The Justice Department has called off negotiations with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office over accusations of racial discrimination, a move that paves the way for a showdown in court.
The point of contention is that Sheriff Joe Arpaio refused to accept an independent monitor in his office, something the Justice Department calls “a key, non-negotiable requirement of a settlement,” that was made clear from the onset.
“We believe that you are wasting time and not negotiating in good faith,” Roy Austin, deputy assistant attorney general, states in a letter to Mr. Arpaio's attorneys. “Your tactics have required DOJ to squander valuable time and resources.”
The sheriff denies he already had agreed to the court-appointed monitor. Such a monitor, he says, would usurp his authority as part of the Obama administration's goal to take control.
“I am the constitutionally and legitimately elected sheriff, and I absolutely refuse to surrender my responsibility to the federal government,” Arpaio said Tuesday, adding that he is ready for a legal battle.
Negotiations were scheduled to begin Wednesday, nearly four months since the Justice Department released a scathing report against Arpaio. A three-year civil rights investigation concluded that his office practiced systematic discrimination against Hispanics. In his letter, Mr. Austin wrote that since the findings, his department has uncovered information about his office's “failure to reasonably investigate sex crimes.”
Arpaio, who became sheriff in 1993, calls the federal government's allegations “a political witch hunt.”
Which is what it is.