Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas asked a judge Friday to order the Board of Supervisors into mediation to resolve the lawsuit that erupted from a bitter power struggle in December.
A lawyer for the board blasted the move as an attempt by Thomas to curtail the political damage he is about to suffer if he continues to press lawsuits he filed challenging the board's ability to oversee lawsuits against the county.
"It shows the county attorney's olive branch has turned into a sword," said Wade Swanson, director of the litigation office created by the board after it yanked Thomas' power to represent the county in civil cases. "He wants to mediate by court orders and press releases."
Thomas' lawsuit against the board has played out under the shadow of the criminal case he brought against Supervisor Don Stapley in December. In the following weeks, the board stripped the county attorney's office of its power to handle civil cases for the county, arguing Thomas has a conflict of interest in part because of the Stapley prosecution.
Thomas sued in December.
Earlier this month, Thomas sent the Stapley case to the Yavapai County Attorney's Office for prosecution in what he said was an attempt to resolve his troubles with the board.
On Friday, Thomas asked the judge in the civil case to order the two sides to negotiate their differences.
Swanson said the county attorney's office already lost one attempt to get the judge to block the creation of a litigation office that reports to the board. What Thomas is doing now is attempting to end the lawsuit before he is dealt further setbacks, Swanson said.
"He's looking for some kind of gracious exit strategy," Swanson said of Thomas.
Barnett Lotstein, special assistant county attorney, said Thomas is attempting to resolve his differences with the board to spare the county costly and disruptive litigation.
"It is obvious that he is more interested in protecting his $180,000 job than he is about resolving these issues," Lotstein said of Swanson. "We've extended the olive branch and Mr. Swanson continues to slap it away with his ungracious comments."