Money Shot

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

What about the Justice Department? Its civil rights department doesn't just monitor jails; it could also look at Arpaio's treatment of his political enemies. And Justice has the distance to keep any investigation from getting mired in local politics.

Then again, that didn't happen in 1996, when Janet Napolitano made her deal with the devil. And though rumors are rife that Justice investigators are eyeing Arpaio again, it's not clear how much credence to give them.

That leaves the county supervisors.

The county's organizational chart is not a linear model. It's a series of bubbles, and Arpaio's bubble is shown answering directly to the people, not to the supervisors.

But the supervisors manage Arpaio's money. And with Arpaio's budget problems in the news, it's worth remembering what happened to Sandra Dowling.

County officials will tell you that Arpaio doesn't answer to them. (Remember those bubbles.) They may quietly express distaste over his abuses of power and the millions he costs taxpayers, but they say it's not their job to hold him accountable. He's elected by the people.

But Dowling was also a bubble on the county organizational chart. As Superintendent of the Maricopa County Schools, Dowling also, supposedly, answered only to the people.

Like Arpaio, only a few short years ago, Dowling seemed unstoppable. She had been elected to five consecutive terms without any real competition. Her big innovation, the Thomas J. Pappas Schools for Homeless Children, had been celebrated by everyone from Oprah to 60 Minutes. The much-lauded schools were actually failing badly, but the media didn't seem to care and neither did the voters. Dowling was flying so high, she actually asked the district's lobbyists to see whether George W. Bush was interested in her services.

That was then.

In 2005, Sandra Dowling's school district went over budget. She asked the county supervisors for an extra $2 million.

That's when Dowling's charmed political life came to an abrupt end. The supervisors demanded the district's financial records, and when Dowling didn't produce the detailed documentation they wanted, the board obtained a subpoena and sent officers to force her to turn it over. Even though Dowling had just been audited a few years before, in 2004, county auditors were again assigned to look at her books. By May 2006, they completed a 118-page report detailing a host of problems: misspending, faulty bid processes, nepotism. The supervisors then hired three educational consultants to help close the Pappas Schools — an idea Dowling bitterly contested.

In November 2006, Dowling was indicted on 25 felony counts. (Ironically, it was the Sheriff's Office that did the investigation.)

It's unclear what will ultimately happen with the criminal case. The U.S. Attorney, who's prosecuting, recently dropped a number of the charges; Dowling still awaits trial on the others.

What is clear is this: When the county supervisors chose to take on Sandra Dowling, Dowling was finished.

Contrast that with their treatment of Arpaio. Despite the sheriff's abysmal record in every area that auditors have examined, the county has yet to order a comprehensive audit.

There's reason for that. Because the sheriff's $241 million budget is the biggest in the county, such an audit would undoubtedly require the entire 18-member audit staff working for months on end.

"It would take the board to come and tell us they wanted us to spend our resources onto such a big audit," says County Auditor Ross Tate. "They haven't done that."

Jim Bloom, chief of staff for Supervisor Andy Kunasek, echoed Tate. "If we were to audit the Sheriff in totality, it would take not only our entire audit staff, but a lot of his staff, too," he says. "It wouldn't make any sense. If we did an audit that big on his operations, in the meantime, we wouldn't be doing an audit on anyone else."

New Times left repeated messages over a weeklong period with Supervisors Max Wilson, Don Stapley, Fulton Brock, Andy Kunasek, and Mary Rose Wilcox.

Not one of them called back with a comment.

The will to stop Arpaio simply isn't there. But Sandra Dowling's quick fall from power holds an obvious lesson: Whether the supervisors want to admit it or not, there is a way.

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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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