The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors agreed today to delay the taking of more than $24 million from special funds to help balance the county's budget until a judge decides if the transfer is legal.
The action was the first in a new lawsuit brought against the county by County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a bid to stop the raid of $11 million in funds set aside for law enforcement purposes. In a news release just put out by Thomas' office, Thomas says the agreement made at a hearing today before Superior Court Judge Andrew Klein (at left) provides "relief" for county departments that need the funds, including his own, and protects against "unlawful" sweeps.
The county, however, made it clear on Monday that the Board of Supervisors would have cut even more from this year's budget if it hadn't tapped into the special funds.
In filing the lawsuit, Thomas and Arpaio seem to be trying an end-run around the county's budget plans. But there's another way to look at the situation: The county wants to avoid making more tough decisions on budget cuts by tapping into these funds.
In any case, as New Times columnist Sarah Fenske reported yesterday, the money in these funds is often squandered by Thomas and Arpaio on things like saving the souls of young women and news clipping services.
A new hearing on the legality of the raid of funds is set for May 29.