Money Shot

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

For example, in 1996, New Times writer Tony Ortega reported that the sheriff had misused jail enhancement funds. The money is administered by the state to assist with jail operations and to train detention officers. As the biggest county in the state, Maricopa gets more than $1 million from the fund annually.

Ortega found that Arpaio was using enhancement money for expenses that had nothing to do with jails, much less enhancing them. The sheriff used the fund to finance a lawsuit against the county Board of Supervisors in 1994, despite telling reporters that taxpayers wouldn't get stuck with the bill. He had used it to send himself to National Sheriff's Conferences. He had also paid for a video news-clipping service. Jail conditions be damned, Arpaio needed to watch himself on Nightline.

Ortega's reporting triggered an investigation from the Arizona Auditor General, which echoed his findings. A total of $122,419 in expenditures "did not demonstrate that they 'enhanced' jail facilities and operations," the auditors concluded. Their report specifically cited the news clipping service and the money Arpaio had spent on conferences.

But nothing seems to have changed. Since 2003, records show, Arpaio has spent $34,387 in enhancement funds on news clipping services. He's also spent $345,644 of the fund to send employees to conferences and training seminars, records show. Employees were sent to classes for Photoshop, good grammar, and, of course, the National Sheriff's Conference.

Dennis Matthiesen, financial audit director for the auditor general, says his office is unlikely to revisit the issue. "Our office doesn't have any enforcement authority, whatsoever," he says. "We find what we find and we report it." From there, Matthiesen says, it's up to the sheriff to make changes, or the Board of Supervisors to demand them.

And that hasn't happened. Not only has Arpaio ignored the state auditor general, he's also ignored the county's in-house audit team.

In 2005, county auditors looked at how various agencies were handling travel expenses. The audit was so limited, it only looked at 24 trips involving the sheriff's office, all of them extradition cases where deputies picked up fugitives in other states.

The auditors still found plenty of problems.

In more than half the cases, the deputies were booked to arrive on the scene by early evening, giving them time to rest before prisoner pick-ups the next day. But, the audit noted, "deputies often took an additional day before taking custody of the prisoner and returning to their duty posts."

Deputies, apparently, were milking the taxpayers for beach time. When they picked up a prisoner in muggy Orlando, for example, the deputies stayed 119 miles away, in breezy Daytona Beach. The county got stuck paying for their mileage and an extra day at the hotel. The same pattern repeated itself in Myrtle Beach and Hawaii. (Weirdly, two deputies even chose to stay an extra day in Buffalo.)

The auditors concluded that, if the limited findings held true in a bigger sample, the sheriff could have saved $170,000 in 2005 alone by tightening travel policies.

But records suggest that everything is the same. In the year after the audit, the sheriff's costs for training and travel increased 11 percent.

The audit dealing with overtime spending was even more dramatic. It found that overtime had escalated, even as the sheriff added employees to the payroll.

The problem was lousy management. Sheriff's employees, the audit found, regularly write themselves down for overtime pay before they've even worked a full 40-hour week. (Stay late one night, and rather than cut hours later in the week, it's an automatic bonus.) Management, the auditors wrote, did "not appear to have considered staggered or overlapping shifts, or other alternatives, to reduce premium costs."

The audit suggests a certain chaos in jail operations.

Forty-three percent of sheriff's office employees weren't working in their budgeted departments, the auditors found. "[Employees] are frequently transferred between divisions, often without notice to applicable management."

After the auditors finished in May, the Sheriff promised to make changes. Still, he finished the 2007 fiscal year (ending June 30) more than $10.4 million in the red for overtime, and in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, Arpaio already shot his entire overtime budget for the year. It's clear that cost-saving measures were not a priority.

Today, county officials say they have control of Arpaio's budget. A recent memo from the budget office suggests that, if Arpaio can continue his new and improved cost-cutting plan, he will finish the year in the black.

But the plan depends, in part, on keeping visitors out of the jails after 2:30 p.m. Defense lawyers say they're going to do everything in their power to scuttle that.


So who can hold Sheriff Joe accountable?

Not the county attorney. Rick Romley tried, but he's since retired, and his replacement, Andrew Thomas, is more interested in making nice with Arpaio than declaring war on him. Thomas and Arpaio even formed an anti-corruption task force designed to target public officials who screw up. Clearly, they have no interest in using their authority to investigate each other.

It can't be the state attorney general, either. Democrat Terry Goddard is actually a target of the Thomas/Arpaio anti-corruption task force. Even after that investigation inevitably winds down, Goddard can hardly take on Arpaio without looking like he wants revenge.

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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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