Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley talks about issues facing Maricopa County.
Ted Simons: If you've been paying attention to Maricopa County politics, you've heard the name Don Stapley in regards to, among other things, criminal indictments handed down by the county sheriff and attorney. Today Stapley got some better news. He was named chairman of the Maricopa County board of supervisors. I'll talk to Don Stapley in a moment, but first, some comments from Stapley after his swearing in ceremony this morning.
Don Stapley: I'll fight for what is right, but not just fight. We have had enough of fighting. If all we do is fight, then we will be left too weary and too divided to make progress on broad challenges we face. I seek to set policy, to solve problems by bringing people together, not to settle scores. I pledge not to do anything to aggravate or prolong the bitterness and mistrust that has soured Maricopa County in recent months. I will meet regularly with all county elected officers and listen with respect to their concerns and their ideas. I will focus my efforts as chairman on three areas that I feel will have the greatest impact. The fiscal challenges that we face ahead, energy conservation and green government initiatives, and updating our strategic plan that will guide our future.
Ted Simons: Joining me now is chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Don Stapley. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.
Don Stapley: Thank you very much.
Ted Simons: New chairman of the board of supervisors. Why you? You've got things going on in your life and career. Why do you think you?
Don Stapley: Well, I'm not new to the board of supervisors. I'm in my fifth term. 16th year. I've served previously three different calendar years as chairman and also served as the president of the national association of counties just recently. And during that one-year term as president of NACo, the national association of counties, the first indictment came down. That went away, through a series of what I believe were proper rulings by the justice system, the criminal justice system. I have every confidence that the current charges will go away also, and I believe I have the confidence of my colleagues on the board of supervisors who voted for me unanimously to chair the board this year and it's an important year for Maricopa County and for the state of Arizona, and I'm very, very humbled to have this opportunity.
Ted Simons: The confidence of fellow board members but some look at this and say this is the board of supervisors sending a message, showing solidarity or trying to find something to poke at the county attorney and the sheriff. How would you respond?
Don Stapley: I don't believe that's the case. I do believe that this is about good government, this is about providing leadership for the county. I think I have some good ideas about how the future problems that we have with our fiscal and economic recession we're in, how we can continue to hold the line and continue to provide leadership and good government for the citizens of Maricopa County.
Ted Simons: How much has good government been hurt by the infighting in the county?
Don Stapley: It's been very expensive for the taxpayers to pay the cost. It's been extremely expense for me, personally, because I've had to defend myself out of my own pocket. As will other -- or as are other members of the board of supervisors who have been indicted, it is distracting and it is challenging. I believe we're up to the task. I believe that the board and the administration -- you know, we -- we've had disagreements with elected officials at county in the past. Other elected officials and been able to resolve them without going to court.
Ted Simons: I wanted to ask you this, how did things get this bad? What happened?
Don Stapley: I think things are getting better. We're no longer fighting with the treasurer, we've made peace, we've resolved every issue with the treasurer, as well as the superintendent of schools, and treasurer. And every other official. The clerk of the courts, who is running for election this year, Michael Jeans is -- got along fabulously with the board. The assessor, Keith Russell has done a great job. So we're -- we get along very well with our fellow elected colleagues with the exception of two.
Ted Simons: How did it get so bad with those two?
Don Stapley: They keep suing us. You know? And unfortunately, instead of talking first, they have resorted to the courts and that -- in my way of thinking, that's a very poor way to work with people who are part -- supposedly part of a team.
Ted Simons: And yet the sheriff and county attorney are saying we're just doing our jobs. Is that a valid comment? If they think they need to sue and take these kind of actions at what point do you say go ahead, I understand this. Or is it just not understandable from where you're coming from?
Don Stapley: I don't understand it. My colleagues on the board have a hard time understanding it. We've tried very hard to communicate with the sheriff and county attorney. And it has failed miserably in the last year.
Ted Simons: I want to ask the same question in a different way. Something happen there. I mean, it wasn't like this a few years ago. It's like this now. Whether it's getting better or not, we'll find out. What happened? And they're suing, I understand that, but where did that relationship go?
Don Stapley: Let me point out that they've not sued us once but they've sued us many, many times in the last year and lost every suit. And I don't think it's appropriate to get into a debate of the merits of the various cases. But suffice it to say, anyone who disagrees with them gets sued. And they're abusing the trust, in my opinion and the power that they have as both prosecutorial and police power. That's my opinion and pretty much the general consensus of anyone who looks at it seriously and unbiasedly.
Ted Simons: If the county attorney wants to look into a relationship between a supervisor and a developer, should he be able to do that? She he be able to investigate what he sees as a problem there?
Don Stapley: Absolutely.
Ted Simons: No conflict of interest there?
Don Stapley: No.
Ted Simons: Then --
Don Stapley: Look into -- far cry from looking into to going to a grand jury and seeking an indictment.
Ted Simons: What he have done otherwise? If he had concerns regarding your relationship with the developer, what should he have done otherwise?
Don Stapley: Previously, the county attorneys would come and talk to us and point out concerns of conflict. In fact, I went to the county attorney, including the current county attorneys, who were assigned to the board and asked about conflict of interests and actually got written documents explaining there was no conflict or that there was a conflict, depending on the issue. So we've always had a good relationship. Just in the last year it has completely fallen apart.
Ted Simons: So when he says he wants to do this investigation but can't because of a conflict of interest, he wants to get a special prosecutor or two, he can't do that because the board won't authorize it. He says he's bottled up at every turn. How do you respond?
Don Stapley: His request is illegal, his request to use out-of-state attorney, statutorily are prohibited by state law and there are a variety of other legal issues that prohibit him from doing that, in the opinion of our legal counsel. So we didn't have any choice in whether we put it on the agenda or not, because it's against the law for the board to put it on the agenda.
Ted Simons: What seems to be at the bottom of this -- Well, there's a lot, but one of the things down there seems to be an assumption or an allegation of quid pro quo between county officials, supervisors and the judiciary regarding a court tower. Were there any quid pro quos here?
Don Stapley: Absolutely not.
Ted Simons: Not even close?
Don Stapley: Not even close. That's the most bizarre accusation coming out of the blue that I had heard or the rest of the board had heard. Totally surprised because these two elected officials you're talking about, had been working very closely with the board for years. Not months, not weeks, but for years in the planning of this facility. And it's an important facility and in the infrastructure of the county's criminal justice system and benefit the sheriff and county attorney enormously and it's necessary to keep the system operating the way it needs to operate.
Ted Simons: When the county attorney says I see deep-seated corruption within county government, you say?
Don Stapley: Show me where. I haven't seen any. It's the cleanest project I've ever seen as far as contracting. The county attorney signed off on every architect, every engineer, every step of the way. They meet weekly and never ever once brought up a problem. Completely approved every step of the way until a year ago.
Ted Simons: Personal issue here, regarding the campaign money that the county attorney seems to be targeting. And the campaign forms, as well. Go back to that as well. Could you have been more careful on both counts? Can you see where he's coming from? Can you see where he might have raised an eyebrow or two?
Don Stapley: Ted, I can't get into the details of that. That's been driven into my brain by my legal counsel, so I can't go there.
Ted Simons: Apart from that, you were arrested in the parking garage. Talk to us about that. How surprised were you when this happened?
Don Stapley: I was shocked. I felt abused by -- and I felt like it was done in an illegal fashion. And that proved to be the case as within hours a judge released me. There was no prosecutor involved. It was just a brutal abusive payback on the heels of a judge throwing out 116 count -- a prosecutor dropping the counts that the judge had not yet thrown out and I think it was a visceral reaction by the sheriff's department.
Ted Simons: The critics of the sheriff and the county attorney say they're doing these things to you and to others to simply embarrass you, to get you out there and intimidate and embarrass.
Don Stapley: I have not broken any laws or committed any crime and I'm going to do the job that the voters elected me to do.
Ted Simons: And last question, chairman now of the board of supervisors, doing that job, how can you do it when you've got this relationship going on?
Don Stapley: My door is open and you may have heard today, I plan to meet with the elected officials and listen to them, show them the respect that is due them on a regular basis. Every other week at least. Throughout my year as chairman of the board. They -- they are welcome to attend those meetings and welcome to speak directly to me and to my colleagues also. But individually, to me, in these -- in these meetings that are designed to take their input, take their perspective and make sure that we respect their positions and elected officials and we work better with them and I think we're making great progress as I said with the treasurer and superintendent of schools. We're doing well. If the other two choose to come on board, they're welcome.
Ted Simons: Supervisor, thank you for joining us tonight on "Horizon."