Taxpayers still footing the bill from Arpaio’s time as Maricopa County Sheriff

Mar 13, 2017, 4:35 AM | Updated: 1:59 pm
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PHOENIX — The taxpayer price tag for lawsuits filed during Joe Arpaio’s 24-year tenure as Maricopa County Sheriff is expected to total $108 million this year.

According to the latest numbers obtained from Maricopa County by KTAR News, that’s the continuing cost of six terms of Arpaio as sheriff for things like legal fees and claims against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

The county has now shelled out more than $25 million of that just for the Melendres suit which sparked Arpaio’s racial profiling case.

Of that, the county is spending around $2.5 million a year for a court monitor to watch over the sheriff’s office, and Arpaio’s not even sheriff anymore.

However, the criminal charges stemming from the racial profiling case, Arpaio has to pay that himself. His trial is expected to start in April.

Meanwhile, in January the new Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone asked a citizen’s committee to look into the pros and cons of Arpaio’s controversial Tent City.

Former Arizona Attorney Gen. Grant Woods is the chairman of the committee and said he expects a recommendation to be ready for the sheriff soon after the committee meets on Monday.

“We’ve all toured it, we’re asking a lot of questions,” Woods said. “We’re looking at public safety first, the budget second and then lastly we are looking at some of the human issues.”

One thing Woods said will be changing regardless if Tent City is kept open or closed is the way the controversial jail is portrayed.

“These people are going to be punished, but no one’s going to be humiliated, no one is going to be degraded,” he said. “We’re not going to do things strictly for publicity or things like that anymore; those days are over.”

As for the budget, MCSO confirmed to KTAR News that it costs slightly less than $8 million a year to run Tent City.

“The numbers at Tent City are way down,” he said. “It costs pretty much the same thing whether it’s full or it’s quarter-full.”

Woods said the committee is looking at whether that is a good use of resources, but would not indicate which way the committee’s recommendation is leaning at the time of the interview.

“If it serves a purpose and it’s working, then fine,” he said. “We’re going to decide pretty soon, we’ll give the sheriff a recommendation and then he’ll do what he wants to do.”

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Taxpayers still footing the bill from Arpaio’s time as Maricopa County Sheriff