Lawyers investigate Arizona official in child smuggling case

File - In this Nov. 15, 2019, file photo, Paul Petersen, an Arizona elected official accused of running a multi-state adoption scheme, leaves court following an initial appearance on charges filed in the state in Salt Lake City. Officials in Arizona have hired two law firms and a former attorney general to investigate an elected county assessor who is trying to keep his job as he defends himself against human smuggling charges. Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel said Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, that the lawyers will investigate Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen's conduct in office as he contests a 120-day suspension. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — Officials in Arizona have hired two law firms and a former attorney general to investigate an elected county assessor who is trying to keep his job as he defends himself against human smuggling charges.

Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel said Tuesday that the lawyers will investigate Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen’s conduct in office as he contests a 120-day suspension.

It was imposed after he was accused of paying pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to give birth in the U.S. and let their children be adopted.

Petersen has pleaded not guilty to charges in Arkansas, Arizona and Utah.

The county’s Board of Supervisors requested the investigation headed by former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods.

Petersen is a Republican and faces a Dec. 11 hearing to contest his suspension.

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This version corrects the last name of the assessor in the 4th and 6th paragraphs, Petersen not Peterson.

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