- Associated Press - Friday, June 2, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is urging people not to jump to conclusions in the indictment of a lobbyist, who is his friend, and three other people.

The governor called the allegations “very troubling,” but said people should allow the suspects to be innocent until proven guilty, The Arizona Capitol Times reported (https://bit.ly/2rsOl05 ).

“I do think some people are trying to make political hay out of this,” Ducey said. “But I think the facts are important here.”

Lobbyist Jim Norton stepped away from his consulting firm Axiom Public Affairs this week to focus on his legal defense against the indictment accusing him of felony conspiracy, bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud charges. He has denied any wrongdoing.

“I am innocent and will be entering a plea of not guilty,” Norton said last week. “I am confident these allegations will be shown to be without merit.”

Former Arizona Corporation Commission chairman Gary Pierce, Johnson Utilities owner George Johnson, and Pierce’s wife, Sherry Ann Pierce, were also indicted.

Johnson is accused of paying the Pierces through Norton and an unindicted co-conspirator to help secure commission approval of higher rates for Johnson Utilities in the East Valley and Pinal County.

Calls left for Gary Pierce, Sherry Ann Pierce and Tom Irvine, an attorney who represents Johnson, have not been returned.

Ducey acknowledged that he and Norton are friends who have known each other for many years. Johnson donated $4,000 to Ducey’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

Since the indictment, the firm has lost some of its top clients. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and United Healthcare dropped the firm on Tuesday, according to online records from the Secretary of State’s Office.

Airbnb Inc., the San Francisco-based home-sharing service, and the Maricopa County Community Colleges District have also announced they will be leaving the firm.

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Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, https://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com

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