Money Shot

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

Six years later, Napolitano did run for governor. Arpaio didn't, but he proved to be a factor in the election. Arpaio endorsed his old press-conference buddy over her Republican opponent, allowing Napolitano to beat Matt Salmon with just 1 percent of the vote.

In the years since, corrections auditors, county inspectors, and inmates all confirm that conditions in the jails have only gotten worse, as New Times' John Dickerson reported last week. County inspectors found vermin and cockroaches in jail kitchens. The Justice Department's own statistics show that Arpaio's jails are the most chronically overcrowded in the nation. Meanwhile, Justice hasn't audited Arpaio for compliance. (Justice Department officials say they're unable to discuss the particulars of the case because it's simply too old.)

The Justice Department investigation was one of many times that Arpaio has managed to battle his away out of trouble. Whether it's by stonewalling, or obstruction, or political gamesmanship — no matter who's come after him, the sheriff has always managed to skate.

County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox
County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox
County Supervisor Max Wilson
County Supervisor Max Wilson

The investigation into the death of Scott Norberg is a perfect example. Norberg, who had struggled with drug addiction, was arrested after attempting to slug a cop. He was in Arpaio's jail just 15 hours before he was handcuffed by guards, kicked, stomped on, and then strapped into a restraint chair. There, guards held a towel over his head, literally suffocating him. Medical records later revealed that he had been shot with a stun gun at least 14 times and beaten so badly that his larynx cracked.

The county was forced to settle with Norberg's family for $8.25 million. Astonishingly, says Norberg's attorney, Mike Manning, Arpaio promoted the guards who did the beating.

Arpaio's critics say Norberg's death was far from an isolated incident. But there's one reason the case continues to be talked about when so many other inmate deaths have fallen into obscurity: Scott Norberg's family had enough money to hire a good attorney. Manning's investigation showed that important records had been destroyed — including the X-ray of the cracked larynx. He also obtained the videotape that showed Norberg pleading for his life.

Even then, Arpaio managed to thwart a criminal investigation.

The sheriff's internal affairs investigators, Manning says, failed to give deputies the proper warnings before interviewing them. That invalidated the evidence they had obtained. Even worse, internal affairs and criminal investigators sat in on the same interviews, which Manning says is strictly forbidden by most police agency policies.

"There is no doubt, no other explanation, than that they intentionally botched the investigation," Manning says. "This kind of stuff was too stupid — too stupid even for them."

Even so, then-County Attorney Rick Romley was anxious to prosecute jail employees. "Rick's office was horrified at how the evidence was developing," Manning recalls. "They were looking at least at manslaughter — and you also had destruction of evidence, the fact that they'd intentionally botched the investigation."

But Arpaio had a trump card.

After Norberg's death, Romley had instructed his staff not to give jail employees legal advice. He didn't want his criminal investigation compromised by conflict-of-interest claims.

But as Romley's investigation was heating up, he received a letter from his former employee Jack MacIntyre, who informed his old boss that, working for Romley in the aftermath of the jailhouse death, he had disobeyed Romley's orders. MacIntyre had given legal advice to some deputies.

Worth emphasizing is that MacIntyre had left Romley's office to work for Arpaio.

MacIntyre's confession left Romley with a real conflict. He couldn't prosecute people in the Sheriff's Office, be they Arpaio or his deputies, when one of his own staffers had served as their legal counsel.

The top prosecutor was forced to recuse his office.

"There had been numerous attempts to get me to stop the investigation, but none of them worked until Jack MacIntyre was able to effectively get me off the case," Romley says today. "To say that I was upset would be putting it mildly."

Romley handed the case over to Arizona's then-Attorney General Janet Napolitano, the same politician who, as U.S. Attorney, had downplayed the Justice Department lawsuit.

Napolitano closed the case without prosecution.

Although Arpaio's office has always managed to avoid prosecution, someone always has to pay. And, in many cases, it's been taxpayers.

As New Times first reported last week, Arpaio has cost Maricopa County a staggering $41.4 million in legal fees, insurance premiums, and payouts to jail-abuse victims. Arpaio's track record is so bad that the county has been forced to switch to an insurance policy with a $5 million deductible. Insurance won't cover a cent of any suit that settles for less than that.

Even beyond the pricey lawsuits, evidence suggests that the sheriff's books are a mess. Every limited audit done of the Sheriff's Office during Arpaio's tenure, whether by the state or by the county's in-house division, has found problems.

The problems have never risen to the level of criminality, as the sheriff's supporters are quick to point out. Indeed, many of the sheriff's financial missteps seem petty. But considering that the audits have covered only small areas of Arpaio's budget, they raise the question of what a larger audit might reveal.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
Sort: Newest | Oldest
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


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.


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. ?

Phoenix Concert Tickets