The U.S. Department of Justice has given Sheriff Joe Arpaio yet another deadline in its ongoing civil rights investigation of his office: August 27.
In a lengthy letter from DOJ attorney Judy Preston to Arpaio's D.C. mouthpiece Robert Driscoll, Preston details what the DOJ told Driscoll it wants from the MCSO in a meeting the two sides had yesterday.
The meeting discussed the MCSO's non-compliance with the investigation. As you can see from the correspondence, which is attached, here, the DOJ wants access to various records, MCSO facilities, and MCSO employees.
The letter references the ACLU's lawsuit Melendres vs. Arpaio, which is still ongoing and alleges a pattern of racial profiling by the MCSO during its controversial anti-immigrant sweeps. The DOJ is, in part, investigating these same allegations.
Preston asks for a "clear and unequivocal agreement to cooperate" no later than the close of business Friday. Thing is, the DOJ already issued a deadline like this for August 17, with a threat that it might sue the MCSO to force compliance. That lapsed, and the DOJ agreed to a meet with Driscoll instead.
At stake are federal funds received by Maricopa County. These are governed by Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which "prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs receiving federal financial assistance," the DOJ's Web site explains.
According to Maricopa County Communications Director Cari Gerchick, the county receives around $113 million dollars in federal aid, including $50 million that goes to public health programs. All this could potentially be in jeopardy because of Arpaio's defiance of the DOJ.
Indeed, the county is so eager for Arpaio to play ball with the feds that it recently fired off a letter to the DOJ offering to help by using the Board of Supervisors' subpoena power to force the MCSO to comply. You can peruse that letter, written August 12 by lawyer Thomas Irvine on behalf of the BOS, here.
Gerchick told me the county hasn't received a reply from the DOJ to this offer. But the Preston letter was cc'ed to Irvine, a clear signal that the DOJ wants the BOS to know what's being demanded of the sheriff.
County Manager David Smith advised Arpaio of its letter to the DOJ on August 12. In Smith's letter to Arpaio (which I've linked, here), he tells the MCSO that "it may not expend any public funds, including expenses for outside counsel, to resist any DOJ Title VI inquiry." Smith warns Arpaio that the county "will not pay any invoices for attorneys who assist you in any effort to resist a Title VI inquiry."
You know, attorneys like Robert Driscoll, for instance.
Interestingly, Gerchick informed me that the county is not sure how Driscoll is being paid. She said the county is currently researching the matter.
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No wonder Driscoll replied so quickly to the Smith letter. In a snitty hate-gram sent via e-mail (read it, here), Driscoll snapped that Arpaio "does not report to you, or to the Board of Supervisors."
Maybe Driscoll should look into who controls the county's purse strings. It ain't the sheriff, fortunately.
What the county needs to do is make sure that it doesn't pay Driscoll jack. This D.C. warthog needs to be blocked from his food supply. If he's being subcontracted through Arpaio's favorite law firm Ogletree Deakins, payments to that entity should cease until Driscoll is nowhere near the trough. And if the MCSO is paying Driscoll from its budget, the county needs to figure out a way to stop that pipeline as well.
In other words, Arpaio's pricey D.C. attorney should not be receiving dime one in taxpayer funds to frustrate the feds' inquiry into the MCSO. After all, if Driscoll's so hot to work for our corrupt top constable, he could always do it pro bono.