Legal standoff over MCSO's new bus - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Legal standoff over MCSO's new bus

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Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2009 6:41 pm | Updated: 12:38 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

 The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office's $456,000 bus was purchased during a freeze on all major purchases imposed by the Board of Supervisors.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has a new custom-made bus to transport inmates from jails to court, but it can't be used until the Board of Supervisors approves the title and registration.

The $456,000 bus was purchased during a freeze on all major purchases imposed by the board in the face of tough economic times.

It's shaping up as another legal standoff between the board and Arpaio over divisions in authority as to how county money is spent.

Arpaio controls money in his budget but the board can still exert authority through other spending and administrative actions.

On Wednesday, the Sheriff's Office wanted the board to add the bus to the county fleet. But the request was not on the agenda and county staff and budget officials said they wanted more time to review the request.

Scott Isham, chief of staff to board Chairman Max Wilson, said there was not enough support by the supervisors to add the bus to the fleet because of procurement issues and the capital freeze.

No future vote is scheduled, so the bus remains parked at a county facility near the jail complex in southwest Phoenix.

By state statute, the five-member Board of Supervisors is responsible for the county's overall $2.2 billion budget. The board allocates money to departments and it expects them to live within their means.

However, the supervisors cannot dictate to other elected officials how to spend their money. If any department head or official overspends a budget, the board can place that person on a line-item budget where officials generally must ask budget officials for permission to buy almost anything.

Money in the Jail Enhancement Fund, which comes from court fees, allows sheriffs across Arizona to spend at their discretion for jail operations.

Arpaio's office this fiscal year received $1.58 million of the nearly $5 million divided among all county sheriffs, according to the state Department of Corrections.

Officials in the Office of Management and Budget are urging supervisors to not title and register the bus.

Instead, they want to deed the bus over to the state Department of Corrections as a credit on the money lawmakers are taking from local governments to balance Arizona's budget. If that happened, the bus would be used by the state prison system.

Budget officials say the Sheriff's Office violated a direct countywide policy, paid too much for the bus and doesn't need a bus that typically is used for long-distance trips.

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