Maricopa County Craziness

County Wants Sheriff Investigated for Possible Felony Over Purchase of Bus

County leaders want to know: What part of illegal doesn't Sheriff Joe Arpaio understand?

America's self-described Toughest Sheriff won't tolerate tamale-selling illegal immigrants, people who honk their horns or costume-wearing political pundits. But, according to Wesley Baysinger, (below) the county's chief procurement officer, the Sheriff's Office committed a felony when it intentionally bought a $456,000 bus without going through proper procedures.

Arpaio has publicly taken credit for purchasing the bus with money from a special jail-enhancement fund, so if a felony was committed in obtaining the bus, Arpaio is responsible. The way Baysinger spells it out, the purchase definitely didn't meet county requirements -- and somebody must pay the piper.

Last week, Baysinger sent a letter to County Attorney Andrew Thomas, telling him it was his duty under the law to investigate the matter and enforce the law. Baysinger also sent a letter to the state Attorney General, hoping he would investigate any related violations of state procurement law.

Click here for the letter to Thomas.

Barnett Lotstein, a top aide to Thomas, tells New Times that the prosecution agency received the letter today. Lotstein took pains to make the distinction that the accusation of a possible felony by Arpaio's office was only being reviewed and that "it would be incorrect to characterize it as an investigation."

That's to be expected, since Thomas and Arpaio are political allies who teamed up to investigate possible corruption by anyone but themselves.

But let's face it, the motives of county leaders could be considered suspect. After months of fighting between the Board of Supervisors and County Manager David Smith on one side, and Arpaio and Thomas on the other, Baysinger's letter seems to be just another skirmish in a greater political battle.

Lotstein says he questions the motives of county leaders for bringing this allegation forward, especially since the bus was purchased a year ago. But if the county is not acting in good faith, what are we to make of an apparent investigation launched by Arpaio of the county auditor's office?

Can both sides be both right and wrong?

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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.