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County Supervisors: Budget Plans "Sabotaged" by New Thomas-Arpaio Lawsuit

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The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors say their careful budget plans are being "sabotaged" by a new lawsuit brought on by the county attorney and sheriff.

As we reported earlier today, County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio are suing the county to try to stop a "raid" of $11 million from a fund set up by state legislators. New Times asked the supervisors to comment on the lawsuit, and the supervisors' spokesman, Richard de Uriarte, just e-mailed this response:

March 2, 2009

Response to County Sheriff and County Attorney lawsuit

From: Richard de Uriarte, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors

Look, it is a disappointment, but not a particular surprise, that a carefully considered and negotiated budget plan by professionals is sabotaged by a lawsuit by the sheriff and the county attorney.

In last year's state budget, counties were very appropriately given flexibility to meet the state's demands for contributions while allowing the counties to meet their statutory obligations. We agree with Gov. Jan Brewer, that in this time of extraordinary fiscal crisis, everything has to be on the table. Everybody is in the same boat. And we ought to be rowing in the same direction.

The whole point of the plan was to spare the county general fund budget, including the budgets for law enforcement, from taking another hit, this one from the state. By taking a portion, just a portion -- of these excess monies, for which there was no immediate plan to spend, we could protect critical public health and safety services. Some of these reserve funds are indeed very large.

This plan takes a total of only $24.1 million from 26 separate funds from judicial, appointed and elected departments. The guidelines for the plan were approved in November on the same day the board of supervisors also adopted $61 million in operating budget cuts and cancelled capital projects.

We're all in this budget crisis together. Nothing is more important to the board of supervisors than law enforcement. Nothing in the fund sweep would jeopardize public safety. No one is singled out and no one is being spared.

It's too bad we have to resort to another expensive lawsuit rather than working collaborative on sound public policy.

The county's Superior Court Web site shows the Thomas-Arpaio lawsuit is scheduled for a hearing to "show cause" at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning before Judge Andrew Klein. Could be interesting.

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