What is the difference between misdemeanors and felonies in Arizona?
Water company owner and founder George Johnson removed himself from the management of Johnson Utilities on Friday after he and three others were indicted on federal charges.
Johnson and Gary Pierce, a former chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission; Pierce’s wife, Sherry; and lobbyist Jim Norton were indicted Tuesday in U.S. District Court on eight charges including bribery, conspiracy and fraud.
Prosecutors allege Gary Pierce approved higher rates for Johnson Utilities in the East Valley and Pinal County in exchange for $31,000.
On Friday, Johnson’s attorneys filed a notice with the Corporation Commission stating he had removed himself from management of the utility and would “devote his time to defending himself until he is cleared of the recent charges.”
Johnson’s company serves about 20,000 customers in Pinal County and has faced other controversies in recent years.
A May report from the Natural Resources Defense Council ranked Johnson Utilities No. 2 in clean-water violations among the state’s 10 largest water systems with at least one violation. Tucson ranked No. 1.
In December, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality warned that water from Johnson Utilities was unsafe for infants to drink because of high levels of nitrates. It removed the warning a few days later.
Johnson, who is also a developer, was a part of a record settlement with the state in 2007 for $12.1 million for environmental damages including bulldozing Hohokam archaeological sites, destroying native plants, bulldozing state trust land and bulldozing private land without permits.
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