On Sept. 20, 2017, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted 2/1, to suspend District 7 (Apache Junction) Constable John Acton for 60 days without pay, effective immediately. Supervisors Pete Rios and Mike Goodman voted to approve the suspension, while Chairman Steve Miller voted no, stating, “I think that there’s more to this that ought to be looked at going down the pike.” Supervisor Todd House abstained due to his “personal relationship” with Acton. Supervisor Anthony Smith was absent.
The action stemmed from a unanimous recommendation to the BOS from the State of Arizona Constable Ethics, Standards and Training Board (CESTB) to suspend Acton for 30 days. Supervisor Pete Rios, however, motioned to increase the suspension to 60 days, due to the continued nature of the infractions and Acton’s failure to improve despite the probation and additional training previously imposed by the CESTB. This action is consistent with A.R.S. 22-137 Section A. 5, which states that a constable who has previously been placed on probation may be suspended without pay, “for any specified length of time, not to exceed the remainder of the constable’s term.”
The recommendation letter from CESTB, dated August 29, 2017, indicated that, “The [Constable] Board reviewed the facts in this case, in which a service document was not properly filed with the court, causing inconvenience and distress to the complainant… This Board has received numerous complaints against Constable Acton of a similar nature over the course of several years. Despite additional training and coaching, being placed on probation by Pinal County, as well as admonishments by this Board, Constable Acton has not corrected this pattern of behavior. As you know, in July of this year, this Board requested Constable Acton resign from his position, which he has refused to do.”
Acton argued that the Constable Board of Ethics never “asked” him to resign, because the request was never made verbally. “I received the request in a certified letter from the board, but I was never ‘asked’ to resign.”
Acton had previously been convicted in superior court of two counts of disorderly conduct while on duty in March of 2016. He was also found to have made 89 additional errors in his paperwork since July of 2015. Court documents cited, “Several of these errors resulted in cases being dismissed, while many others caused unnecessary time delays in case processing.”
In an effort to improve the quality, accuracy, tracking and timeliness of his documentation, Acton recently hired a private secretary to handle his reports and mileage. “I think I’ve made adequate changes so there won’t be a problem again. Things transpired that shouldn’t have. I’ve handled over 2300 cases; I lost one piece of paper.”
Rios countered, “…for you to say, ‘one little piece of paper,’ well, the documentation from the court says differently.”
Chairman Miller instructed Acton, saying that any employee who would be assisting the constable at any level, can only be procured through the employment of Pinal County and approved by the BOS. “Since we have not approved an assistant for you, whatever that arrangement is for somebody handling your paperwork has to stop.”
A motion by Supervisor Smith on 9/13 to disapprove the suspension of Constable Acton died when it failed to receive a second. Smith then suggested that the issue be continued to the following week in order to conduct the vote with all members present.
After the 9/20 vote resulted in approval of a 60-day suspension, Acton called the action a witch hunt, stating, “I work very hard. I’m out there in 120 degree weather serving these documents, and I just think this is excessive. I’m as good as you’ve got out there.”
Acton’s problems with questionable behavior and veracity went public during his 2014 campaign for the Constable office. An article in The AJ/GC News from 5/11/15 recalls, “At that time, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office asked the Department of Public Safety to look into claims that Acton had exaggerated and in some cases lied about his law enforcement and military background during the course of his campaign.
“DPS eventually turned the case over to the Attorney General’s Office, recommending Acton be charged with fraudulent schemes. The AG’s office declined to prosecute, saying, even though Acton did make false and misleading statements, there are other means to remedy that, such as a recall election.
“Even though the public was then made aware of Acton’s false and misleading statements during his 2014 election campaign, Acton, a Republican, won the 2014 Constable’s race with 58% of the vote over an Independent candidate.”
During the 60-day suspension imposed by the BOS, private process servers will be used to serve most documents, with the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement departments filling in to serve writs.