Maricopa County settles 2 lawsuits costing taxpayers $7M - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU


Maricopa County settles 2 lawsuits costing taxpayers $7M

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© Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio © Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Former Phoenix New Times executives Former Phoenix New Times executives

Maricopa County has reached settlements in two lawsuits totaling $7.25 million.

One was filed by two former newspaper executives who were arrested by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office, and a separate suit was filed by former Supervisor Don Stapley.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted on Friday to pay former Phoenix New Times co-owners Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, $3.75 million.

The executives were arrested in 2007 after revealing that Arpaio's allies in the Maricopa County attorney's office obtained a grand jury subpoena to identify sources for articles about the sheriff. Arpaio and the prosecutors eventually backed off.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling and allowed the news executives to sue the man who calls himself America's toughest sheriff for false arrest and violations of their First and 14th Amendment rights, among other claims.

On Thursday, Maricopa County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick said the county had spent $437,703 for legal fees and expenses in the lawsuit with the Phoenix New Times.

"The County settled this lawsuit because it is in the best interest of taxpayers," Gerchick said.

The board also reached a settlement with former supervisor Don Stapley for $3.5 million. The board voted 4-0 to settle.

Members of the board of supervisors released this statement after the settlement:

"The lawsuit filed by former Supervisor Don Stapley was in response to events and actions that took place long ago. However, after many, many hours of exhaustive review in Executive Session, we are convinced that it is in the best interest of the County to settle this matter now, rather than risk an even larger award at trial. Likewise, our insurance company believes that a settlement is the wisest course to follow at this point. In fact, the major impetus for this particular settlement came not from the members of our board, but from our insurer.

"Each time we take our seats as members of the Board of Supervisors, we are reminded of our duty to the people whose taxes finance county government. In this case we are convinced that settlement of Mr. Stapley's suit protects the taxpayers from even larger cost down the road, and hopefully closes the final chapter in what has been a very sad and damaging period in our County's history."

"While we would have preferred to let a jury decide the outcome of this matter, our risk managers and legal counsel have made a persuasive case that doing so would violate our responsibility to limit the taxpayer's exposure. Nor could we, under the terms of our insurance policy, increase the exposure to our insurers by refusing a settlement opportunity when one is presented. Therefore, by both the terms of our insurance policy and our obligation to the taxpayers, we could not let this case go to trial without at least making an honest effort to settle. We made that effort and Mr. Stapley has accepted it."

CBS5 asked Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio about the growing number of lawsuits directed at his office.

"The message is - this is a business decision," said Arpaio. "You have insurance involved and that's the decison. I'm very happy with the way we run the Sheriff's office."                                                      

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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