Ted Simons: The U.S. Justice Department has sued Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The suit was filed in U.S. district court in Phoenix. Arpaio is being sued for refusing to turn over documents regarding a civil rights investigation of the MCSO's police and jail operations. The Justice Department says it's been decades since a sheriff has refused to cooperate with an investigation. Here now to talk about the suit is associated press reporter Paul Davenport. Good to see you, thanks for joining us.
Paul Davenport: Hi, Ted.
Ted Simons: Give us information why the Justice Department is suing Arpaio.
Paul Davenport: The Justice Department has been looking into his department since about mid 2008. The preliminary inquiry at the start and then more formal proceeding starting in early 2009. They are looking at allegations that Arpaio's department has engaged in discrimination against Hispanic in jail policies and police practices.
Ted Simons: And there was a deadline for him to turn over certain information earlier last month.
Paul Davenport: In August, that's right and there have been meetings and letters going back and forth and to some extent, it's a he said, she said situation about what Arpaio has actually done and what he has refused to do, what he has agreed to do. The suit filed today is fairly bare bones in that extent. It lays out some of that process but doesn't give specifics on what documents are being sought exactly and what is yet to come and what he's already turned over.
Ted Simons: And this deals with police procedure in the field and at the jails or only in the field?
Paul Davenport: Both. The lawsuit clearly states it's both and Arpaio talked about how he has offered to make senior jail officials available to let the Justice Department folks into the facilities and conduct interviews and that sort of thing. There's a gamut here.
Ted Simons: I thought may be the Justice Department was getting sufficient information regarding the jails it was just out in the field that was a problem. But you're saying both?
Paul Davenport: That's what the lawsuit says.
Ted Simons: What's the response from Arpaio?
Paul Davenport: He's denouncing it and calls it a witch hunt and says he's being made a whipping boy because according to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, he's cooperated. The feds say it hasn't been full cooperation. They have a hammer in that the legal case is grounded on a requirement when you get federal money for various programs you agree to cooperate with certain investigations. And civil rights investigations being one of them. And they say that's what is at stake here.
Ted Simons: So basicallythe county -- how much money? Is it county funds, funds for the sheriff's department? Both?
Paul Davenport: Both. Its over 100 million dollars. The supervisors today it includes something like $50 million in health money. We looked at the points in the lawsuit and they added up to about $15 million, $16 million for the sheriff's department.
Ted Simons: So the sheriff is basically saying I've given you information or your not being specific enough in telling me what kind of information you want? Is that what he's saying so far?
Paul Davenport: Every point in this case is virtually in dispute. Whether he’s given how much. What he's agreed to do, apparently there's a meeting between his lawyer and the feds in Washington and he's saying they smile and the next thing he knows, they're suing him.
Ted Simons: This is separate and apart from another federal investigation regarding abuse of power, correct?
Paul Davenport: That's a grand jury investigation. And we know they've called a lot of witnesses regarding reports of alleged intimidation attempts by the sheriff's office.
Ted Simons: I know we've covered this already, but in a general atmosphere, how did it get to this? You mentioned meetings and letters going back and forth. Has it just been----How did we get here?
Paul Davenport: They've obviously hired lawyers up to the fullest extent they can and Joe Arpaio doesn't want anybody telling him how who run his department, that’s his record
Ted Simons: What abut the other county officials? What are the county officials' part in all of this? Do they have a part in all of this?
Paul Davenport: They do to the extent they run the rest of the county and have a role in terms of funding and some of that funding could be at stake. They issued a statement, the supervisors, they're worried about the taxpayers and the federal funding that could be at risk.
Ted Simons: And the money it would take to defend the sheriff. Who is defending the lawyer here?
Paul Davenport: I'm not quite sure of that?
Ted Simons: I should say Arpaio here. We've mentioned it's been a long time the Justice Department had to sue to get information. How unusual is this?
Paul Davenport: They say it's unprecedented. My colleague Amanda Meyers talked to a former U.S. attorney who told us that may be overstating things a bit.
Ted Simons: So not necessarily as unusual as they want to make it out to be.
Paul Davenport: Possibly not.
Ted Simons: So what's next? What's going on here?
Paul Davenport: As I said, the lawsuit is fairly bare bones in terms of specifics, what is sought and what may happen. I think we'll see filings in the near future talking about specifics. Laying some of that out. So it's going to be in court and we are going to start to see the case get flushed out.
Ted Simons: Any changes in day-to-day operations for the sheriff's department. Anything they are going to change while this hovers around the courts?
Paul Davenport: We've heard no indication of that.
Ted Simons: So keep an eye out for what happens here and keep an eye out for other investigations and other possibilities. They seem to be flying around all over the place.
Paul Davenport: This is the most recent of several federal lawsuits of one sort or another involving Arizona. You have the 1070 challenge and there was one regarding hiring practices at a local college district and some advocates are saying this is pushback by the federal government against Arizona for various actions on immigration.
Ted Simons: You mentioned-- the last question here, you mentioned a response by Arpaio so far. Was there any hind, is there any hint of a conciliatory nature or is this still a pushback on his effort as well?
Paul Davenport: I don’t hear any tone of conciliation when using terms like whipping boy and witch hunt.
Ted Simons: Very good. Paul, great job and we'll keep an eye out.
Paul Davenport: Thanks, Ted.