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County treasurer won’t ‘rubber stamp’ Wilcox settlement

Maric0pa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox speaks during a news conference after Andrew Thomas was disbarred, Tuesday morning, April 10 at the Arizona State Courts Building in Phoenix. (AP Photo/The Republic, Rob Schumacher)

Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox’s $1 million out-of-court settlement may hit a snag once it hits the county treasurer’s office.

County Treasurer Charles “Hos” Hoskins said he won’t be a “rubber stamp” for the settlement to Wilcox and won’t sign off on the payment until he can verify that it’s justified.

Hoskins said he will ask Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery for a legal opinion on exactly what constitutes verification for the claim, which Wilcox is slated to receive as compensation for former County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s 2009 investigation and indictment against her.

According to Arizona law, all claims by county supervisors must be approved by another supervisor and the county treasurer.

“I know it wasn’t put in there just to be a rubber stamp. So, approval by the county treasurer is going to have to have some kind of support,” Hoskins said of the statute. “I want to know what would be required to approve it, and lacking that, would I have to decline it.”

Hoskins said he isn’t trying to reach any predetermined outcome and said he hasn’t made up his mind about whether he will sign off on the settlement. He wouldn’t comment on his personal opinions about the case, which he said are irrelevant.

He said he is required to verify and sign off on any financial claim by a supervisor, from travel reimbursements to massive court settlements. But the court settlement is unprecedented for Hoskins, and he wants legal guidance on how proceed.

“There’s going to have to be some documentation to support it. It’s not going to be as easy as a hotel room receipt for attending a conference. It’s not going to be that black and white, I don’t think,” he said.

Hoskins said he will probably send his letter to Montgomery on Monday. Montgomery spokesman Jerry Cobb said any legal advice the county attorney gives his clients, including Hoskins, would be confidential due to attorney-client privilege.

Hoskins said he has questions about how exactly he would verify Wilcox’s claim, and wasn’t sure whether a judge’s ruling that dismissed the indictment against Wilcox or a Tuesday report by a special investigator hired by the State Bar of Arizona would be applicable.

County Manager David Smith recommended that the county pay about $2 million to settle lawsuits filed by several people who say they were unfairly targeted by Arpaio and Thomas. Smith, who did not return a call seeking comment, told the Arizona Republic that the payouts would be cheaper than taking the cases to court.

In 2010, then-Pima County Superior Court Judge John Leonardo said Thomas had a conflict of interest in the case and that Thomas had prosecuted enemies for political gain. An opinion issued by a Bar disciplinary panel in conjunction with Thomas’ disbarment on Tuesday said Thomas prosecuted Wilcox and fellow Supervisor Don Stapley “for no substantial purpose other than to embarrass and burden them.”

The Bar opinion said Thomas was “blinded by his own ambition to wield power and strike fear in the hearts of any who would challenge him.”

Hoskins will not have to sign off on $500,000 settlements to retired Superior Court Judge Barbara Mundell or Stapley executive assistant Susan Schuerman because they are not members of the Board of Supervisors.

In 2009, Thomas and Arpaio filed suit against the Board of Supervisors and several judges and county officials, accusing them of violating the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO. Not long afterward, Thomas filed separate charges against Stapley and Wilcox, whom he accused of violating conflict-of-interest and perjury laws.

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