A few years ago, Arizona voters approved a tax of one fifth of a cent per dollar to fund the Maricopa County Detention Centers.  Money set aside by the voters for such a specific purpose is meant to be exactly that.  It’s a law, in fact, that the money has to be spent on that specific thing.

But like most laws, Sheriff Arpaio doesn’t really care too much about the literal interpretation of them, unless, of course, the literal interpretation is in his favor. In the case of the particular funds we’re talking about here, about 99.5 million dollars, his lackeys just decided that they would like to use it something beyond what the voters wanted.

To put  the amount into perspective, $99.5 million would have covered the life-saving transplant operations of approximately 497 individuals.*  Here’s another fact that might interest you…Gov. Brewer is currently waging a very public and political battle to “change Medicare coverage” in Arizona in an effort to save $500 million to cover part of the $1.1 billion state shortfall.  The $500 million being saved for deficit reduction will occur at the expense of the most vulnerable among us.  The money spent by Arpaio could have taken care of at least 20% or one-fifth of that amount.

What did the Sheriff’s Office spend it on though?  The truth is we don’t really know.  What we do know is what he did NOT spend it on. We know the MCSO didn’t spend it on any of the following:

  • investigating 400 felony cases in various jurisdictions (50 of which were cases in the city of El Mirage, most of which were child sex abuse cases)
  • transporting county inmates to and from court (they were cited for being in contempt for failure to appear on time in a number instances)
  • complying with standards of jail safety and detention center accreditation (hint: take a look at the death rates in MCSO jails)
  • performing internal accounting audits since Arpaio writes off the supposedly misspent money as “book-keeping errors” and refused to provide accounting data to the Board of County Supervisors who is responsible for overseeing that money
County officials and Federal Investigators are beginning to look at evidence that the money might have been spent as part of the ongoing political war between the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and on the Sheriff’s side, former prosecutor Andrew Thomas.  Other projects that the money may have gone to include the many anti-immigrant round-ups (particularly after County Attorney,  Romley refused to give Arpaio $700,000 in funds for workplace raids).**  I suspect worse will be uncovered.  There are still many unanswered questions about the PAC for which long-time Arpaio aide, David Hendershott advocated until he was terminated and of which Arpaio claims no knowledge.  Also, two other MCSO employees*** conspired to gather funds for the PAC and we are still learning the details of how money was solicited and if funds were short, how funds were finagled out of wealthy donors, and later replaced other unknown sources…if it sounds seedy and complicated, it is.  I highly recommend the Phoenix New Times articles on the MANY investigations into Arpaio’s maneuvering over the years.
What we can say for certain is that the $99.5 million was NOT spent on making the MCSO a better agency nor for running the agency in service to public needs.  So Maricopa County voters, how does it feel to give so much money and get nothing in return but a tiny man’s large ego trip?

Notes:

* The transplants previously covered by AHCCCS that were denied as of Oct. 1, 2010 cost about $200,000 per operation. 96 individuals we on the list, two of whom died in the interval before Gov. Brewer finished her political machinations on the subject and re-covered them in the Spring of this year.

**Romley refused the money because workplace raids  are not the same thing as immigrant round-ups.  The first targets employers who knowingly hire illegals, whereas the second rounds up the illegal workers while the employer walks away free.

***Capt. Joel Foxx and Deputy Chief Larry Black loved each other and loved their PAC

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