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Sheriff Joe Arpaio Accused of Misusing up to $80 Million

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the controversial “America’s toughest sheriff” who pushed for SB 1070 and parades inmates around in pink, faces another scandal: His office was accused Wednesday of misspending up to $80 million in taxpayer funds since 2006. A review by officials in Maricopa County, where Arpaio is the head law enforcement officer, claimed the sheriff’s office used money meant for jail operations on non-jail costs such as salaries and investigations. Funding for jails comes from a special tax levy and is supposed to be kept separate from other spending by the sheriff’s office.

That wasn’t all, Talking Points Memo reported:

Excerpts of the reports, obtained by TPMMuckraker, show officials from Arpaio’s office made trips to Orlando, D.C., Honduras, Tempe, Belize, Alaska and Puerto Rico on the county’s dime and racked up other questionable expenses, like $741 at Sardella’s Pizza and Wings. The county was also charged $350 for a hotel room upgrade for one official’s spouse. One employee went on multiple extradition trips without submitting receipts for the $62,750 he or she spent — including $1,341 on Disney World Yacht Club Resort food and entertainment. [...]

County officials additionally allege that the sheriff’s office deliberately misused procurement codes and made capital purchases during spending freezes; used outside bank accounts; had problems handling inmate cash; demonstrated extradition travel irregularities; improperly used county credit cards; and spent public funds unusually.

The officials’ report comes less than a week after an internal memo from a subordinate was released urging Arpaio to stop corruption within the sheriff’s department. It is also in the midst of a Justice Department investigation into alleged civil rights abuses by Arpaio’s office. The DOJ sued Arpaio earlier this month for refusing to hand over documents for its investigation.

Notably, Arpaio received a favorable audit from the U.S. Marshal Service on how he treats his inmates, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

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