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Officials: Sheriff Joe's Office Charged Luxury Trips To County, Misused Up To $80 Million

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Newscom / k94

The Maricopa County Office of Management and Budget unveiled the first evidence of misuse of public funds by Arpaio's office to the county Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, which the Arizona Republic reported were the result of hundreds of hours of staff research.

In a press release, officials said that Arpaio's office was evasive and that he has chosen to fight efforts at transparency in his use of public money. But, based on the limited amount of data provided by the sheriff's office, Maricopa County officials said the office had misspent money since at least March by using jail funds on non-jail related operations.

Jail operations are funded by an exclusive tax levy -- passed in a voter referendum in 1998 -- and are supposed to be distinct from the sheriff's office's funds. County officials charge that Arpaio's office allegedly used the jail operations funds for sheriff's office expenses -- such as salaries for deputies who worked on public-corruption investigations into county supervisors and judges.

A further review found that misspending dated back to at least 2006 at a rate of $16 million per year and that retroactively, Apraio's office may have misspent up to $80 million.

County officials additionally allege that the sheriff's office deliberately misused procurement codes and made capital purchases during spending freezes; used outside bank accounts; had problems handling inmate cash; demonstrated extradition travel irregularities; improperly used county credit cards; and spent public funds unusually.

A PowerPoint presentation issued yesterday also quoted Arpaio's letter of support in favor of the 1998 jail tax that he's now accused of misusing revenues from. "I pledge to you that the new jail will be the most efficient, cost-effective use of the sales tax revenue of any major jail built in the United States," he wrote.

General funds from the county may have to be used to pay as much as $64 million back to the jail operations budget.

Additional reporting by Johanna Barr.