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5 suing Maricopa County over Arpaio, Thomas probes

Two former judges, a current judge and two Maricopa County officials have filed lawsuits claiming that Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former county attorney Andrew Thomas targeted them in baseless lawsuits and criminal investigations to retaliate for court rulings and budget cuts.

All of the lawsuits seek punitive damages and want the cases to go to trial, claiming the plaintiffs have suffered physical maladies, mental anguish, tarnished reputations and loss of consortium.

The lawsuits were filed by Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe, former judges Barbara Mundell and Anna Baca, Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson, and Susan Schuerman, executive assistant to county Supervisor Don Stapley.

Three of the lawsuits were filed Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court, according to The Arizona Republic. Another on behalf of two claimants was filed on Nov. 23.

Calls to Thomas and Arpaio seeking comment on the suits were not immediately returned Tuesday.

The supervisors recently authorized county officials to spend up to $10.1 million to defend Arpaio, Thomas and their employees against the claims.

In a two-year span, Arpaio and Thomas launched a series of corruption investigations against county supervisors, judges and others. Those conflicts have cost the county at least $5.6 million over the past two years, according to an Republic analysis of public records.

Most of the money was paid to attorneys.

The newspaper’s review of public records related to those investigations found that top prosecutors in the county attorney’s office repeatedly cautioned Thomas against pursing some probes, though he pressed them nonetheless.

All of the lawsuits are tied to those investigations. They accused Arpaio, Chief Deputy David Hendershott, Thomas and former Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon of abuse of power, failure to properly train employees, invasion of privacy, substantive due process violations and defamation.

Arpaio, Hendershott, Thomas and Aubuchon also are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, which for months has been presenting evidence to a federal grand jury.

The State Bar of Arizona, which licenses attorneys, has asked the Arizona Supreme Court to investigate the conduct of Thomas, Aubuchon and another attorney tied to the cases. The findings of that ethics investigation are expected to be released soon.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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