The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors abused its power by seizing the county treasurer's information and technology department last year, according to a lawsuit filed this week by Treasurer Charles "Hos" Hoskins.
The board voted in October to take control of the treasurer's 16 technology positions and move them to another office where Hoskins has no authority over them.
The county attorney's office agrees with Hoskins, stating in a legal opinion issued in July that it was a "scheme" by the board to "effectively eliminate the Treasurer's Office."
Officials in Hoskins' office have been directed by attorneys not to comment to the media. That ban extends to Royce Flora, who sent out a news release about the lawsuit, Flora said Thursday. Members of the board and their staff did not return phone calls.
The board also ordered the seizure of equipment, information and other items that Hoskins claims is necessary to run his office, according to the suit. The treasurer, which is an elected position, oversees $10 billion in public monies.
Hoskins wants the board to immediately return his technology staff, any items seized, and to pay attorney fees. In addition, Hoskins wants protections to keep the board from similar attempts to take over his operations.
Hoskins was appointed by the board to the treasurer's office last year when David Schweikert stepped down to run for Congress.
The board moved to take the information and technology positions and equipment during an interim period in which the office was briefly vacated to avoid any resistance, the lawsuit alleges.
Those 16 positions were then integrated with another 150 employees in another office building.
Since taking office, Hoskins has butted heads with the board on other issues. In August, Hoskins demanded $600,000 from the board to cover the costs of sending out county tax statements and an information pamphlet, Flora said.
"He (Hoskins) told the board, 'come hell or high water, I'm sending those bills out,'" Flora said.
That prompted the board to increase its oversight of the treasurer's office, which was reportedly about to exceed its budget.