A federal judge threw out a former school superintendent’s lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and other county officials over the sheriff’s criminal investigation that led to a misdemeanor conviction against the school official.
U.S. District Judge James Teilborg said in a ruling Wednesday that there was no evidence that Arpaio acted unreasonably in launching the investigation against Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools Sandra Dowling after her office asked county officials for help in resolving a $3 million deficit in her budget.
Dowling had been embroiled in a battle with other county officials who accused her of financial mismanagement and had sought to put someone else in charge.
She was charged with 25 felonies such as theft, misuse of public money, fraud and conflict of interest related to her operation of a school for homeless children. In the end, she was convicted of one misdemeanor for giving a summer job to her daughter and was sentenced to probation.
Dowling claimed Arpaio must have known there was no probable cause for prosecuting her. Her lawyer argued the sheriff had a practice of conducting politically motivated investigations and some officers in the Dowling case were later part of Arpaio’s anti-public corruption squad that led to unsuccessful investigations against other county officials who were at odds with the sheriff.
She also alleged that some of her political views put her in conflict with the county Board of Supervisors and that board members viewed her budget deficit as an opportunity to oust her.
Her lawyer argued that evidence of a conspiracy to criminally charge Dowling was supported, in part, by a judge’s ruling in another case against a county official that Arpaio had misused his power by targeting county officials for criminal investigation.
Arpaio said there was probable cause to support the charges against the superintendent, while county officials said there was no evidence the supervisors had taken part in the decision to prosecute Dowling.
“This evidence is not sufficient to raise the inference that the board and Sheriff Arpaio entered into a conspiracy to bring criminal charges against Dowling in order to oust her from office,” Teilborg wrote.
Mike Manning, Dowling’s lawyer, said his client will probably appeal portions of the judge’s ruling.
“We win on all counts,” said Jack MacIntyre, a deputy chief for Arpaio.
Separate from Dowling’s lawsuit, a federal grand jury has been investigating Arpaio’s office on criminal abuse-of-power allegations since at least December 2009. That grand jury is examining the investigative work of the sheriff’s anti-public corruption squad.
Arpaio’s office had conducted investigations that resulted in criminal charges against two county supervisors and a judge. Those cases were dismissed after a judge ruled that a prosecutor who is an ally of Arpaio had a conflict of interest in pressing one of the cases.