The request generated tens of thousands of pages — so many pieces of paper, in fact, that the county had to hire two lawyers working full-time for weeks to scan the documents for attorney-client privilege issues.

Total cost of assembling the request? $80,000.

So far, the pages have yielded little of interest.

Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio have taken on the county supervisors.
Social Eye Media
Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio have taken on the county supervisors.
AJ Alexander

Despite the massive amount of materials he'd requested, county staffers tell New Times, Channel 15's Bernstein was in the records room for less than an hour and asked for just a dozen copies, most of them photographs of county officials on their trips to Philadelphia.

Then Bernstein wanted to know about the documents in the adjacent room.

Bernstein was told that's where attorneys were reviewing additional documents for attorney-client privilege, recalls Wade Swanson, the county's new general counsel.

"As fast as someone could review them for privilege and confidentiality, they were being made available to the general public," Swanson says.

Bernstein didn't waste more time going through the records that were available. Instead, he had his crew film the locked door concealing the records that were still being reviewed — and he hijacked County Manager David Smith to ask what he was hiding.

Bernstein never made another trip to the records room, Swanson says.

As for the Sheriff's Office, well, at least officers bothered to look at the records they'd demanded. A detective and a sergeant showed up a week after Bernstein and spent at least three days scanning documents electronically.

What they've done with those records is anyone's guess.

New Times twice put in a public-records request for any reports into the project generated by the Sheriff's Office, without so much as a response.

And it's not just us.

For a time, Thomas had officially farmed out the court tower investigation to the Yavapai County Attorney's Office, saying that he was attempting to take the high road by using an independent prosecutor. (He also sent Yavapai criminal cases involving Supervisors Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox.)

But Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk intimated that she didn't feel comfortable with the pressure that Arpaio and his deputy Hendershott were putting on her office. After she resisted Hendershott's commands, in October, Thomas suddenly took the cases back — independent prosecutor be damned.

It's interesting to note, though, exactly what Thomas gave the Yavapai prosecutors.

Dennis Magrane, Polk's chief of staff, says Yavapai was given the Sheriff's Office reports into Supervisors Wilcox and Stapley, as well supporting documentation. But while they were officially given the court tower "investigation," Magrane says that the "investigation" didn't include a single file or report.

"The Maricopa County Attorney turned the authority to prosecute the case over to us," he says. "But the Sheriff's Office didn't have a case to turn over at that point. We have not been provided with [anything] to date regarding any investigation on the courthouse."

That's a stunning acknowledgement — because it almost certainly shows that there never was a targeted investigation into the court tower.

Instead, there was a fishing expedition.

The county attorney wasn't subpoenaing records to get to the bottom of a credible allegation of wrongdoing. The office was subpoenaing records to see if they could luck into finding something wrong.

And, while they were at it, the expedition was surely a convenient way to derail Tom Irvine's probe into Thomas' conflicts — and to force the county to play ball on budget issues.

"Andrew Thomas and Joe Arpaio have shown that they are vindictive," says attorney Novak, "and they'll do whatever they can get away with to further their own interests."

The gambit didn't work, of course. Thomas still lost his civil division. Arpaio still lost his budget battle. And right now, Thomas has painted himself so badly into a corner that he's been forced to ask the supervisors to let him help choose his replacement if he leaves office to run for attorney general. (Yeah, right, they scoff in reply.)

But the whole year of turmoil did do one thing.

It allowed Arpaio and Thomas to paint the county as hopelessly corrupt. It let them blame their own bad lawyering on ethically compromised judges. And it gave them a tool to tar the entire county administration without a shred of proof.

Forget the truth. For Andrew Thomas, it's one hell of a story.

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14 comments
Mike Powell
Mike Powell

I have always thought that the use of marijuana was illegal in Arizona, however it seems that our City/County officials have been partaking liberally. Seriously, how does one graduate from Law school ( I assume Mr. Thomas did so ) and not know that you can't have it both ways? Also, rgtqwhere is the evidence of wrongdoing? Isn't application of the law based on facts and evidence, or is it just the whim of a disgruntled attorney?

FromAfar
FromAfar

correction to above: Ben you sent a mixed message. Note, I was speaking about the court tower. Thomas and Arpaio abuse of power has overcrowded the courts, the jails and the prisons -- therefore a Court Tower is needed. It's a result of the mass incarceration of Arizona's people by Thomas, Arpaio and Sen. Russell Pearce who writes the bills for them.

Abuse of power reigns terror over the state and the Troika needs to be sent to the prisons they created -- now all privatized. Follow the money....

FromAfar
FromAfar

Ben from Wind Gap -- You nailed it!!

Ben
Ben

Apparently there is a need for more court space because of the illegal immigration influx coupled with the rising event of home grown crime which will get worse as the economy gets worse. Therefore it doesn�t make sense to cut the sheriff and other enforcement budgets unless you are trying to slowdown the enforcement of the laws that is keeping the immigration and other law enforcement problems from sprawling into a problem that will consume even more of the budget along, property values, school cost and general quality of life.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

clarification: They prey on the ignorant masses to get re-elected, while taking down those who challenge them, the intelligent and brightest in Maricopa County.

Arizona needs to add Civics classes in the school and learn about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and how to protect themselves from abuse of power by a government that is out of control.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Outstanding investigative reporting! Sarah, you certainly captured the essence of what corruption looks like in Maricopa County. They prey on the ignorant masses.

j.WINSTON
j.WINSTON

Arpiao and Thomas are jokes..but they are dangerous jokes as they can wield the judicial system like a weapon...when will the public figures in our county and state get the courage to expose them for what they are follow-up with legal proceedings for all their scandals...why is everyone so scared. We are a major city not a back water town where the judge and the prosecutor and the sheriff are all half brothers.Hopefully Thomas will run in the primaries and lose and that way we will get him out of office early. And hopefully Arpaio wil finally be found guilty on at least one of the numerous abuses he has perpetrated only the citizens of Maricopa..I agree with one of the other comments..it is Twilight Zone or rather Reason Free Zone

(S)He's a very manipulative ma
(S)He's a very manipulative ma

a)Wilson about Hendershottb)Sheila Polk and Don Stapley about Arpaioc)Supervisors,Tom Irvine about Thomasd)Judge Donhue and Ed Novak about Ms. Aubuchoune) all of the above.The correct answer is e) all of the above. Hendershott, Arpaio, Thomas, and Lisa Aubuchoun (who acts like a man)are all manipulative as hell. VOTERS wake up. Thomas wants to bring this nonsense to the entire state.

Pete Snow
Pete Snow

Alexander doesn't have time to do her job, she is too busy blogging about the Tower over on the Sonoran Alliance Blog.

Spartacus
Spartacus

Every Time I drive up to Phoenix from Cochise County I expect to see Rod Serling standing along I-10 in a dark suit, looking slightly sinister and mischevious,with cigarette smoke swirling around him. (all in black and white, of course)Mr. Serling, if he were alive today, could doubtless offer a witty and sardonic discourse on Maricopa County that enable wannabe dictators to trample on the constitution and intimidate all who disagree with them, he might say, "You are now entering the valley of the delusional, where political sorcerers practice the black arts of race-baiting and character assassination. It's a Bizarre, Never-Never Land of snake oil politics and strutting demogauges, otherwise known as...THE TWILIGHT ZONE...

Mike Wells
Mike Wells

Whoo Hoo!!

I'm comin' back Arizona!! I'll be the next Maricopa County Attorney, since you obviously don't need to know the law to get the job.

Either that, or Thomas is playing everybody for the fool here. Here seriously didn't think that having his office both prosecute and defend THE SAME CASE would be a conflict of interest? Seriously? And then he thinks he can bring up a judge on charges, citing conflict of interest because that same judge 'might someday have an office in the new court building'? You have GOT to be kidding me.

Add in all the lying they've been caught doing in court and I can't understand why this case is even being allowed to continue.

Arpaio and Thomas are two of the reasons that I'm glad I got out of Arizona, but the politicians here in Utah are pretty nutty, too, so it's not really a total win in my book.

Lisa
Lisa

Who is this scumbag Bernstein? Aren't journalists supposed to have some kind of standards?

Marcy
Marcy

The sad thing about this entire sordid affair is that it has exposed just how delusional a large segment of Maricopa County voters are.

They'd vote for a rabid serial killer if the serial killer promised to arrest a few illegal immigrants.

They utterly fail to understand what history has taught us, tyrants come into power not by guns but with the full blessing of a deluded populace.

 
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