Journalists’ Roundtable

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Local Arizona journalists discuss the week’s top news stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.

Ted Simons: The U.S. justice department today announce add long-anticipated civil rights lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the justice department's civil rights division, announced the lawsuit at a press conference this morning in Phoenix.

Thomas Perez: There are three categories of claims in the complaint. First, the complaint alleges that MCSO's police practices discriminate against Latinos in violation of their constitutional and statutory rights. Including racial profiling of Latinos and traffic stop settings, unlawful detention, searches, and arrests of Latino drivers and passengers, and unlawful targeting and illegal detention of Latinos during home and work site raids. The second category of claim in the complaint is that MCSO's correctional practices violate the constitutional rights of Latino prisoners at MCO prison who's have limited English skills. MCSO detention officers routinely issue commands only in English, in other circumstances, MCSO detention officers force prisoners with limited English skills to sign key legal documents that are printed in English with they can't understand and in which they have forfeited or potentially forfeited key rights. NCSO's failure to provide effective language assistance service assist a violation of the civil rights of Latino prisoners with limited English skills as well as a substantial departure from generally accepted correctional standards. The third category of complaint or claim flows from sheriff Arpaio's and MCSO's practice of retaliating against critics of their practices. The complaint outline as number instances where MCSO and Schaffer antiperspirant have targeted judges, lawyers, and community leaders who made statements or took actions or were simply doing their job, and these people were folks they either disliked or perceived were critical of MCSO or the sheriff. At its core, this is an abuse of power case involving a sheriff and a sheriff's office that disregarded the constitution, ignored sound police practices, compromised public safety, and did not hesitate to retaliate against perceived critics.

Ted Simons: At a press conference this afternoon, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his attorneys responded to a justice department lawsuit.

Joseph Popolizio: In every major communication, I asked and we asked for the factual basis of the DOJ's findings. In fact, now that a lawsuit is here, we'll be able to obtain the factual basis of those findings. According to Mr. Perez, negotiations broke down because we would not agree to a monitor that. Is a very simplistic and disingenuous explanation. We would not agree to a monitor as the DOJ defined it under the proposed agreement. It's the monitor plus the DOJ in many instances that would have veto power over the sheriff. That's what made negotiations end. That was nonnegotiable. We had to take that or leave it or they would not negotiate any other terms in that agreement. We left it.

Joe Arpaio: I am not going to surrender my office to the federal government. I will fight this to the bitter end. All the other stuff we can agree on. Training, I can go on and on. I have no problems negotiating that. But they are trying to take over my office. They are working with the activists of this county that want to get rid of this sheriff. They don't like the way I enforce the illegal immigration laws. We are not racist, we do not racial profile, there's no systemic proof of that. Quite Frankly, I'm very happy that we are being sued because now we will make them put up. Everything they've been accusing me and my office of, my patience is running out. Because I know this is all politics, and I will make a prediction after the election, nobody will be talking about this, no matter who wins the election. That's my prediction. After the election, this is a nonissue.

Ted Simons: Arizona Republican reporter J.J. Hensley has been following the Arpaio case. He joins me now to talk about the lawsuit. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us. I know you're very busy today. The announcement today from the justice department, was it a surprise?

J.J. Hensley: No. I mean, everyone had anticipated this probably since the negotiations officially broke down early last month. It took a while for them to reach this point, but the last time we talked we talked about the flurry of letters going back and forth between attorneys for DOJ and for Arpaio, and they had been point can to a lawsuit, really for some time. The sheriff's attorneys believe the justice department wanted the lawsuit the entire time.

Ted Simons: The sheriff's office, though, did one more letter here at the last minute, one more note, one more missive, talk about that, what was released yesterday and what did it say, and did it make any difference?

J.J. Hensley: Their road map to reform?

Ted Simons: Yes.

J.J. Hensley: That was an interesting thing. A lot of what was in there that they had a 17-page package they put together, a lot of it mirrored what was in the justice department's 128-page agreement that was supposed to serve for the basis of negotiations. Training, oversight, data collection, community outreach, community relations, all of these things were incorporated in what the sheriff H the one stick can point as we heard in the clip remains the monitor and what role that would play.

Ted Simons: Feds saying that was too little, too late.

J.J. Hensley: Yeah. They said, well, this is a nice start. It shows they've read our proposed agreement, and have taken some of it to heart. But the monitor is going to be the issue here. They clearly -- the feds don't trust Arpaio to implement anything himself, so they feel the need for some sort of court-appointed monitor.

Ted Simons: The oversight would be for the three things major things that were talked about today, discriminating against Latino and patrol operations and jail operations, and these kinds of retaliations against the critics of the sheriff's department. Were any of these things that were mentioned today, any of that new, different, expanded upon?

J.J. Hensley: We got a little more -- in the complaint filed today, there was a little more detail. Particularly on some of the profiling issues. The sheriff's office had made an issue for some time since December when the justice department released the findings of their investigation. And it said they found Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely than similarly situated nonLatino drivers to get stopped in Maricopa County, and the sheriff's office kept saying, 4-9 times, that's a big range. How can you even delight as a statistic? It turns out the justice department had broken the county into sections, and one section it was four times more likely and another section it was maybe six times more likely and then I think in the northeast section of the valley you are nine times more likely according to their experts' calculation.

Ted Simons: When we hear from the sheriff's department in the past, saying we're not getting any information here, we're not getting any specifics, these are a couple of Rogue deputies, a few deputies doing a few isolated things, they've been punished, did we hear anything from the feds that said, OK, here's a little more information for you?

J.J. Hensley: There was a little more. But not a lot. I think now they've said that's going to be part of discovery. This is -- getting back to what we were talking about with the sheriff's attorneys thinking the justice department has been heading for litigation the entire time, they've said the justice department keeps saying, we'll reserve that for litigation. Their point was, why are you reserving it for litigation if it's going to be negotiated? But people we talked to who have worked in the justice department say most of this information comes out during the negotiation process. There was none here so there wasn't an opportunity for that to come out.

Ted Simons: As far as the idea of the justice department suing a law enforcement agency, we've talked about this before. That is unusual.

J.J. Hensley: Very. It's happened according to Perez, one other time that they've filed a contested lawsuit against a law enforcement agency. That was in Columbus, Ohio N. 1999. That was resolved in 2002 with a settlement. So it never actually went through the court process.

Ted Simons: The court-appointed monitor, you've mentioned it, we heard about it from the sheriff's attorney up there. This is a major sticking point. What is usually the -- the Modus OPERANDi? Why would the sheriff's department think a court-appointed monitor would be under the sheriff's department's rule?

J.J. Hensley: That's one of the things in the road map to reform that Arpaio released yesterday, that person, this monitor who they envision would report to the sheriff. The justice department says that's ridiculous. They want someone who is court appointed, obviously if it's court appointed or if it comes through the negotiation process, both sides get some input on who that is. The sheriff's office is convinced that the U.S. department of justice wants someone who will take over the sheriff's office. The justice department in every other situation where they've appoint add monitor, which is common in these cases, say that that's really goes against the whole process. The whole process is designed to reform an agency from the inside, make some systemic changes that can exist even after DOJ leaves. They say to bring in a monitor who you served the power of the sheriff, which is what Arpaio keeps saying, would totally run afoul of that. You would be having the justice department take over. The sheriff's office is convinced that's exactly what the government is after. I will say the government's -- the 128-page agreement says explicitly that the monitor is not intended to take over the powers and duties of the elected sheriff.

Ted Simons: Yet we just heard the sheriff is not going quietly under that night, good night or otherwise. Where do we go from here in the sheriff says this is all politics, this didn't start until the Obama administration took over. There's even dispute on that. They sent a letter out showing when the feds said they were commencing the investigation. We've heard a lot of reports the investigation started under the bush administration. Who's right?

J.J. Hensley: Well, Perez, today, again said the investigation started in June '08. We all know in march 2009-DOJ office of civil rights sent a letter to the sheriff's office notifying them that sheriff's office is under investigation. What's unknown is when exactly that investigation commenced before the letter was sent. Clearly Arpaio believes that this was orchestrated by the Obama administration. They're saying it wasn't, that it started under the bush administration. I don't know, it's kind of one of those things, I don't know we'll ever know at this point, but the bottom line is, it's been three years or 3½ years. It's stale long time.

Ted Simons: Last point, so the judge basically considers the government's allegations. Correct? And then decides what actions should be taken if the government's allegations, the judge feels are correct? Are valid?

J.J. Hensley: Yeah. There's still an opportunity to negotiate. Both sides said they would be willing to come back to the table. Who knows if anyone will move on that monitor sticking point. If it goes to trial, then the government would have to prove their points, that the sheriff's department discriminates against Latinos, they would request some sort of injunctive relief, additional train can, policies, procedures, oversight and the judge would appoint a court-appointed monitor to oversee the agreement.

Ted Simons: So this could go on for quite a while.

J.J. Hensley: I think one of Arpaio's attorneys today said conservatively a year if it goes to trial, maybe two.

Ted Simons: My goodness. Great work covering this story. I know have you a busy day ahead of you and behind you and in all different directions. Thanks for joining us.

Ted Simons: In the just-ended legislative session, Republicans held a super majority that left democrats out of a lot of decision making. Here to talk about what impact democrats did have on legislation and to provide their assessment of the session, are senate minority leader David Schapira and house minority leader Chad Campbell. Good to see you both here. Thanks for joining us. How much impact did you guys really have on this session?

David Schapira: Well, certainly we had members month had policies pass through, who had bills pass through the legislature, some of them were waiting to get signatures from the governor. We did actually have budget negotiations this year for the first time since 2008 when I was on the appropriations committee and was involved when Napolitano was governor, those negotiations sadly didn't go anywhere. We like to believe we have had some influence by putting pressure in the last couple years on getting things like funding for early literacy, funding for building renewal, at least for emergencies, when a building is collapsing, but for the most part, we were able to mitigate some damage in a super majority term, but didn't get everything we wanted for sure.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, from where you sit, the biggest accomplishments in this session. Overall.

Chad Campbell Biggest accomplishments for the session, that's a tough one. I think David mentioned early literacy, that was an achievement when you think about who is down there on the Republican side. But overall, I'm not sure there were any big accomplishments this session. I think the session was a very bad session. I think the budget was very bad, and I think we saw very little leadership from Governor Brewer.

Ted Simons: With that idea in hand, what was the biggest missed opportunity?

Chad Campbell Well, I think how the budget was handled. There was an opportunity to do a by part San budget. We could have put together a common sense package, it would have funded our schools, kids care, laid the foundation for a stronger state, and the Republicans kicked us out.

Ted Simons: Republicans are saying this budget restrains unnecessary spending, sets aside funds for future fiscal crises, they're happy with it, it's responsible they say and it looks ahead to make sure the state will be in good hands providing something bad should happen. And they see some tough times ahead economically.

David Schapira: There are some really misplaced priorities. Even if you take the money spent versus the money that wasn't, and shuffle it around, there was some really badly misplaced priorities. We're spending $50 million on prison construction. We're spending zero on school construction. That's a misplaced priority. We stole $50 million out of the mortgage settlement fund. Money meant to help struggling homeowners. And that money is being spent in ways that it shouldn't be, in the correction system. We did fund a $7 million item, which means we are the only state in the union that does not fund health care for kids whose parents can't afford it. Just misplaced priorities.

Ted Simons: The idea, let's go to this mortgage item, last night we had leadership on, and we've had folks from the majority party on before. They say this money is intended to ameliorate the foreclosure and housing crisis that. Covers a wide spectrum, that is somewhat vague in terms of the agreement and they're doing what they should be doing. They're allocating money.

Chad Campbell: It's simply not true. If you look at the budget, it included also a $60 million tax cut package. Capital gains tax cut package, and when I debated with John Kavanagh on the floor, I asked if this was the money that was so needed for the state, to help ameliorate what happened during the housing crieses, what are we giving a $60 million tax package to the richest people in the state? This was a red herring, they stole this money, no doubt about it, and they're Using it for something not intended it to be used for.

Ted Simons: As far as the tax cuts and credits, leadership last night basically saying this has to happen for us to be prepared to compete globally, nationally, we can't afford it. We've got to offer incentives because everyone else is racing ahead.

David Schapira: We're not hearing that from the business industry right now. The big corporations aren't saying, you have to have a tax cut in adds or we're not going to come there. What we are hearing from business right now is, your education system is lacking. And if you can't guarantee going into the future we're going to have an educated work force in Arizona we don't want to move our business there. We have earthlink and Ikea that wanted to move corn rat jobs here, they decided not to because they've 97 does haven't a great education system and despite the fact they have a good tax code, the big companies said we don't want to move the jobs there.

Ted Simons: Yet the latest jobs forecast looks pretty good. Someone doing something right?

Chad Campbell: You can say the same thing about the nation. Jobs are turning around across the country. Just like when Arizona had a bit of a recession over the past few years. So did the rest of the country. This is not a unique issue in Arizona this, is a national trend. Nothing this legislature has done has done a single thing to create a job. If you want to talk about tax cuts, look at the tax cut package that brewer and Adams led last year, that's a tax cut package that will cost the state $540 million. Andy Tobin said himself, to just break even on that tax care package we'd have to create $540,000 jobs which is twice as many as we've lost in the past three years.

Ted Simons: Do you agree nothing that has been done by this legislature has dog anything to create a job in Arizona?

David Schapira: Jobs have been created in spite of this legislature. Not because of it. This legislature has taken us in the wrong direction. And I know Andy Tobin was here last night touting the fact they passed a balanced budget. It reminded me of the old Chris Rock joke about things you're supposed to do. Arizona's had a balanced budget every year for a century. We're supposed to do that. Just like you're not supposed to go to jail, you're supposed to take care of your kids. Those things are not creating jobs in the state. Certainly the failure to provide for a great education system, the failure to fund a great education system, that's going to lose us jobs. We lost out in the past because others could do it cheaper. We're going to the lose in the future because we don't an educated work force.

Chad Campbell: Helping to fund the hearing sector, in particular, orderly enough, hospitals. That's going to be leading to the loss of thousands of jobs, especially in rural Arizona, and we simply can't afford that are.

Ted Simons: You mentioned health care, you mentioned education. Big ticket items. The answer from the other side is, we can't afford it right now. When things get better we'll look at it. We can't do it right now.

Chad Campbell: What they did instead was give a $70 million tax cut that kicks in at a later date, the next two years, instead of funding kids care, hospitals, these are the things that create jobs. And capital gains tax cut does not create jobs. They handed that money away.

Ted Simons: Speaker last night said that bill Clinton thought it was good enough. He passed and it he saw jobs created by that tax cut.

Chad Cambell: Bill Clinton did it in a different time and different place.

Ted Simons: Do you agree?

David Schapira: Absolutely. Here's the thing. It's not that we were asking for additional spending beyond what they spent. We were asking for putting priorities in a different place. It's our belief that if you invest in health care for kids, if you invest in education, you don't need all this money for corrections. We've increased corrections expenditures despite being in a recession, despite having deficits, we've increased corrections expenditures while decreasing over $2 billion in education spending in the last four years.

Ted Simons: I want to get to other aspects in the session. Fending off federal mandate, federal intrusion, everything from state sovereignty to the -- the idea of the contraception bill as I mentioned last night, the leadership, they were basically saying, we had to do this because affordable health care will come in and tell us what to do. Valid?

Chad Campbell: No. That has nothing to do with anything in the national health care plan. Has nothing to do with anything that the president or this Congress has tried to do over the past couple years. This was a center for Arizona policy measure, it was pushed down the throats of legislators down there. And leadership let it go. This is just another case of showing that there is a very small group of special interests that are controlling this state and the people that are paying the price are the voters of Arizona.

Ted Simons: I mentioned the center for Arizona policy, I mentioned the goldwater institute, and they said no more influence --

David Schapira: apparently the Sierra Club and the EA have enough influence. I'll tell you that during votes on bills this legislative session, that were being pushed, Cathy Harrod and the people who work for her were walking around unchecked with no staff and no member around second floor, the senate floor, of the state senate. That -- you don't see that. You don't see lobbyists like that walking around by themselves unchecked in the middle of a vote because they wanted to pull the conservative legislators aside and make sure we're doing what they were told.

Ted Simons: What you also don't see is a super majority. A lot of what we're talking about is predicated on the fact elections have consequences. They won big. Why shouldn't they be trying to get through what they think is important?

Chad Campbell: I agree with that. They dock what they want if they think that's what the voters want, so be it. I think this November you're going to have a different outcome in terms of what the election is going to look like. Again, I think we had a wave election last time, we've had horrible legislative maps, all of these things are not going to be in place in 2012. Based on the polls I've seen, talking to my voters, when I'm walking the streets, voters across the board are fed up with this, they're sick of the extremism, sick of people not caring about what the real problems are, and they want a change.

Ted Simons: Do you really think the people -- we can talk about the state as a whole, but in individual districts, do you really think there's that much of a disconnect?

David Schapira: These guys have overreached. The majority of registered voters in the state are Republicans. That's the true. But the Republicans at the legislature who are running the show down there are not representative of the average Republican let alone the average voter in the state. They've gone too far, and I think thankfully you and others in the media are holding them accountable. This really isn't popular idea, yet this is what's happening. The reason that happens, you have the Tea Party leadership down, there Russell Pearce who declared the Tea Party senate, and have you folks down there who listen to the center for Arizona policy and the goldwater institute and our voting in lock step with what they want.

Ted Simons: We have to stop it there. I'm glad we got you both on. Thanks for joining us.

Guests: Thank you.

Ted Simons: And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

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