County Alleges Sheriff Joe Improperly Funneled Money In Hidden Database

November 12, 2010 4:16 a.m.

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio kept a hidden database that shows that he used money designated for funding jails for other purposes, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors alleges.

The County Administration office learned that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office created a hidden database in 2002 which tracks the differences between where employees work and how employees are paid. “In many instances, it crosses different funding sources, thereby creating an inappropriate spending of restricted funds,” the administration office said in a press release.In September, the Maricopa County Office of Management and Budget reported to the the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors that Apraio’s office may have misspent up to $80 million based on the limited records they had received. This follow up report says that MCSO work papers “have identified at least $34 million in misspending” but that does not “address some of the more complicated staffing issues” such as overtime and benefit costs.

The Board of Supervisors is looking into the use of funds by Arpaio’s office, and the Maricopa County Office of Management and Budget first unveiled evidence of misuse of public funds by Arpaio’s office in September. Those findings reflected the results of an investigation by the Arizona Republic regarding credit card use by the office.

Human resources data as well as information contained in a lawsuit showed that many employees of Sheriff’s Office were not working in the same job assignments which were recorded for them in county records.

Talks with the Sheriff’s office “have been civil, but not as productive as hoped,” said a PowerPoint presentation.

“It appears that MCSO violated the intent and explicit language of the voter approved jail tax when they used that money to fund activities not related to jail operations,” a press release said. “Maricopa County will have to pay back the restricted funds to the detention fund. This is a misuse of public funds.”

The County urged Arpaio and his staff to “cooperate fully with the County so that administrators can determine the exact amount of taxpayer money that was misspent and so that we can develop a plan to repay the funds.”

According to the presentation made early this month, MCSO has provided some Quickbook files for outside bank accounts and a limited number of files that can be used to determine payroll discrepancies. But, the presentation said, the data was “not sufficient to accurately calculate the amount of misspending.”

“Whether it is $34 million, plus overtime costs, or up to $80 million, it is a problem that grows more expensive every day,” the press release said.

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