State must address Maricopa County fiasco - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

State must address Maricopa County fiasco

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Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2009 7:38 pm | Updated: 2:37 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our View: Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas is definitely right about one thing — these are extraordinary times for one of the nation’s largest county governments. A few other descriptions include unprecedented, breathtaking, disheartening and downright perplexing.

Maricopa County in turmoil: Thomas, Arpaio vs. supervisors, judges

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas is definitely right about one thing — these are extraordinary times for one of the nation’s largest county governments. A few other descriptions include unprecedented, breathtaking, disheartening and downright perplexing.

Maricopa County in turmoil: Thomas, Arpaio vs. supervisors, judges

Racketeering, financial fraud for personal gain, taxpayer fraud for professional convenience, obstruction of the pursuit of justice — these are some of the civil and criminal accusations that Thomas and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio now are alleging against Maricopa County’s entire Board of Supervisors, its top administrators and its presiding judges. The charges and court filings over the past week are the culmination of political infighting over budgets and county spending policies that stretches back for more than a year.

Thomas and Arpaio are in the process of exposing a massive nest of political corruption that has taken hold at the highest echelons of the county and imperils the sanctity of our democratic representation. Or, the county’s top prosecutor and top lawman are waging an earth-scorching, unwarranted assault on legislative and judicial branches that refuse to cater to their ego-driven, vindictive ways.

There’s even the possibility that both views contain elements of the truth — a prospect so frightening that it practically begs for outside intervention to get to the bottom of matters before the eruption of a constitutional crisis that could threaten basic services such as transportation, public safety and flood prevention.

Some observers want this intervention to come from the federal government through the Justice Department, which already has been investigating Arpaio and his office at the request of Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and others. But it would be an abrogation of their duty as elected state leaders if this situation continues to be ignored by Gov. Jan Brewer and the Arizona Legislature. Brewer has a number of administrative and investigative tools at her disposal, and lawmakers have independent subpoena powers to compel cooperation from the county officials involved.

At this point, the public is rightfully skeptical about the claims of just about everyone directly connected to the mess at the county courthouse. As distasteful and as difficult as it might be, the state must take responsibility for its biggest subdivision and take steps to restore public trust and confidence.

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