adams

That follows on the heels of the Scott Bundgaard domestic-violence case. Laurie Roberts in the Republic writes about that again today.

As Roberts described it, the matter is “perhaps the longest misdemeanor investigation ever.” But how much more abbreviated it might have been if lawmakers decided not to throw their unwavering support behind the state senator.

Optimistic readers may hope this all signals a new openness among leaders to arguments that the facts underlying criminal charges are often complicated, and that no one should be demonized until they get their day in court.

A hopeful lot, they.

State Senator Scott Bundgaard

1912 Superintendent’s Building at the Arizona State Hospital

No commentary today, but some links and a few questions.

Today’s lead news story was about Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and her son Ronald. The Arizona Republic reports that it has been seeking to have Ronald’s criminal court file unsealed. But the question now is why was it sealed in the first place?

The records have to do with a 1989 arrest and conviction for sexual assault and kidnapping. For years, Brewer had been open about her son’s situation. That included his being found not guilty by reason of insanity, and his commitment to the Arizona State Hospital. He has been there, with occasional releases, ever since.

The news story will play out over the coming week, and it may focus on the unique timing of the motion to have the file sealed (it occurred just as Brewer was transitioning from Secretary of State to Governor), as well as how rare or common that result is.

But my question is a media one: When this motion was made in early 2009, did the Republic cover it? I can’t find that story in their archives. And if they didn’t, why not?

Here is today’s Arizona Republic story.

And here is last week’s Phoenix New Times story with more detail from the original police report.