Supervisors Spend $375,442 and Counting to Stop Mary Rose Wilcox From Getting $975,000
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has spent $375,442 to stop Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox from receiving a $975,000 settlement and is preparing to spend more.
Image: Ray Stern Earl and Mary Rose Wilcox, with their lawyer, Colin Campbell.
A lawyer hired by Maricopa County will fly to and stay in San Francisco at county expense for a March 11 hearing on the settlement matter before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The lawyer, Jeffrey Leonard, also will bill the county for his continued work on the case -- even though it's no longer in doubt that Wilcox deserves the settlement money because of the reckless and improper actions of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
The biggest joke of this case, though, is that the county almost certainly would have to pay more than $975,000 (plus legal fees) to Wilcox should it prevail in this appeal. Maybe a lot more.
Following last month's payouts of $3.75 million to New Times' co-founders and $3.5 million to former Supervisor Don Stapley because of Arpaio and Thomas nastiness, Wilcox's settlement appears to be relatively cheap.
Her settlement was authorized by retired County Manager David Smith, but the county withheld it on a technicality based on advice from current County Attorney Bill Montgomery. U.S. District Judge Neil Wake later ruled that the county has no legal standing to withhold the agreed-upon settlement and that Wilcox can have her money.
But Supervisors Max Wilson, Andy Kunasek, and Fulton Brock voted in June 2012 to appeal Wake's ruling. Wake allowed the county to wait on cutting a check to Wilcox until the county's appeal process had been exhausted, but he added $28,000 in legal fees to the total.
Because the Supervisors authorized the appeal, only the supervisors can stop it. The board's makeup is different now: Brock, following the scandal of his child-molesting ex-wife, decided not to run for re-election in 2012 and was replaced by Denny Barney. Stapley didn't run in 2012 and was replaced by Steve Chucri. Wilson, after being re-elected to another full term, stepped down from his post in March, citing health concerns, and was replaced by Clint Hickman. Kunasek and Wilcox are the remaining board veterans.
Supervisor Andy Kunasek received a $123,000 settlement because of the bad ethics of Joe Arpaio and Andy Thomas.
The precedent to pay for the antics of Arpaio and Thomas is well-established. Kunasek knows this better than any of the five board members -- he's already taken $123,000 from the county because of what the sheriff and ex-prosecutor did to him.
Kunasek fought trumped-up allegations by Arpaio's office alleging he misspent county money by looking for listening devices in county offices. Kunasek's later testimony suggested that at one point in the feud, Arpaio may have tried to change the balance of power with the indictment of a third Supervisor, leaving the board without enough members to vote on anything.
The county agreed last January to pay Kunasek the six-figure settlement, which he and his lawyer said covered only the money Kunasek had paid for legal fees and investigative costs. He's to be commended for that, because he could have received something more for what his attorney, David Derickson, called the physical and financial pain inflicted on Kunasek and his family "because Arpaio, Thomas, and their agents believed they could 'decapitate' county government . . ."
Yet it's clear that Wilcox suffered more than Kunasek at the hands of Arpaio and Thomas.
Wilcox was charged with dozens of bogus criminal counts based on her failure to disclose loans from the lending division of Chicanos por la Causa on financial-disclosure forms. Former Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores, who received the Wilcox case after Thomas conceded he no longer could pursue it because of a conflict of interest, later would state that a detailed examination of the case revealed an "utter lack of motive or evidence" of crimes.
"The undertone [of the counts] is that Wilcox obtained the loans as a quid pro quo for voting funds to CPLC. There is no evidence to even suggest such a thing occurred," Flores wrote. The sheriff's and county attorney's offices also made a serious error when presenting the case to the grand jury: They claimed falsely that the loans were personal and not business ones. Since business loans don't need to be disclosed, the idea that Wilcox should have disclosed them was invalid.
A few months after Flores' January 2011 announcement about Wilcox, Flores dropped Thomas and Arpaio's case against Stapley, too.