He may think he's answerable to no one, but a Pima County judge has ruled that Sheriff Joe Arpaio cannot thumb his nose at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors when they come calling for financial records and order him to attend a hearing to discuss same.
Superior Court Judge Richard E. Gordon today smacked down Arpaio's attempt to dodge the Supes' calling Arpaio to a hearing to explain why he was holding back docs on the MCSO's financial matters.
The Supes had hit Arpaio with subpoenas seeking info on possible abuse of Jail Enhancement Fund money. That coffer is supplied by a voter-approved sales tax, and the moolah's supposed to go for jail construction and related expenses, not for the sheriff's favorite side projects.
So they demanded to see Joe's books. Joe and his flunkies ignored them.
The Supes ordered Arpaio and his chief financial officer Loretta Barkell to attend a contempt proceeding. Joe's law dogs asked for the court to intervene, arguing, essentially, that the Supes have been pickin' on ol' Joe, that the order violated the Arizona Constitution's separation of powers and a bunch of other baloney.
Gordon wasn't buying. He ruled that,
"The Arizona Supreme Court has held that the failure to obey a non-judicial subpoena for documents, like the one at issue in this case, is considered direct contempt...As such, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors was permitted to expeditiously and summarily adjudicate the matter. The precise characterization of the contempt at issue, however, does not matter because the board appointed a hearing officer, gave Sheriff Arpaio advance notice, as well as an opportunity to be heard. The Sheriff therefore has been given all the process constitutionally due him."
So now what? When do the Supes get the docs? And will they force Arpaio to attend a hearing and sit under a hot lamp while he shuffles marbles in his hand and does his best Captain Queeg impersonation?
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"We don't know yet," said Supes spokeswoman Cari Gerchick of whether the hearing will be rescheduled. "We are first going to try to get the documents. If that doesn't work, we will take all necessary and legal steps to protect the public's financial interests."
There was a lot of speculation in April that Joe could actually face an arrest warrant if he continued to stonewall the Supes.
And what if Joe were to keep on telling the Supes to take a long walk off a short pier? Well, then, maybe we'd finally see Joe in a pair of those famous pink handcuffs of his...
(Note: As requested by "HeyJOE!" below, you can read the judge's order, here.)