Stanley Griffis, who was sentenced in 2007 to 3 1/2 years in prison, petitioned the board for commutation, which in criminal law is changing a punishment to one that is less severe.
Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, who served as a special investigator on the case, said that in Griffis' application to the board, he essentially tried to rationalize his crimes.
Griffis, 66, did not attend Thursday's hearing, but a throng of family did, saying his health is failing.
Griffis, who was the county's top administrator for 17 years before retiring while under investigation and on administrative leave in January 2006, has undergone bypass surgery.
Romley said his health, which was taken into consideration at sentencing, wasn't something that should be considered for commutation.
The standard, he said, is whether the punishment fits the crime.
"The potential sentence was much more so than what he was given," Romley said. "In a democratic society corruption cannot be allowed to set."
Most of the money Griffis stole came from the Superstition Valley Transportation Project, a fund created by Pinal County in the late 1990s to address the increased need for roads caused by rapid development in the Superstition Valley area, which includes Apache Junction and Gold Canyon.