Maricopa County has filed a lawsuit against Tempe demanding more than $250,000 for past medical treatment of the city’s prisoners.
The suit accuses Tempe of refusing to pay medical fees of inmates housed at the county jail who required hospitalization, according to court documents filed March 11.
Although the city has not been officially served, Andrew Ching, an assistant city attorney for Tempe, said he was surprised to hear of the suit.
"The timing of this is somewhat unusual," Ching said, "I was under the impression that we were trying to work this out."
County policy states that cities or towns within the county are responsible for hospital bills and emergency services.
Ching, who could not comment specifically on the case, said that state law requires the city to transfer its prisoners to a county jail within 24-hours.
Since 1997, the county alleges that the city refused to pay the hospital bills for 61 inmates from the city’s jail system.
Once inmates are transferred to the jail, the county charges Tempe a one-time booking fee as well as a daily rate for housing the city’s prisoners.
According to the court document, a portion of the fees goes toward basic medical care such as minor cuts and bruises that can be treated at the jail.
Hospital costs, however, are not covered by the daily housing rates or booking fees and need to be paid separately.