Supervisors should listen to Thomas this time - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Supervisors should listen to Thomas this time

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Posted: Sunday, October 25, 2009 5:47 pm | Updated: 1:15 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our view: Maricopa County Andrew Thomas' words is right when he says the county Board of Supervisors can't be allowed to get so powerful that they can shut down any attempt to get to the bottom of corruption allegations against one of their own.

We've mentioned before that Maricopa County Andrew Thomas can be his own worst enemy. Thomas has picked so many fights with the county Board of Supervisors and the judiciary that it's easy to be cynical when yet another brouhaha erupts around him at the courthouse.

Yet, Thomas' words have a ring of truth when he says that the supervisors can't be allowed to get so powerful that they can completely shut down any attempt to get to the bottom of corruption allegations against one of their own.

Tribune writer Gary Grado reported last week that the Board of Supervisors blocked Thomas' plan to hire a couple of Washington, D.C., attorneys as special prosecutors to oversee a second criminal investigation of Supervisor Don Stapley. The husband-wife team of Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing is highly experienced, doggedly aggressive and very expensive. The supervisors used the last point and the duo's out-of-state status to stop Thomas, Grado reported.

Then, anticipating that Thomas would ask the courts to overrule the supervisors, the board also passed a new resolution that says county elected officials can't sue the board unless they enter into mediation first.

In theory, we must support the idea of county officials talking about their disagreements and searching for common ground instead of rushing to court every time someone gets frustrated by the political process. The latter has been the modus operandi for Maricopa County for months now, and it's costing the taxpayers a heck of a lot in money and in lost opportunities to address the county's serious problems.

But what is Thomas supposed to do? The sheriff's office has arrested Stapley and made allegations that deserve an independent examination despite the whiff of vendetta behind the accusations.

Thomas knows his ongoing conflicts with the board mean the legal system won't trust his judgment on the matter.

Asking another county to help hasn't really worked. Yavapai County hired its own special prosecutor because of the challenges in prosecuting this kind of case. After the first set of allegations against Stapley fell apart, that prosecutor apparently was reluctant to get involved again.

So Thomas wants to hire the special prosecutors this time, ones who won't be intimidated by Stapley's wealth and political legacy. Perhaps the Board of Supervisors should let Thomas do so, if that would be the fastest way to find out if the sheriff's office actually has something on Stapley or if its ongoing investigations are an abuse of police power.

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