Tepid Response Force

The county attorney promises to get to the bottom of Sheriff Arpaio's spending--by asking for a state audit that was already scheduled

There are other exceptions under which a $39,350 expenditure might be exempt from the bidding process, but they apply only to special cases involving particular state agencies, such as the state lottery, and not to a county sheriff.

Still, Arpaio might have been exempt in this case if he'd claimed that it was a "sole source" contract. But he didn't file the proper paperwork for such an action.

The sheriff remains defiant. He denies that the Maricopa County Deputies Association was used as a front to make payments to Yen until he could quietly begin tapping the public funds. But he refuses to say how much the association paid Yen.

Yen and the Deputies Association also have declined to provide those records, saying that isolating the payments made on Arpaio's case from the work that Yen regularly does for the association would be prohibitively time-consuming.

Meanwhile, although it is not pursuing an investigation, the County Attorney's Office acts as though it was.

"Joe Arpaio for the most part does a fine job as sheriff. We're not complaining about Joe Arpaio the sheriff at all," says Lotstein. "I've known Joe Arpaio for 20 years. He's the sheriff. He does sheriff stuff. But he's also an elected public official who has an obligation just like every other public official to obey the law, to follow the rules. Merely because you're a popular public official doesn't relieve you of that responsibility."

Arpaio himself responded to the controversy by announcing this past weekend that he would be running for reelection--something he had promised not to do.

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