They have the power, but will anyone intervene in Maricopa County's mess?

By Nick R. Martin | December 15th, 2009 | 7:01 pm | 14 Comments »

Based on public statements, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that anyone outside of Maricopa County plans to intervene in its ongoing chaos – at least not anytime soon.

While a whole host of agencies and higher officials have the power to intervene, none are exactly champing at the bit to do it. Here, now, is a list of those who have the power to get involved and why they probably won’t:

  • Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer could direct state investigators to step in and take over any cases involving Maricopa County officials. But Brewer told the Associated Press she’s just too busy with the state’s own troubles to worry about Maricopa County’s. “I’ve got my hands full,” she said.
  • The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona could launch a federal investigation of Maricopa County, including into allegations of abuse of power and corruption at all levels. But while newly minted U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke told the Phoenix New Times the ongoing chaos is “a problem,” he also told the newspaper, “You’re not going to solve it with my quote.”
  • Burke’s counterparts at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. have been investigating Sheriff Joe Arpaio since the Bush Administration. But almost a year into Barack Obama’s first term, no one from the DOJ has made a peep – a point the sheriff likes to mock at nearly any chance he gets.
  • Likewise, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard’s Office has opened an criminal investigation focusing on Arpaio’s 2008 reelection campaign. A journalist and Arpaio’s opponent are among those who have been questioned. But again, nothing has emerged from the inquiry. Additionally, some have wondered whether Goddard would even act since it may be a conflict for him. Arpaio launched his own supposed investigation into the attorney general in early 2007 and has never closed it.

Meanwhile, Arpaio and county Attorney Andrew Thomas continue to investigate nearly everyone else in power in Maricopa County. They have accused judges, appointed officials and the entire Board of Supervisors of widespread corruption, though most of the targets also have one thing in common: They publicly criticized Arpaio and Thomas before any of this began.

The effect of all of this? As the Arizona Republic pointed out on Sunday, at the very least, the public has probably lost its trust in the leadership of Maricopa County.


  • Anonymous

    This stuff has been going on for years. Trust in the leadership was gone long ago. When I talk about the situation to others, most people don’t know anything about it. The public doesn’t care despite the millions in tax dollars lost and the slow corrosion of county government service.

    Reporting like this helps. Keep it up. The rest of us need to keep pressing for changes, if not by these petty, kingdom builders then by someone else. You have a good list of people we should write to about our desires for change!

  • alandd

    This stuff has been going on for years. Trust in the leadership was gone long ago. When I talk about the situation to others, most people don't know anything about it. The public doesn't care despite the millions in tax dollars lost and the slow corrosion of county government service.

    Reporting like this helps. Keep it up. The rest of us need to keep pressing for changes, if not by these petty, kingdom builders then by someone else. You have a good list of people we should write to about our desires for change!

  • http://www.hummingcrow.com Cheryl

    I’m pretty sure the reason Brewer is “just too busy” is that she’ll be up for her first gubernatorial election fairly soon, and a lot of Arpaio supporters are her potential voters. I have lost all trust in both county and state leadership, and only hope we manage to elect competent people at the earliest opportunity. I think if Arpaio gets re-elected I will move to another state.

  • http://www.hummingcrow.com cherylcolan

    I'm pretty sure the reason Brewer is “just too busy” is that she'll be up for her first gubernatorial election fairly soon, and a lot of Arpaio supporters are her potential voters. I have lost all trust in both county and state leadership, and only hope we manage to elect competent people at the earliest opportunity. I think if Arpaio gets re-elected I will move to another state.

  • Anonymous

    Currently experiencing my first taste of the criminal court (or any court for that matter) system, I have to say that about the only thing that seems consistent is the opinion of Andrew Thomas as being insane..out of control.
    I have no prior record at all. In 31 years I managed to stay right by the law until now. I made one stupid, wrong decision and I am told by public defenders and private attorney’s a like, I will likely look at prison time and a felony record because of the wicked ways of andrew thomas.

  • jet_AZ

    Currently experiancing my first taste of the criminal court (or any court for that matter) system, I have to say that about the only thing that seems consistent is the opinion of Andrew Thomas as being insane..out of control.
    I have no prior record at all. In 31 years I managed to stay right by the law until now. I made one stupid, wrong thing and I am told by public defenders and private attorney's a like, I will likely look at prison time and a felony record because of the wicked ways of andrew thomas.

  • mahtso

    I am a bit confused by your post: you wrote “Here, now, is a list of those who have the power to get involved and why they probably won’t:” but 2 of the 4 are involved through investigations of the Sheriff. Maybe the investigations are not revealing sufficient evidence of unlawful acts to warrant further action or involvement.

    I am curious as to whether you have turned your investigative eye to the allegations/indictments of the County officials. I would welcome seeing what a journalist could uncover with respect to the potential merit of those charges.

    I don’t intend to make light of your situation jet-AZ, but you appear to be admitting to being a criminal (even once is enough) but the problem is Mr. Thomas’s wicked ways?? Spare me, please.

  • mahtso

    I am a bit confused by your post: you wrote “Here, now, is a list of those who have the power to get involved and why they probably won’t:” but 2 of the 4 are involved through investigations of the Sheriff. Maybe the investigations are not revealing sufficient evidence of unlawful acts to warrant further action or involvement.

    I am curious as to whether you have turned your investigative eye to the allegations/indictments of the County officials. I would welcome seeing what a journalist could uncover with respect to the potential merit of those charges.

    I don't intend to make light of your situation jet-AZ, but you appear to be admitting to being a criminal (even once is enough) but the problem is Mr. Thomas's wicked ways?? Spare me, please.

  • http://www.heatcity.org Nick R. Martin

    @mahtso: With the coverage here, I generally try to avoid things that have been covered so thoroughly by other media outlets. With the nature of the web, it just wouldn’t make sense to repeat what’s already been done. And in terms of the merits of these charges, the Arizona Republic, Phoenix New Times and Phoenix Magazine have already put a lot of effort into reporting on the allegations themselves. (I found the above links in about two minutes with Google. Give it a shot, and I’m sure you’ll find more.)

    Essentially, I’ve been focusing on the effect of the investigations and the politics behind them. My goal is to find out new information that hasn’t been covered so well by other journalists.

    As for the “involvement” question: It seems like you’re considering involvement to be an investigation, while this post is clearly referring to intervention.

    You’re a defender of certain politicians and government officials, and that’s OK. I welcome comments from all points of view here, including and especially partisans. They make the discussion more interesting. But this site sticks to factual reporting, and sometimes those facts will clash with partisan opinions.

    You’ve also left two other comments today, including one in which you invoke “the media” as a biased bogeyman. As much as I love it when people lump all media together into one group, I’d encourage you to look at the articles I linked to above and do a little more research before you rail against perceived bias. This seems to be one of those cases where the facts just don’t support the opinion you’re espousing.

    [This response will suffice for the other comments @mahtso left today. I will be linking here from the other threads. The original comments can be found here and here.]

  • http://www.heatcity.org Nick R. Martin

    @mahtso: With the coverage here, I generally try to avoid things that have been covered so thoroughly by other media outlets. With the nature of the web, it just wouldn't make sense to repeat what's already been done. And in terms of the merits of these charges, the Arizona Republic, Phoenix New Times and Phoenix Magazine have already put a lot of effort into reporting on the allegations themselves. (I found the above links in about two minutes with Google. Give it a shot, and I'm sure you'll find more.)

    Essentially, I've been focusing on the effect of the investigations and the politics behind them. My goal is to find out new information that hasn't been covered so well by other journalists.

    As for the “involvement” question: It seems like you're considering involvement to be an investigation, while this post is clearly referring to intervention.

    You're a defender of certain politicians and government officials, and that's OK. I welcome comments from all points of view here, including and especially partisans. They make the discussion more interesting. But this site sticks to factual reporting, and sometimes those facts will clash with partisan opinions.

    You've also left two other comments today, including one in which you invoke “the media” as a biased bogeyman. As much as I love it when people lump all media together into one group, I'd encourage you to look at the articles I linked to above and do a little more research before you rail against perceived bias. This seems to be one of those cases where the facts just don't support the opinion you're espousing.

    [This response will suffice for the other comments @mahtso left today. I will be linking here from the other threads.]

  • Anonymous

    If the sheriff’s dept. had gotten enough money from the supervisors, to operate the department safely, none of this would have happened.

  • timeaftertime

    If the sheriff's dept. had gotten enough money from the supervisors, to operate the department safely, none of this would have happened.

  • mahtso

    “You’re a defender of certain politicians and government officials, and that’s OK.”

    I assume you formed that opinion because at other blogs I asked the authors for proof of their allegations against the Sheriff. But I also made clear that I have no idea whether the allegations are true or not, I just wanted to know the basis for the charges. I am not defending anyone; what I have done is to ask people making allegations to provide the facts to back them up, which is not an unreasonable request (in my opinion). As I have expressed elsewhere, this started because of what I perceived to be insults directed to anyone not ready to flee the county or, as was so eloquently put “maybe take a bullet” in response to the Sheriff’s alleged unlawful acts.

    In one case the blogger gave no answers and chose to insult me. At the other blog, there were some links provided, but these were not satisfying (to me) for reasons that I posted there. (Those bloggers are criminal defense lawyers, who I assume generally don’t have to proof anything, but rather just try to raise a reasonable doubt. Maybe that is why when challenged they came up so short.)

    (As an aside, because I like clarity: my questions have been about only one politician/official (the Sheriff) and in fact part of the reason I have asked for proof of the allegations against him is that some of the blogs point to what the County Attorney has done as proof that the Sheriff has violated the law.)

    “You’ve also left two other comments today, including one in which you invoke “the media” as a biased bogeyman.” I certainly did not intend that, I never used the word biased, and if what I wrote is “rail[ing]” then I need to consult a dictionary to verify what that word means. My point was that all my knowledge is from the media so that my knowledge is incomplete i.e., I have no inside information because I do not know any of the people involved. (Although, by use of the word media, I mean “new media” that to me includes blogs, and certainly many blogs do, by design, carry a bias.)

    Thanks for the links. I had read the piece in the Republic and because the Phx Mag is well over a year old, it would have never occurred to me that it could be relevant. I do feel the Newtimes is biased against the Sheriff (there I said it) and I had personal knowledge of a matter in which Mr. Stern repeatedly got the facts wrong (even when comments on the site provided accurate information) so I did not read that article.

    Rail: to condemn or attack in bitter, harsh, or abusive language Amer. Heritage Dic. 2nd College Ed.

  • mahtso

    “You're a defender of certain politicians and government officials, and that's OK.”

    I assume you formed that opinion because at other blogs I asked the authors for proof of their allegations against the Sheriff. But I also made clear that I have no idea whether the allegations are true or not, I just wanted to know the basis for the charges. I am not defending anyone; what I have done is to ask people making allegations to provide the facts to back them up, which is not an unreasonable request (in my opinion). As I have expressed elsewhere, this started because of what I perceived to be insults directed to anyone not ready to flee the county or, as was so eloquently put “maybe take a bullet” in response to the Sheriff's alleged unlawful acts.

    In one case the blogger gave no answers and chose to insult me. At the other blog, there were some links provided, but these were not satisfying (to me) for reasons that I posted there. (Those bloggers are criminal defense lawyers, who I assume generally don't have to proof anything, but rather just try to raise a reasonable doubt. Maybe that is why when challenged they came up so short.)

    (As an aside, because I like clarity: my questions have been about only one politician/official (the Sheriff) and in fact part of the reason I have asked for proof of the allegations against him is that some of the blogs point to what the County Attorney has done as proof that the Sheriff has violated the law.)

    “You've also left two other comments today, including one in which you invoke “the media” as a biased bogeyman.” I certainly did not intend that, I never used the word biased, and if what I wrote is “rail[ing]” then I need to consult a dictionary to verify what that word means. My point was that all my knowledge is from the media so that my knowledge is incomplete i.e., I have no inside information because I do not know any of the people involved. (Although, by use of the word media, I mean “new media” that to me includes blogs, and certainly many blogs do, by design, carry a bias.)

    Thanks for the links. I had read the piece in the Republic and because the Phx Mag is well over a year old, it would have never occurred to me that it could be relevant. I do feel the Newtimes is biased against the Sheriff (there I said it) and I had personal knowledge of a matter in which Mr. Stern repeatedly got the facts wrong (even when comments on the site provided accurate information) so I did not read that article.

    Rail: to condemn or attack in bitter, harsh, or abusive language Amer. Heritage Dic. 2nd College Ed.