PHOENIX (CN) – A former Maricopa County school superintendent has sued Sheriff Joe Arpaio and local politicians saying they retaliated against her complaints of insufficient school funding by sending a SWAT team to her house and office — along with three helicopters — and filed 25 criminal counts aginst her, all later dropped.
The superintendent claims “The Sheriff and his MCSO have earned a reputation for using criminal investigations to intimidate political opposition.”
Former Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools Sandra Dowling sued the Board of Supervisors and Arpaio over the January 2006 search warrant executed on her home by a SWAT team and the succeeding indictment. She claims they tipped off the media ahead of time so they could provide live coverage of the searches.
It’s the latest in a string of lawsuits involving Arpaio, who calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff.”
According to Dowling’s Superior Court lawsuit, the board retaliated against Dowling by enlisting Arpaio to investigate her after she got an opinion from County Attorney Andrew Thomas stating that the board and county had failed to adequately fund the Maricopa County Regional School District; and after Tom Horne, then-state superintendent of public instruction, had determined that the board and county had failed to pay the school district $3.5 million over 7 years.
The school district then included the three campuses of the Pappas Schools for Homeless Children.
As part of the investigation, dozens of SWAT team members and three helicopters descended upon Dowling’s house, vehicle and offices, removing documents and objects without reasonable cause, the lawsuit states.
Dowling says Arpaio’s office tipped off the media ahead of time so they could provide live coverage of the searches.
She claims Arpaio repeatedly and falsely told the media that Dowling had misused $3.5 million of the county’s money meant for homeless children.
In November 2006 Dowling was indicted on 25 felony charges, including theft and mismanagement of public funds. All of the charges were dropped.
Dowling pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor that was not part of the original indictment because she no longer could afford a legal battle against the defendants, according to the lawsuit.
Dowling and her husband seek punitive damages for constitutional violations, conspiracy, malicious prosecution, retaliation, negligence and abuse of process. They are represented by Michael Manning with Stinson, Morrison and Hecker.