PHOENIX (CN) - The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is trying to replace the county attorney in retaliation for his criminally indicting a supervisor, the attorney and Sheriff Joe Arpaio say in Superior Court.
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio sued the Board of Supervisors and individual members - Fulton Brock, Don Stapley, Andrew Kunasek, Max Wilson and Mary R. Wilcox - claiming they lack authority to appoint outside legal counsel.
The Sheriff's Office on Dec. 2 indicted County Supervisor Don Stapley on 118 criminal counts, accusing him of failing to disclose a multimillion-dollar stake in land deals and other business.
The board allegedly held a special meeting on Dec. 5 to appoint the Shughart, Thomson & Kilroy law firm to advise them on whether Thomas has a conflict of interest with the board.
Thomas claims that Arizona law does not allow for "the Board to substitute the County Attorney with outside legal counsel."
On Dec. 5, Thomas says, he wrote a letter to Thomas Irvine of the Shughart firm, directing him to "not be present during the executive session of the board or give legal advice to the board." He told Irvine that there is no conflict of interest with relation to his work, and that Irvine was not allowed to take his place at an executive session that day.
Despite Thomas' letter, a draft of minutes from the Dec. 5 meeting allegedly showed Irvine was there, providing legal counsel to the board and accepting the position of special counsel to the board.
Irvine also was said to be present at a Dec. 23 meeting, where the board hired Richard Romley as a consultant to provide legal advice.
Thomas did not approve either appointment, the complaint states. He claims that Romley, a former Maricopa County attorney, should have known the board lacked authority to hire him, so long as the current county attorney is capable of working.
Thomas also cited a 2006 lawsuit against the board, in which they attempted to oust him as legal counsel. The action was "settled out of court and dismissed."
In a second lawsuit, also filed on Dec. 31, Thomas asks Irvine, the Shughart law firm and Romley to issue a writ of quo warranto to prove that their actions do not illegally interfere with the Maricopa County attorney's job.
Joseph Clees with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash represents Thomas in both lawsuits.