Max Wilson, Chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, has agreed to meet with County Attorney Andrew Thomas to discuss a possible settlement to their lawsuit battle.
In a letter today to Thomas, Wilson (pictured) notes the court decisions Thomas has recently lost and agrees litigation should continue during any settlement talks. However, Wilson says he believes it's only proper to discuss alternative ways to limit the potential legal cost to taxpayers, who are funding both sides of the fight.
"We continue to receive numerous court rulings in our favor, and the board is confident that it will prevail in all of the lawsuits which have been filed by the county attorney," Chairman Wilson said. "But in the interest of saving taxpayers from having to pay for mounting legal fees, I don't want to miss a chance to try to resolve issues in a fiscally responsible manner." Wilson said.
Thomas made the surprise offer for mediation on Monday following months of wrangling over lawsuits he launched. The county attorney also announced on Monday he would refer the criminal prosecution of County Supervisor Don Stapley and the investigation into plans for a new court building to a special prosecutor from Yavapai County.
The battlefield is messy now, though -- the situation won't be easy to resolve. If you'll recall, the five-member Board of Supervisors stripped Thomas of his duties to oversee civil lawsuits, setting up a separate civil litigation department outside of the county attorney's office. Even though the Stapley case -- which sparked the civil-lawsuit move -- is being handed off, it seems a stretch to think the Supervisors will ever give the oversight power back to Thomas, who may use it against them.
Maybe he'll have better luck negotiating a deal with the Supervisors in his lawsuit with Sheriff Joe Arpaio that aims to block the county from using $11 million in special funds set aside by the state. It's probably a win-win for the county to ease up on that one -- it'll appease some members of the public who want the lawmen to get the money, and it'll look like the county is giving up something in the mediation.