County officials leveled tough criticism Monday at a proposal specifying how Maricopa County would pay back $99 million that budget analysts say was inappropriately spent by Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office.
Three of the five Maricopa County supervisors said they’d like to see alternatives rather than sign off on a proposal that would use a combination of county funds for repayment.
“To the average taxpayer of Maricopa County, this way of doing it appears that we are just trying to cover up a really serious problem,” Supervisor Don Stapley said.
No alternative plan was proposed Monday. County officials hadn’t yet voted on the plan by mid-afternoon Monday.
The $99 million spent by Arpaio’s office came from restricted jail funds and was used to pay for other operations, such as some costs for immigration patrols and unsuccessful criminal investigations against county officials. Nearly $85 million came from a sales tax dedicated to running jails. Another $14 million came from a fund for inmates to buy household items and make phone calls.
The county’s findings have been sent to prosecutors who were already investigating Arpaio on abuse of power allegations. Arpaio’s office said the $99 million figure is accurate, but that there was nothing criminal about the mistake that it blames on an outdated payroll system.
Under the repayment proposal, $73 million would have been paid back through a surplus of funds that the county contributed over several years to a detention fund. The county would pay the remainder and repay itself by tapping several unrestricted funds for the sheriff’s office.
Arpaio, who didn’t attend a budget hearing Monday where the repayment was discussed, expressed disappointment in the criticism the measure was facing.
“This could have been settled today,” Arpaio said.