Joe Arpaio is not an island. His ability to waste more than $150 million in taxpayer monies didn’t happen in a vacuum.
We know that the now disbarred and disgraced former County Attorney Andy Thomas helped Arpaio abuse his power by charging and prosecuting numerous cases without any legal merit. We know he looked the other way when Arpaio rounded up brown people for the purpose of publicity.
But the County Board of Supervisors played a role, too. For the past decade, the majority of the five-member board has refused to listen to citizen concerns about Arpaio’s budgeting priorities. If it were not for citizen groups such as the Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability demanding more attention be paid to Arpaio’s budget, it’s likely we never would have found out about the MCSO’s $99 million misallocation of funds.
While it’s important for the Board to try and maintain good working relationships with the departments they oversee, including the MCSO, it’s also vital that they maintain the necessary checks and balances demanded by our Constitution. It is the Board’s job to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and that the Sheriff uses the funds allocated for his department for the purposes outlined in the budget.
That clearly has not happened and is part of the reason MCSO’s sex crimes detectives didn’t investigate 432 sex crimes. Instead of using money allocated for SVU – the department that’s supposed to focus on rapists and child molesters — Arpaio misspent the money, using it for things like trips to Honduras and baseless investigations of elected officials and mortgage fraud.
And what does the County Board of Supervisors have to say about all of this? Well, that depends on whom you ask.
Some supervisors have put up a fight and demanded more accountability, but those supervisors are almost always in the minority. And sadly, those same supervisors who have had the courage to challenge Arpaio have been harassed and targeted by him. Though I believe Arpaio should be punished for his retaliatory actions against the supervisors, I do not believe elected officials should take money from the people they serve in the form of lawsuits.
On the other side of this, however, are supervisors like Chairman Max Wilson who has a cozy relationship with Arpaio and actually promotes the fact that Arpaio endorses his candidacy (as shown here on his website). Considering what Mr. Wilson knows about Arpaio’s abuse of taxpayer dollars, I find it incredible that he would align himself with someone so fiscally irresponsible.
There are no Democrats running against Wilson, but he does have two Republican challengers in the primary, Dick Hensley and Jean McGrath. We will find out tomorrow if either of them can unseat this decade-long incumbent.
Two supervisors, Fulton Brock and Don Stapley, are not running for reelection. Voters in those districts will have a much needed opportunity for change, particularly in District 2 where Steve Chucri is looking to defeat Lester Pearce, brother of recalled State Senator Russell Pearce and close ally of Arpaio’s.
But perhaps the biggest opportunity for change is in District 3 where a 14-year incumbent, Andy Kunasek, could lose to a newcomer named Lilia Alvarez. Kunasek is infamous for turning the other way when citizens were arrested at a Board of Supervisors meeting after applauding for an anti-Arpaio comment. Supervisor Kunasek, during his term as Board Chair, refused to meet with the group or address their concerns.
Alvarez, on the other hand, sees citizen involvement in government as a plus and wants more participation from residents in the budget process. She objected to Arpaio’s use of taxpayer dollars to fund his birther investigation and believes it’s the Board’s responsibility to provide oversight of the Sheriff’s budget.
Kunasek did not object to funding Arpaio’s birther investigation and has said the $28 million the county just recently lost in lawsuits is but a small percentage of its annual budget.
I have a hard time swallowing that line of thinking. $28 million may be a small percentage of the budget, but considering the county currently has a shortage of medical examiners and restaurant inspectors, I believe there were much better uses for those funds.
No, Arpaio is not an island. He has wasted money and abused his power with the blessings of other elected officials. If we want to clean up county government, we must give him and the Board the boot. We’re the only ones who can.