Maricopa County Officials File Amended Claims Against County and Sheriff Arpaio; Streamlined to Comply With Judge's Order
Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley are among the six current and former county officials who amended their federal complaints recently against Sheriff Arpaio and Maricopa County.
Current and former Maricopa County officials have filed new, streamlined complaints against the county and Sheriff Joe Arpaio to comply with a judge's order.
Filing anew are: County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and her husband, Earl; County Supervisor Don Stapley; retired Superior Court Judges Barbara Mundell and Gary Donahoe; deputy county manager Sandi Wilson; and Stapley's executive assistant, Susan Schuerman.
U.S. District Judge Neil Wake tossed the officials' original complaints earlier this month, annoyed at verbiage in them that was "irrelevant, inflammatory, or included for an improper purpose." Wake had previously griped about "indecorous" language in the federal lawsuits that seemed written with an "eye to the press."
Sheriff Arpaio and his lawyer, Robert Driscoll, at a press conference in which Arpaio announced he was dropping the racketeering complaint against county officials.
The new complaints, (see below), strip out the flowery writing and also focus more on the civil racketeering suit filed against the officials by Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Wake had stated in his last ruling that Thomas was probably immune from actions he took as prosecutor, but not from his role in the racketeering suit, which made far-fetched, wide-ranging and poorly evidenced accusations of a conspiracy between judges, lawyers and county officials.
The latest complaints also utilize the latest information about the complex feud, including from the recently concluded disciplinary hearings for Thomas and his two former deputy prosecutors, Lisa Aubuchon and Rachel Alexander. )Thomas and Aubuchon stand to lose their law licenses when a decision from those hearings is announced this coming spring).
For instance, Donahoe and other complainants refer to the fact that Thomas and Arpaio had been advised by their law firm that it wasn't a good idea to pursue the 2009 racketeering suit:
Ogletree cautioned that the proposed racketeering claim risked incurring sanctions for "unfounded, vexatiously motivated litigation."
Of course, Thomas and Arpaio scarcely needed that opinion -- nearly everyone who read that poorly conceived RICO complaint realized it was junk. We certainly did.
Donahoe's new complaint continues:
Additionally, Thomas was told by his Chief Deputy, Phil MacDonnell, that "[t]he idea of a civil RICO case based on current evidence is unfounded."Mr.MacDonnell also wrote, "Peter Spaw, our RICO expert, thinks [the RICO Lawsuit] makes no sense."
Donahoe, who's seeking $4.75 million, also gets into how Arpaio and his former right-hand-man, Dave Hendershott, cooked up bogus felony charges against Donahoe, including bribery:
To obtain information for a sworn probable cause statement to attach to the Complaint, Arpaio directed Hendershott to use the information contained in a judicial complaint that Hendershott had previously submitted about Judge Donahoe, even though Arpaio knew that information was false.
Barbara Mundell's new complaint contains a fascinating bit about the unwarranted surveillance Arpaio put on her home. If you'll recall from previous stories, the accusation against Mundell was nano-thin. The surveillance she notes here was apparently done solely as an intimidation tactic:
Beginning in approximately April of 2009 Judge Mundell began to see Sheriff's cars drive by her home. She also observed MCSO personnel and law enforcement vehicles at a vacant home in her neighborhood. This lasted approximately fourteen months. Judge Mundell's husband twice saw a maroon Ford Crown Victoria pull up to her driveway; the driver exited the vehicle and looked over the fence into the yard.24.
In December of 2009 Judge Mundell asked for help from the Paradise Valley Police Department ("PVPD"). In response, PVPD officers would drive by the Mundell residence. John Bennett, the PVPD Chief of Police was "on call" should Judge Mundell have any problem with MCSO.
Arpaio's goon squad also kept tight surveillance of Stapley's executive assistant, Susan Shuerman, and was pressured to "cooperate" with investigators who wanted to nail Stapley. She was never charged with a crime:
MCSO cars parked near Susan's house between two and four times per week for approximately six months. This was done at the direction of Hendershott and Aubuchon, who hoped to keep pressure on Susan so that she would give them information about Stapley to avoid further harassment.
The MCSO cars were in front of Susan's house so frequently that one of Susan's neighbors commented about it and asked Susan why she was under surveillance.
During this same period, MCSO Deputies, in both marked and unmarked cars, would follow Susan while she was driving around Phoenix.
For example, in March 2009, Susan drove from the BOS offices,followed by a marked MCSO car, to meet an attorney-friend for lunch. The MCSO deputies parked and came into the restaurant, sitting near Susan. It was a member of the MACE Unit whom she knew.
Both Stapley and Wilcox also refer to the heavy-handed surveillance techniques. From Wilcox's new complaint:
For instance, the MCSO instructed and arranged for MCSO deputies to stop and park near the Wilcoxes' residence and place of business to intimidate and harass them.
In addition, undercover informants were sent to the Wilcoxes' restaurant to surreptitiously tape record the Wilcoxes. The MCSO then leaked information about these actions to the news media in order to discourage customers from going to the restaurant.
Wilcox, the five-member Board of Supervisors' lone Democrat, gives frequent examples of how Arpaio often criticized her publicly about her stance on immigration, which she believes was a motive for his later legal attacks against her.
The litany of bad ethical behavior by Arpaio and Thomas continues in deputy county manager Sandi Wilson's complaint, which describes how Arpaio -- through Hendershott -- tried to intimidate one of Wilson's subordinates:
On July 10, 2010, Sheriff Arpaio issued a press release, to which he attached a letter written by Hendershott to County employee Peter Crowley,"warn[ing Crowley] that one of the pending felony investigations is on your direct supervisor Sandi Wilson" and cautioning that "[a]ny disclosure of the evidence against her or other members of the BOS . . . would be inappropriate."Hendershott further threatened Crowly not "to handover [sic] the criminal evidence, [which risked] compromising these criminal investigations."Hendershott's statements were published by a newspaper on July 10, 2011.
Sheriff Arpaio and Hendershott knew, or recklessly disregarded the fact,that there was no probable cause to support an investigation of Sandi because she had already been the subject of a Grand Jury Investigation which had voted to "end the inquiry."
Together, the complaints could result in multimillion-dollar payouts. A few previous complaints have already spurred settlements, including the recently reported $100,000 to retired Judge Anna Baca and an undisclosed payment to Stephen Wetzel, the county's director of the Office of Enterprise Technology.
Click on each hyperlink to read the corresponding amended complaint: