Maricopa County Craziness

Don Stapley Claim in Arpaio-Thomas Flap Probably Will Be Handled Outside of Maricopa County Leadership, County Manager Says; Other Claims Expected


The claim against Maricopa County by Supervisor Don Stapley, and other similar claims expected to roll in, will be handled outside the county's "chain of command," says County Manager David Smith.

In response to questions raised by New Times yesterday, Smith agreed that Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and other county leaders affected by the abusive investigations of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas probably will file similar claims. A lawyer for Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe sent a letter to the county yesterday suggesting that he's preparing to launch a claim.

Smith says the unique circumstance of the claims requires a "credible process."

Of course, the five-member Board of Supervisors must sign off on Smith's recommendation.

And Smith is still formulating ideas. He expects to help develop a process to deal with the claims in the next 30 days.

He's not yet sure who or what would handle the matters. It would be "some unique one-of-a-kind individual or institution or panel or whatever it is," he says.

But county leaders can't just pick someone out of a hat. They have to be sure the claim would be handled competently and fairly, with the interests taxpayers and those suing the county respected, Smith says.

On top of that, Smith says he would prefer that, if the county chooses to settle with Stapley, Wilcox, or anyone else who sues, the issues are settled with finality. In other words, he doesn't want a claim settled on one issue, only to have the same person sue again on a related issue.

He admits, "There may be some other interesting questions that I haven't thought of" related to the potential of an avalanche of claims by county leaders.

No doubt, the public will be watching the process closely, since the potential payouts would come from county funds, Smith says.

With "cautious, careful and methodical" planning, he's optimistic the county will come up with a method to handle the claims that passes the smell test.

Smith adds that he doesn't want to discourage anyone in the county from filing a claim, if they feel they've been wronged.

As for himself, Smith -- who was named in the failed RICO lawsuit filed against county leaders by Thomas and Arpaio -- says he has no intention of suing the county.

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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.