Sheriff Arpaio not backing down from U.S. Department of Justice

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX –Negotiations between Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Department of Justice have broken down because of a disagreement over a court-appointed monitor who would oversee a settlement agreement.

The talks between both parties stem from allegations of racial profiling against MCSO and were set to begin on Wednesday. But federal prosecutors told Arpaio’s attorneys the rejection of an independent monitor was a “non-starter” and cancelled the meeting.

“I am a elected Sheriff and I take that very serious [sic] and I’m not going to have have the federal government telling me how to operate my office,” Arpaio said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

After Arpaio refused to agree to a monitor, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin fired off a letter to MCSO attorneys, saying in part:

It was also disappointing to say the least, for you to contact us 24 hours before our negotiations were scheduled to continue and raise... a precondition that you understood would result in the cancellation of negotiation--and by extension, the initiation of a civil lawsuit--and calls into question whether you were ever interested in settling this matter…We believe that you are wasting time and not negotiating in good faith.”

A Justice Department spokesperson told 3TV the monitor is necessary to “ensure fair and sustainable reforms.”

Arpaio and his attorneys say they never agreed to a monitor, and believe the appointee would compromise the sheriff’s authority.

“I’m fairly certain what they’re asking us to do is surrender statutory and constitutional authority to the DOJ and we’re not willing to do that,” said John Masterson, an attorney hired to represent Arpaio in the matter.

Justice department sources say that is not the case and provided a copy of a 2000 Los Angeles County Consent Agreement in which the responsibilities of a monitor were described as follows:

“The Monitor shall not, and is not intended to, replace or take over the role and duties of the Mayor, City Council, Commission, Chief of Police or the Inspector General…”

The Justice Department said Arpaio's refusal to negotiate in good faith requires the federal agency to prepare for a lawsuit.

“I wanted to resolve this act in good faith but it’s not working out that way,” Arpaio said. “You know why? They knew they wanted to sue this Sheriff for political reasons.”

Arpaio opponents were quick to criticize the MCSO’s handling of the matter.

“He says it’s political and no one can tell me what to do, but we as elected officials always have oversight,” said Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who said ultimately tax payers will pay the price if the issue goes to court.