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Arizona City Sues Sheriff Arpaio

PHOENIX (CN) - Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio canceled a law enforcement contract with Guadalupe Township to retaliate for the mayor's criticism of Arpaio's abusive immigration raid there, the township claims in Federal Court.

Arpaio, the self-styled "toughest sheriff in America" and a publicity-conscious fellow, "descended on the Town with multiple 'command centers,' approximately 100 deputies, and a helicopter seeking to capture undocumented immigrants within the community" on April 3, the township and City Councilwoman Rebecca Jimenez say.

Jimenez was mayor on the night of the raid.

Guadalupe, a city of ¾ square miles which is 40% Yaqui and 60% Mexican-American, is one of the poorest communities in Arizona.

On the night of the raid the Guadalupe Town Council was holding a meeting. The raid caused many of the town's 5,258 people to gather outside City Hall.

Jimenez emerged to see what the ruckus was and upbraided Arpaio for the overkill and for "the manner in which MCSO had announced its activities to the media, and misrepresentations made by Arpaio to the media," the complaint states.

"In response to her statements, Arpaio exploded at Mayor Jimenez and told her that if she did not like his conduct, that the town could cancel the agreement with the county."

On the next day, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gorden joined Mayor Jimenez in criticizing Arpaio's raid. Gorden complained by writing a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In an April 18 letter to Jimenez, Arpaio gave the town 180 days notice that he was canceling the contract to patrol the town.

Jimenez says Guadalupe is too poor to afford its own police force.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors met on Sept. 17 to approve Arpaio's request and cancel the contract, the complaint states. But before voting to do that, it forced some Guadalupe residents from the room and barred the doors, the complaint states.

"To no one's surprise, the county subsequently concluded that the act of barring the opponents from the room was a violation of Arizona's open meeting laws, making its actions at the September 17 meeting a nullity. The Board of supervisors has now scheduled a special meeting for Monday, Sept. 29, 2008 at 10 a.m. to 'ratify' their actions at the September 17 meeting."

The township demands a restraining order, saying Arpaio is retaliating for the mayor's exercise of her First Amendment rights.

Plaintiffs are represented Ronald Messerly with Snell & Wilmer.

Arpaio's raid, and this lawsuit, got the sheriff's picture in the Sunday, Sept. 28 New York Times. Arpaio is running for re-election.

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