Taxpayers have cut a check for nearly $38,000 to a local newspaper because the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office refused to release public records to the paper.
The sheriff’s office agreed Tuesday to cover the West Valley View’s court costs after the paper had successfully sued the department for failing to respond to a public records request for routine press releases given to all other media.
"It would have been a lot easier to send out the press releases," said Dan Barr, an attorney representing the newspaper.
The sheriff’s office stopped sending press releases to the paper in the summer of 2005 because it was unhappy with its coverage of the department.
In August, the Arizona Court of Appeals ordered the sheriff to give the paper copies of any release it also sends to other media outlets.
The sheriff’s office said it made the records available but required reporters to pick them up at one of the West Valley substations, rather then e-mailing them as the agency did with other media.
Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre said there’s no legal requirement to fax or e-mail public records and that his office did not act in "bad faith."
State judges saw it differently and found in favor of the paper, later ordering the sheriff to pay court costs.