Criminal Justice

Grand Jury Said to Be Probing Power Abuses by Ariz. Sheriff's Office

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Two county officials in Arizona’s Maricopa County say they have been called before a grand jury to answer questions about Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office.

Deputy county manager Sandi Wilson said the general subject of the inquiry concerns abuses by the office, the Associated Press reports. Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas have been involved in ongoing disputes with county officials and judges, and have filed a racketeering suit claiming a conspiracy to hinder an investigation into the construction of a new court building in Phoenix.

County manager David Smith told the Arizona Republic he believes the investigation is focusing on the courthouse project and several other issues, including budget negotiations.

Wilson told the Arizona Republic that the problems with the sheriff’s office began after a breakdown in budget negotiations. The sheriff’s office eventually took a budget cut, leading Arpaio to charge that the new $360 million court building was a waste of tax dollars. Since then, the sheriff’s office has questioned many county officials in their homes; the county ordered a sweep of administration offices for listening devices.

According to the Arizona Republic, Arpaio has contended all along that his investigations into county operations are intended to thwart attempts to micromanage his office.

Arpaio has also been informed that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating allegations of discrimination and unconstitutional searches and seizures by his office, the AP story says. He has said he believes the probe is related to immigration efforts.

Arpaio told the Arizona Republic he’s not commenting about the grand jury. “If people are saying it, let them say it. We’re going to continue doing our job,” he said.

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