Documents: Buster plotted recalls, engaged in smear tactics

Recently released documents reportedly show that Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson did more than allegedly make sexist comments and download pornography, actions that prompted two former employees to file sexual harassment grievances.

Johnson also allegedly plotted to recall Supervisor Pete Byers and had his staff conduct a smear campaign against political foes such as former Lake Havasu City Mayor Melanie Grinstead-Hanak and former Councilman Steve Greeley, according to transcripts of interviews with his accusers.

Johnson also allegedly violated the state's open-meetings law by meeting twice around 1997 with then-Supervisor Jim Zaborsky and Don Van Brunt, former executive director of the Mohave County Economic Development Authority.

Johnson lives in Lake Havasu City and represents District 3.

Johnson's two accusers, former administrative assistant Marisa Tusa and former officer clerk Kelly McMahon, made numerous accusations against Johnson in interviews conducted in February and March 2002 with staff from the county Human Resources Department.

Human Resources Director Geoff Riches placed both women on paid administrative leave and determined that Johnson sexually harassed them and created a hostile work environment.

Responding to a request from Johnson's attorney, Rick Cohen of Phoenix, County Manager Ron Walker on Wednesday released 210 pages of documents that stemmed from the investigation.

Johnson, responding to the release of those documents in a press release of his own Friday, said the county's investigation was "a sham" and that he did not harass anyone.

In response to the release of the documents, Supervisor Tom Sockwell planned on Thursday to place on the agenda of Monday's board meeting an item calling for County Attorney Bill Ekstrom to appoint a special counsel to investigate the findings.

"If sufficient evidence exists to cause formal charges of malfeasance in office, the entire matter should be turned over to the grand jury for consideration," Sockwell wrote in the agenda item request.

However, Sockwell, the District 2 supervisor from Bullhead City, said he withdrew the item on the advice of Ekstrom.

"If you do something like this, it is sort of at the discretion of the county attorney," Sockwell said.

Sockwell said Ekstrom advised him that the sexual harassment allegations fall under the jurisdiction of the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

Both women filed grievances, known as "charges," with the EEOC.

Ekstrom said, "There is no statutory authority to allow (the supervisors) to appoint an independent counsel or to convene the grand jury."

Grand juries in Arizona, he said, only handle criminal matters.

Johnson's press release states "the fact is all such allegations are blatantly untrue.

In fact, the other people who would have had first-hand knowledge to the alleged events have now publicly stated that the allegations are false.

"This is only further evidence of the lack of credibility of the women who filed these grievances."

Johnson referred to Riches' investigation as "a fishing expedition" that was one-sided.

He also stated Riches refused to hear evidence supporting his defense.

Byers, the District 1 supervisor from Kingman, said he thinks Walker, Riches, McMahon and Tusa will take the heat over the release of the documents.

"It's unfortunate that it has to be (that way)," Byers said.

"I don't think they deserve that kind of thing."

Tusa told human resources staff on March 13, 2002, that Johnson was "trying to get rid of Supervisor Byers.

He was going to be funding a campaign for somebody to run against him.

Well, not to run against him, but first of all to remove him – to have him recalled – there was an effort to have him recalled.

And then it would be to run somebody else to, you know, to get in."

Tusa said Johnson also instructed staff to send letters as unidentified city employees to the state Attorney General's Office attacking Grinstead-Hanak, the former mayor, with the intent of removing her from office.

Johnson also told Tusa and McMahon to place calls to the veterinary office of Katherine Johnson to make disparaging remarks about her husband, Greeley, and Greeley's radio station, McMahon said during an interview March 11, 2002.

"He was trying to get us involved so that we could cause problems with his home life – to get back at him for whatever he's done to Buster politically or professionally," McMahon told her H.R.


Contacted Friday, Greeley said, "No, I don't have any comment on it."

McMahon said Johnson also assigned her and Tusa to write letters to the editor and make calls to radio stations, in both cases using false names.