Efforts underway to choose replacement Maricopa County Assessor

Maricopa County government officials say the process to select the next county assessor is moving on to a new phase.

In a statement, county officials say the Board of Supervisors will interview five of the seven applicants for the position, in an executive session on February 10 and 11 that will not be open to the public.

Officials say board members may choose one of the five interviewees, or expand the interviews to other candidates. The application period for the job ended on January 27.

Former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen (Photo Courtesy: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)

The position became vacant following the resignation of Paul Petersen in early January. Petersen has been embroiled in controversy, amidst accusations that he runs a human smuggling operation that paid pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to give up their babies in the U.S.

Prosecutors say for several years, Petersen was paying women to come to the United States to give birth and give their babies up for adoption. He is also accused of using taxpayer money to help pay for their healthcare. Petersen's co-defendant, Lynwood Jennet, took a plea deal and is expected to testify against him in his upcoming trial. Petersen has pleaded not guilty to charges in Arizona and Arkansas.

Petersen won a 2014 special election to be assessor, and was re-elected in 2016. His term was scheduled to expire at the end of the year. The person selected by the board will serve out the rest of Petersen's term of office.

According to information provided by the Maricopa County Elections Department, five people, four of whom declared themselves as Republicans, have filed statements of interest to run for the Assessor position.