Andrew Thomas: Taxpayers on the Hook for $573K Defense
But it looks the real losers here aren't only those good government types who'd hoped to hold the erstwhile county attorney accountable for his overzealous prosecutions. No, the real losers include us, the taxpayers.
According to a recent story in the East Valley Tribune, Thomas claims that defending himself against Bar complaints has cost taxpayers a whopping $573,000. The claim apparently comes from a press release from Thomas' own office.
Frankly, we can't imagine how the bill could rise to such a sum. For one thing, it's grossly out of whack for the cost of a battle that never went to court. This one became a public relations war last year -- and was basically over by the time the Bar agreed to remove its usual in-house investigator and appoint someone more suited to Thomas' tastes.
For another, the number simply doesn't line up with the public records we've examined to date.
For a previous, unrelated story, we'd put in a public request to the county for any payments to Beus Gilbert LLC, the Scottsdale law firm that took the lead role in defending Thomas from the Bar. Those records showed that the firm was paid nothing for legal work in the fiscal year ending in June 2007 -- and in the following eighteen months, it's only been paid $47,538.
Thomas was also represented by another lawyer, Dan Cracchiolo of Burch Cracchiolo. But there's no way Cracchiolo racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees while Beus Gilbert worked for a pittance. And while Thomas did hire a bunch of legal "experts" to weigh on his case, we can't imagine that accounts for all the alleged cost, either.
There would be a simple way to find out where Thomas is getting the grossly inflated half-million dollar figure, and that would be to call Thomas' taxpayer-funded flack, Mike Anthony Scerbo. But Scerbo stopped returning our calls more than a year ago, so we can't exactly press him for details.
So we have no choice but to put in some additional public records requests. Yes, this will probably also cost the taxpayers. Sigh. But when we're forced to pay $573,000 to defend this guy, we deserve to know a little bit more about where our money's going, right?