Money Shot

If Maricopa County supervisors wanted to go after Sheriff Joe Arpaio, they could. They could focus on his office's finances

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has long maintained that he's accountable to the people — but the people's accountants are a different story.

After 15 years in the job, Arpaio has yet to endure a comprehensive audit of his office's finances. Limited audits examining Arpaio's payroll, his travel policies and the county's jail enhancement funds have found plenty of problems. But despite that, and even though the sheriff's $241 million budget is the biggest in the county, Maricopa County supervisors have failed to order a look at the bigger picture.

Compounding the problem, issues identified in the limited audits have been virtually ignored by the Sheriff's Office.

Consider overtime. This fall, the county revealed that Arpaio spent nearly $2 million more on overtime in the fiscal year's first quarter than he had been allotted for the entire year. That spending binge, the county manager concluded, was "not sustainable."

Arpaio's solution was drastic: He stopped transporting prisoners to court hearings. Forty-six inmates never made it to court on November 6 — even though getting defendants to hearings is one job the sheriff must do under state law. (Suffice it to say that rounding up illegal immigrants and sheltering abused animals are not state mandates, but Arpaio has yet to run out of money for either venture.)

Judges and defense lawyers erupted over the plan, and Arpaio was forced to backpedal, blaming the lack of transports on miscommunication. But his next cost-cutting solution was no less controversial. Arpaio announced that jail visiting time would be limited to the hours of 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Again, the court fell into chaos, and now, Arpaio faces a lawsuit from attorneys unable to meet with their clients. Though the sheriff lost round one, he's appealing — which, observers note, is hardly the way to save money.

But the most stunning thing about Arpaio's budget problems isn't that he overspent so badly. It isn't even his cockeyed remedy for his financial woes.

The real shocker is that it took this long for overtime to become an issue.

A New Times analysis of financial records show that overtime has been a huge problem for Arpaio for years. Even as the county increased the sheriff's overtime budget by 85 percent over the last four years, Arpaio has continued to exceed the amount he has been allocated. In fact, in the last four years, the sheriff's expenditures on overtime have increased 635 percent.

In the 2004 fiscal year, Arpaio spent twice the amount budgeted for overtime. In 2005, he spent more than four times what the county had allotted — overspending by $6.6 million. Last year, Arpaio set a new record: He overshot his overtime budget by a whopping $10.4 million.

In May, the county completed a 25-page audit of the sheriff's payroll. That report outlined the overtime problem, making specific recommendations to fix the root causes.

The auditors did not suggest slashing jail hours. Or stopping inmate transport. Instead, they pointed out "a need for better management." That, clearly, was a suggestion Arpaio wasn't willing to emulate, and his overtime spending continued to swell until it reached crisis proportions six months later.

Such stonewalling has been a pattern when it comes to the sheriff. During his 15 years in office, Arpaio has endured investigations, lawsuits, and audits. He's cost Maricopa County taxpayers $41.4 million solely in legal fees, insurance premiums, and payouts to the people who've sued him. His budget has doubled, his jails have been condemned by the U.S. Department of Justice, and he has never faced an audit that didn't reveal genuine problems.

Those things, of course, pale next to the list of people who have died in Arpaio's jails: people awaiting trial who were denied proper medical care or who were abused or ignored by guards. Law enforcement officials and lawyers believe that records on inmate deaths have been destroyed and criminal investigations into those deaths thwarted.

But Arpaio, the Teflon prince of Maricopa County, has outmaneuvered everyone who's attempted to hold him accountable.


In 1995, the U.S. Department of Justice began investigating conditions in Joe Arpaio's jails after receiving a complaint about excessive force. Civil rights investigators announced that they would be looking at a litany of serious allegations: physical abuse of inmates by staff, false reporting regarding use of force, denial of access to counsel, and inadequate medical care.

When the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the sheriff a year later, the suit confirmed many of the original allegations. But, unbelievably, then-U.S. Attorney Janet Napolitano appeared at a press conference with Arpaio and attempted to convince reporters that Arpaio had actually been exonerated. Napolitano even described the lawsuit as a "technicality."

The actual suit, of course, says nothing of the kind. Instead, it alleges that Sheriff's Office brass had "been consciously aware of, but deliberately indifferent to" excessive and improper use of force by jail employees. "Such conduct and practices have and will cause inmates confined in this jail irreparable harm," the Justice Department concluded.

The suit forced Arpaio to enter into a settlement agreement, mandating a new use-of-force policy and new guidelines for non-lethal weapons.

But during their dog-and-pony show, Napolitano and Arpaio downplayed the findings — and downplayed the idea that there would be any change in the jails. Arpaio even joked about running for governor against Napolitano at some future date.

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6 comments
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melanie bulseco
melanie bulseco

Ha ha-loved that 20 songs to annoy friends. Shiny, Happy People is SUCH a departure from what R.E.M. has become!!!

Jim Cozzolino
Jim Cozzolino

Money costing Stunts and Constitutional Violations have been clearly proven time and time again at the hands of Arpaio and his Administration. It�s a fact that Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his Administration have cost Maricopa County tax payers 41 million dollars in civil settlements & legal fee�s. In any accounting language, that�s a serious liability that continues while Arpaio is still in office.

There�s no doubt that Maricopa County will see more settlements paid out as more of the almost 5000 current pending cases work their way through the system long after Arpaio is out of office.

When is enough, enough ?

It always amazes me that some can find justification in 41 million dollars in settlements from the abuse, torture and deaths under Arpaio�s watch, just because of Arpaio�s newly found pimping & pandering for votes stance on immigration. It's nothing more than a smoke screen that Arpaio hopes will make the voters forget the years of malfeasance Joe Arpaio is responsible for within MCSO. There is more to being Maricopa County Sheriff than the immigration issues. Stopping 41 million in settlements should be more important to any Sheriff and Tax Payer than the continued dog and pony show�s Arpaio has become known for all over the world. To Arpaio, the 41 million in settlements & legal fee's is a small price to pay for the media attention he so dearly craves to feed is ego.

Arpaio swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States, not just the Immigration part. Let�s hope he gets the Immigration part right since he�s really bad at the entire US Constitution concept, which should be more than obvious to anyone with a brain by the 41 million dollars in civil suit settlements & legal fee�s to date and still rising.

As Lisa Allen once said, Nobody educated votes for Joe Arpaio, how right she was when she said that. I think it's the only thing she's ever been right about. Don�t let the Arpaio propaganda machine fool you, Arpaio is a Maricopa County liability that none of us Tax paying citizens can afford any longer. Regardless of his temporary stance on immigration, the past, present and continued malfeasance Arpaio has been responsible for will continue to cost Maricopa County tax payers for years to come.

Something�s are certain in life. Death, Taxes and the HUGE CIVIL SETTLEMENTS will continue long after Arpaio is gone. The first two we can do little about, the last one we can, as voters with a conscience, ethic�s and morals.

Vote No More Arpaio in 2008.

Vote Dan Saban in 2008 for Maricopa County Sheriff

junior
junior

wow talk about organized crime.i hear michael corleone and tony soprano after seeing how many millions of dollars are for the taking are seriously thinking of running for mayor and sheriff.oops my bad,they already did just a little i.d.theft.mayor goober"alias michael corleone"the consumate business man,and nicklebag "alias tony wack em all soprano.

junior
junior

wow talk about organized crime,i hear tony soprano is gonna run for office in phoenix,he,s thinking him and nicklebag can start blackmailing senior citizens who go to mexico to buy there drugs.his reasoning is the money he makes of the coyotes is dwindling but illegal drugs no matter whose carrying them is still illegal.any truth to this rumor?

William Crum
William Crum

The County Supervisors are not responsible for reining in the sheriff in his wastefull spending and lawsuits because of his ego. Nobody is above the law and the will of the people. That might be the reason that sheriff is being recalled. This attitude might lead to the fact that maybe the County Supervisors need to face the wrath of the people and maybe they need a recall to empanizes the fact they need to get onboard the recall of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Everybody should be held accountable for whatever their political ambition is. Recall the politican who fails to be accountable to the people. Power to the People and Truth To Power.

Jim Cozzolino
Jim Cozzolino

It shouldn't come as any surprise that the Board of Supervisors are doing nothing about the abuses of Bozo Joke Arpaio. They have been looking the other way and writing the checks for years for this bafoon.What else did you expect from other worthless politicians covering for one of their own. ?

 
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