It's the party line since the Tent City riot: Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his detention officers blame problems in the jails on understaffing and, more to the point, underfunding by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
The sheriff complains that he can't afford more $21,000-a-year detention officers; however, just weeks before the riot, he did find enough cash to create a new, $65,000-a-year position of "Intergovernmental Relations and Policy Advisor."
Arpaio's selection for the new post has pronounced political implications: the adviser, Jack Macintyre, was hired away from the County Attorney's Office, where his boss was Richard Romley--whose recent criticism of Arpaio has earned him the sheriff's enmity.
A deputy who asked not to be named tells New Times that Macintyre will give the sheriff advice on what Arpaio can and can't legally do. In some circles, that kind of worker is called a lawyer.
But sheriff's spokesman Detective Lew Sorci denies that Macintyre will act as the sheriff's attorney. That job is reserved for Romley. Macintyre himself says his duties are still being worked out.
The simmering feud between Arpaio and Romley boiled over on November 17 as inmates rioted at Arpaio's Tent City. Romley had sharp words about the sheriff's management of the jails. But animosity between the sheriff and the county attorney was public knowledge long before--especially since Romley announced that his office would investigate the death of inmate Scott Norberg.
Bringing over a "hired gun" from the enemy's camp is not the only change Arpaio intends to make, county sources tell New Times.
One county official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says he expects Arpaio-friendly lawmakers to introduce legislation this session which would separate the sheriff's office from other county entities--thereby legally allowing Arpaio to make Macintyre his attorney in civil matters.
That won't be an easy undertaking. Arpaio's duties are laid out in the Arizona Constitution, and changing them would not only require the approval of the Legislature but also of the electorate.
Given the state of his relationship with Romley, however, Arpaio may be willing to try anything to make changes in the county's legal underpinnings.
In 1994, Arpaio sued the Board of Supervisors to challenge its ability to set his budget. Normally, County Attorney Romley would litigate a civil matter for the sheriff, but since Arpaio was suing the county itself, Romley couldn't handle the matter.
So the sheriff asked the Board of Supervisors to hire him outside counsel. Not surprisingly, the board refused to pay for an attorney who would then sue the supervisors.
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Arpaio was forced to hire a private attorney, Bob Yen, and vowed publicly to pay Yen's fees with money from the Maricopa County Deputies Association (a fraternal organization), rather than use taxpayer funds.
Later, New Times learned that Arpaio actually did use taxpayer money, paying Yen $39,350 from a little-known state source, the Jail Enhancement Fund. In fact, Arpaio had quietly checked with a state official to make sure he could use those funds months before he ever promised not to use public money.
That maneuver resulted in an investigation by the state auditor general, who concluded in September that Arpaio had misused $122,419 in Jail Enhancement Funds.
That audit was conducted at the request of County Attorney Romley.
Sorci, recognizing the political nature of Macintyre's hire, asked New Times to mention that the County Attorney's Office has done its own headhunting: Recently, Sorci says, Bill Heath, a former captain in the sheriff's office, was hired by the county attorney.