Maricopa County Craziness

Barbara Mundell, Retired Judge, and Susan Schuerman (Supervisor Don Stapley's Secretary) Each Get $500,000 in Settlements From County

Barbara Mundell, the now-retired Maricopa Superior Court Judge targeted in an unethical investigation by county lawmen, received $500,000 from the county to settle a lawsuit.

Susan Schuerman, the executive assistant for Supervisor Don Stapley, also received a $500,000 settlement, county officials confirm.

The county's spokeswoman, Cari Gerchick, says that Mary Rose Wilcox has not officially settled with the county in her lawsuit, despite rumors to the contrary.

Several other current and former county officials could be receiving settlement payouts in the near future for their own lawsuits, which all stem from actions by former County Attorney Andrew Thomas (who was disbarred this morning) and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The total payouts to current and former county officials are as follows:

Mundell: $500,000 Schuerman: $500,000 Judge Kenneth Fields (retired): $100,000 Judge Anna Baca (retired): $100,000 Steve Wetzel, Maricopa Chief Information Officer: $75,000

Mundell's lawsuit describes how deputies put her under surveillance for 14 months as part of Arpaio's bogus investigation into alleged county corruption. Not only did Arpaio and Thomas fail to prove that Mundell was part of any criminal scheme, but the allegations themselves were weak and unconvincing.

Under Arpaio's leadership, his former chief deputy, Dave Hendershott, developed a premise that Mundell was part of a plot to enrich a lawyer while simultaneously obstructing investigations of Stapley and alleged wrongdoing as part of the construction of a new county court building.

The evidence, on the contrary, showed that the actions of Arpaio, Thomas and their underlings were corrupt. A disciplinary panel of the state Supreme Court decided as much today in their ruling that Thomas and his former deputy, Lisa Aubuchon, be disbarred for their roles in their lengthy, unethical fight with the county.

Rachel Alexander, a former deputy county attorney under Thomas, had her law license suspended for six months and a day.

Arpaio, meanwhile, is hoping to be elected to a sixth term this November.

Through his former chief deputy, Hendershott, Arpaio sicced a goon squad on Schuerman as well as Mundell, according to Schuerman's notice of claim. Deputies made "their presence in her quiet neighborhood felt" and followed her to lunch in marked squad cars.

Claims by Arpaio's office that Schuerman helped conduct Stapley's private business matters never panned out. Yet when a search warrant was served on her office, the publicity-hungry Arpaio and Thomas quickly issued a news release to tip off the media.

As the state Supreme Court's disciplinary panel found, Thomas' goal was not to achieve justice, but to embarrass and burden the officials.

Schuerman had been seeking $1.75 million.

Her boss, Stapley, is among those who have yet to settle their lawsuits.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.