The Arizona Attorney General has launched a probe of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office over bank accounts kept separate from normal county accounts and over the money from these accounts getting spent without approval from an outside agency, a television station reports.
The money in question: the Sheriff's Office's RICO fund, which includes confiscated drug money and funds taken from other criminal activities, and its Jail Enhancement Fund, which is supposed to be used to keep the jails in good condition so they hold their value.
State law mandates that money in the Jail Enhancement Fund be deposited with the county Treasurer's Office, but the station says its recent review found that this wasn't happening.
CBS 5 says it got a hold of some transaction records from the two accounts, which show that withdrawals ranging from a few dollars to several thousand dollars were made and paid to individuals, companies, a church, and to Joe Arpaio himself.
While in the process of conducting its own investigation, CBS 5 discovered that the AG's Office was probing the same information.
We tried to contact the Sheriff's Office to find out how this money was spent, but nobody has gotten back to us.
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Critics say these types of special bank accounts limit transparency because they are not overseen by anyone outside the MCSO -- which, in the past, has led to some over-the-top spending: a pricey jail bus comes to mind.
The Sheriff's Office purchased a $500,000 bus without following normal procurement procedures or getting permission from the county board of supervisors. It turns out they used Jail Enhancement Funds to pay the tab.
When the board of supervisors refused to license the unauthorized bus, Arpaio said "I had the authority to use the funds the way I see fit."
We placed a call to the AG's Office to see what else its investigation has uncovered, but nobody has gotten back to us.