PHOENIX — Eight years after an initial court order set in motion major law enforcement efforts, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is still making financial adjustments to cover the costs of the order.
At its Oct. 6 meeting, the board unanimously approved a $100,000 transfer of funds to cover the cost of a court-ordered “court management expert” for the 2013 Melendres court order.
The Melendres order is a court order resulting from discriminatory practices under director of then sheriff Joe Arpaio. Depending on which costs are deemed results of the settlement, the order and the Melendres case have cost the county more than $111 million.
Last week’s moving of funds relocated $100,000 from a contingency fund to a non-department general fund account in order to pay a bill. Assistant County Manager Lee Ann Bohn explained the technicality of the board having to approve the transfer of funds, and why the expense doesn’t come out of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office budget. She said the bill for the court-management expert is sent to the county, rather than MCSO.
“The Sheriff’s Office still has to comply with the management consultant piece of it,” Bohn said.
As it stands, while the county is not technically spending law enforcement dollars on the Melendres suit and the order stemming from the order, it is still costing taxpayers money. A 2019 presentation to the board showed that the FY 2020 budget included a 5.67-cent property tax exclusively funded a $25 million budget request for Melendres order compliance.
The Board approved an additional $3.2 million for compliance in FY 2019. The FY 2022 budget includes $376,000 for attorney expenses related the Melendres order and a $521,000 of carryover in a Melendres Victim Compensation Fund.
Even though MCSO is no longer under so much budget weight of Melendres compliance, which drove the Sheriff’s Office to take up 54% of all of the county’s FY 2019 spending, law enforcement is still, by far, the county’s biggest expense.
Public Safety accounts for about 41% of the county’s $3,42 billion in planned FY 2022 expenditures, with health, welfare and sanitation a distant second in spending at 33%.