Last week, the Wonk Room reported that Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio filed a civil suit against Maricopa County administrators, elected officials, judges and attorneys who have challenged his authority. Now, Arpaio is asking the Board of Supervisors which is currently battling him in court for $7 million to cover his office’s mounting legal fees. As of July of this year, the state of Arizona was facing a $3.4 billion budget deficit.
In October, supervisors approved a new policy that requires elected officials such as Arpaio to cover their own legal fees when the dispute involves other county officials. The Arizona Republic reports that “lawsuits between county agencies including the Sheriff’s Office, the County Attorney’s Office and the Treasurer’s Office against county administration have cost more than $2.5 million in legal fees.”
Ray Stern of the Phoenix New Times explains that Arpaio’s top political ally, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, had been “waging a Cold War for more than a couple of years” with the Board of Supervisors. A legal memorandum of understanding between the two parties stopped them from suing each other, but Thomas tapped friend Sheriff Arpaio with allegedly incriminating tips. “It would soon touch off an expensive, all-out war between Thomas and Arpaio on one side and the Board of Supervisors on the other,” writes Stern. Stapley was indicted on 118 charges — 52 were thrown out and prosecutors requested the rest be dropped a few months later. Arpaio’s deputies responded with 100 new counts against Stapley.
Arpaio has also been the target of over 2,700 lawsuits — most which stem from his controversial immigration enforcement tactics and jail conditions. The Department of Justice is investigating racial profiling allegations made against the Sheriff’s office and word has spread that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into accusations that Arpaio has been “using his position to settle political vendettas.” As of 2008, the Arizona Bar Association was investigating Thomas.