County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick said the board can hold Arpaio in civil contempt and impose fines if he or a sheriff’s representative doesn’t show up at the hearing on May 24. It was not immediately known how much the board would seek if it decides to fine the sheriff.
The board, which voted 5-0 to order the sheriff to the hearing, believes Arpaio used an unspecified amount of sales-tax money that was dedicated to jail operations to cover the salaries of some employees who didn’t work in jails. Last year, the sheriff’s office received $109 million from the tax, county officials said.
“The sheriff really doesn’t think he has to comply with producing his financial records to anybody,” said County Manager David Smith. “I think no one can thumb their nose at the public interest.”
Arpaio’s office, which has called the subpoena an attempt to harass the sheriff, said he is speaking with attorneys about the order to appear at the hearing and declined to comment further.
Arpaio and county officials have been embroiled in a political feud for more than a year. The sheriff and his chief ally, former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, have said they were trying to root out corruption by making criminal cases against two county supervisors, while county officials say the investigations were baseless and that Thomas and sheriff were abusing their power.
Criminal charges against Supervisors Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley were dismissed after a judge ruled that Thomas had a conflict of interest in pressing a case against Wilcox. The investigations of both officials have since been turned over to a prosecutor from another county.
The Board of Supervisors also is seeking records of county-issued credit cards for employees and information on bank accounts kept by the sheriff’s office.
A sheriff’s lawyer said in a letter last week that the county already has some of the records and that it would take weeks to gather the tens of thousands of documents needed to comply with the request.
County officials said they have gotten none of the records from two earlier requests and in their subpoena.
The subpoena wasn’t issued as part of a lawsuit. State law gives the board the power to issue subpoenas for getting people to attend its meetings and hand over records on developments for which it has jurisdiction.