This is one Titanic fishing expedition.
The requests made of county offices by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Office have received a lot of attention because they're so broad, but details about them in the press have been scarce. We figured that folks who are interested in the ongoing dispute between county officials might want to see them, so we put in a public records request for the requests:
First up -- the requests by County Attorney Andrew Thomas' office:
When we say Sheriff Joe Arpaio or Thomas wants to see records about, say, the county's hiring of former County Attorney Richard Romley as a consultant, we mean they want ALL records: e-mails received and sent by Romley, e-mails about Romley, letters, phone records, contracts, description of duties, numbers, notes -- every blessed thing. The requests from both Arpaio and Thomas are meticulous in asking for every scrap of records that might be floating around out there. (Their offices have received enough public records requests from the media to know how to craft good ones).
Thomas wants to see records relating to:
*Romley, as in our example.
*"Any all relationships with or services provided by" any member the news media and public relations firms, specifically including HighGround (the company owed by Governor Jan Brewer's political consultant) and Riester.
*Copies of minutes, video and audio of the Board of Supervisors December 5 and 23 meetings.
*Copy of county Board of Supervisors lawyer Tom Irvine's contract.
Next -- Requests from Sheriff Arpaio's office:
These are Cloverfield monster-size records requests.
In the first one, Arpaio's deputies want to see all records related to any issues with the county offices of planning and zoning and the flood control district -- since 1999. Ditto for any lawsuits or claims for those departments since '99. Plus all minutes and staff reports for meetings of the P&Z panel and the Board of Adjustment.
Then there's another biggie: The request for all e-mails of three dozen county employees. The county's IT department head told us this comprises about 24 gigabytes of e-mails that are stored on the employees' computers, mostly undeleted. The request also seeks all phone records and other info from the employees.
The Sheriff'f Office wants to see 2008 financial disclosures for Don Stapley -- no surprise there. But he also wants financial disclosure records going back to 1992 for Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. Looks like she's being given the Stapley Treatment. Deputies are apparently hoping to prove some kind of corruption between her and husband regarding their roles with the Arizona Boxing Commission and Department of Racing.
An April 20 request is what, in the spy world, is called counter-counter-espionage. The Sheriff's Office wants to see everything related to the county's sweeping for hidden listening devices -- yet it was the MCSO that was, ostensibly, suspected of planting the bugs. Deputies want to know exactly what parts of the county building were swept for bugs and even want to see surveillance video of the sweeping.
Superior Court Presiding Judge Barbara Mundell (pictured) is the link to another huge records request. Basically, if you work for the county and once thought about Mundell, the sheriff wants to see your records. There's another HighGround connection here, and also reference to Tom Irvine being employed by the county as a "space planner."
Deputies want the name and address of every contractor and subcontractor who worked for the county on any project since 1993, plus the services rendered and the costs.
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Finally, the Chicano Connection: Arpaio's office wants to see all county records relating to dealings with Chicanos Por La Causa and their subsidiaries.
As we've reported, the county says all these requests will cost taxpayers about $911,000 and will take months to fulfill. In the meantime, Thomas and Arpaio and suing to force the county to dig up and turn over the records.
We had a chat with one of Thomas' top aides, Barnett Lotstein, about the requests and their purpose. Lotstein doesn't want to go into specifics about the reasons for the requests and why they are so broad. The argumentative lawyer, who once served under Romley, maintains that under Arizona public records law, (ARS 39-121), the size and reason for a request don't make a bit of difference.
We can't argue with that, though the Sheriff's Office certainly has regarding our own public-records requests that were never this large. Now the shoe's on the other foot.