By Dana Trumbull
It’s that time of year again. Election signs are popping up like weeds after a storm. And one of the first ones to appear along the route of my daily commute was, “You Want Justice Vote Acton… AJ Justice of the Peace.” I would have done a double take to be sure that’s what I had really seen, except – well – they’re posted about every quarter of a mile, so no need.
John R. Acton, Justice of the Peace? The term “oxymoron” comes to mind.
I assume Mr. Acton decided to run for Apache Junction JP after realizing that his recent 60-day suspension from his elected position as Constable wouldn’t play well in a run to continue his current job.
Or maybe he thinks that if he holds the job of Justice of the Peace, he can pardon himself the next time he’s caught in extreme hyperbole, or when his temper results in road rage, or when his complete lack of organizational skills is the cause for cases to be dismissed. Yes, all of these issues contributed to the Pinal County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voting last September 20 to put him on suspension for 60 days without pay.
In the three years since 58% of the electorate chose Acton for the job of Constable over Independent candidate Victor Rodas (even after the Arizona Constable Association urged Acton to drop out of the race due to his false claims of military valor and decorated service as a police officer), Acton has found himself in hot water several times.
Shortly after being elected, Acton was accused of bullying an elderly couple in a San Tan Valley parking lot. According to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office detective who investigated the incident, the victim stated that he was attempting to merge his vehicle, blinker on, as the road narrowed from two lanes to one, when he spotted an SUV behind him that was speeding up in an apparent attempt to pass him before he could merge. The driver of the SUV (Acton) “got right up on his rear bumper,” honking his horn.
When the couple pulled into a grocery store parking lot, Acton followed, got out of his car and proceeded to vent his road rage, threatening to write the driver a ticket that he would “never get out of” – which, even if it had been warranted, constables cannot write traffic tickets.
In Acton’s version of the story, he admits to scolding the driver, but states that he was “pretty calm.” Even without sound, though, the parking lot security cameras said otherwise.
PCSO recommended pressing charges for threatening, intimidation and impersonation of a peace officer. When the case finally came up on the docket in early 2016, Pinal County court found Acton guilty of two counts of disorderly conduct, levied a fine and ordered anger management classes.
A month after that incident, Acton was accused of threatening a San Tan Valley woman, blocking her from leaving her own driveway, telling her he was with the sheriff’s department and demanding she show him identification. When she refused, he threatened to return with sheriff’s deputies to “kick down her door.” The woman took pictures of the man with her cell phone as he was threatening her and showed them to PCSO, who then identified Constable Acton.
Acton claimed that he was attempting to serve civil court papers and denied blocking her in her vehicle. He also claimed that he twisted his knee when she tried to back up (even though he “wasn’t blocking her vehicle”); however, the PCSO investigators stated that Acton showed no signs of pain in his knee.
With conflicting statements and no witnesses, PCSO closed the case with no charges.
Additional complaints against Acton have been received by the Arizona Constable Ethics, Standards and Training Board (CESTB) throughout his term, indicating that, despite warnings and additional training on “numerous occasions” (according to CESTB meeting minutes from August 28, 2017), “the pattern” of errors on paperwork and procedure resulted in 89 errors cited since he took office in 2015.
Because the constable’s job consists primarily of serving and processing paperwork – orders of protection, summons and subpoenas, writs of possession (evictions) and so on, negligence in handling paperwork means that the Justice of the Peace court he serves (Apache Junction – the same court where he wants to be JP) has had to postpone and/or dismiss multiple cases.
Basically, Acton’s performance as a constable can be interpreted as, “Want justice? Don’t count on Acton!”
In July, 2017, the CESTB requested that Constable Acton voluntarily resign from office; but, he did not. Since the CESTB has no power to enforce such directives, they instead unanimously recommended a 30-day suspension without pay. The decision then went to the Pinal County BOS for approval.
After discussion, District 1 Supervisor Pete Rios motioned to increase the suspension to 60 days due to the continued nature of the infractions and Acton’s failure to improve, as well as the CESTB recommending resignation.
Acton argued that the Board of Ethics never “asked” him to resign, because the request was never made verbally. He rationalized, “I received the request in a certified letter from the board, but I was never ‘asked’ to resign.”
Yes, he really said that. The guy who delivers written documents for a living said that the request to resign wasn’t real because it only came as a certified letter, not a verbal request. You can listen to him on the BOS live streaming page, www.pinalcountyaz.gov. September 20, Item 12.
Anyway… the Board apparently didn’t buy the excuse, because they voted 2-1 to suspend Mr. Acton for 60-days without pay. Supervisors Pete Rios and Mike Goodman voted to approve the suspension, while Chairman Steve Miller voted no. Supervisor Smith was absent. Supervisor Todd House abstained due to his “personal relationship” with Acton.
(John Acton, George Johnson… Interesting company you keep, Mr. House!)
So, now, after failing as a constable, Mr. Acton wants to be Justice of the Peace for District 6, Apache Junction. (The AJ JP court was divided into two districts last year, with the new court serving the San Tan Valley area.) Maybe he figures he can handle it, because he won’t be responsible for delivering the legal paperwork for the cases he would hear.
Integrity and Innuendo
On his campaign website, Acton writes, “Does integrity have to be combined with honesty? The answer is YES; because if you only have half truths and innuendo – you cannot have integrity.” (actonforjop.com)
He also claims on that same site to be a Vietnam Era veteran. That is true. He served for approximately six months, including boot camp, during the Vietnam War Era.
He has toned down the grandiose claims of participating in “advanced infantry warfare” and “secret clearance MI Level 4” that he flaunted repeatedly during his campaign for Constable. While still implying a strong military background, he now limits his statements to “received training in…” Perhaps because, after the election, the Attorney General’s Office, while declining to prosecute for “fraudulent schemes” or “Stolen Valor,” did agree that Mr. Acton had made “false and misleading statements,” and suggested that the issue should be remedied by other means, such as a recall election.
According to the National Personnel Records Center, John R. Acton went to basic training from July 30, 1965, to October 2, 1965. He was discharged 4 ½ months after completing basic training, with the rank of Private (February 18, 1966). He did not serve overseas, he did not retire from the military, and there is no indication that he ever had any level of secret clearance. (Credit to Tisha Castillo of SanTanValley.com for investigating and breaking this information.)
He still claims, however, “My military education and experience led to a law enforcement career as a police officer working in the Chicago area… I rose from Patrolman to Investigative Detective and achieved and maintained a conviction rate of 99% losing only two cases in my police career.”
During his campaign for Constable, PCSO staff checked out these claims and confirmed with the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board that Acton has never been a sworn law enforcement officer with any police agency in Illinois.
SanTanValley.com took it step further, contacting Brigett R. Bevan, Freedom of Information Officer for the Chicago Transit Authority, who informed them that Mr. Acton was a security officer with the Chicago Transit Authority for 11 years, until the CTA security office closed in 1981. Two years later, he was hired back with the CTA as a carpenter’s apprentice, and later was promoted to Carpenter A. He retired as Carpenter A on April 1, 1995.
I’m sure that, as a security officer, Mr. Acton at times worked closely with the Chicago Police Department, and probably testified in court several times. But he was not an “Investigative Detective” as he claims on his website.
So, yes, I agree, Mr. Acton: Integrity must be combined with honesty. Because if you only have half truths and innuendo, you cannot have integrity – and a man without integrity should not be elected as Justice of the Peace.
Thank you, John R. Acton, for proving the point.
Photo above: Constable John Acton searches for documents as he states his case to the BOS during Special Session 9/13/17