As Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio crows this morning about how his agency busted a total of six illegal immigrants for using fake IDs so they could work at a Mesa dry cleaner, county budget officials unveiled the results of a six-month investigation into how his office is misspending your money.
If you pay taxes in Maricopa County, it's not pretty.
Arpaio and his cronies misspent $99.5 million over the last eight years, the majority of which came from the sheriff's detention fund, the investigation found.
"For eight years, you have been signing paperwork that says your budget is balanced, but it's not," County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox told sheriff's officials at this morning's meeting of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Budget officers reviewed payroll records for 5,700 sheriff's employee salaries from February 2004 to February 2011 and found that much of what employees were actually doing was not what they were getting paid to do.
"We made a mistake," Chief Jerry Sheridan told the board this morning.
Sure did -- about $100 million worth.
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The investigation into the sheriff's spending habits started about six months ago when budget officials and members of the Board of Supervisors -- with whom Arpaio doesn't exactly have the rosiest relationship -- suspected America's self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff" of using money designated to fund detention facilities to pay for some of Arpaio's pet projects, such as rounding up illegal immigrants working at places like the Burlington Coat Factory and Pei Wei restaurants, or tailing county supervisors and judges as part of his public-corruption stings.
Those pricey investigations of judges and county supervisors (a.k.a. those who oppose Arpaio politically) netted a total of zero convictions -- so not only was taxpayer money misspent, it was misspent poorly.
The Sheriff's Office wouldn't put us in touch with Arpaio this morning, but says the MCSO is in the process of writing up an official statement that it will send us later today.