Maricopa County irresponsibly handing out pay raises in midst of recession

A m e r i c a n P o s t – G a z e t t e

Distributed by C O M M O N S E N S E , in Arizona

Sunday, April 4, 2010

One Court Employee Received a $26,624 Raise
Massive spending continues at the County level as Taj Mahal court tower nears completion

Court Tower

The Supervisors’ and Courts’ Taj Mahal continues to be built on schedule despite the recession


An article in the Arizona Republic entitled “500 Maricopa County Workers Got Raises Despite Cuts,” revealed that hundreds of employees working for the County received pay raises last year – even though the County is in the red financially with no way out in sight. (http://www.azcentral.com/community/surprise/articles/2010/03/31/20100331maricopa-county-employees-raises.html) Most county agencies have had to lay off employees, leaving them with multiple vacant positions, and haven’t given out any raises in three years. Yet a couple of agencies that haven’t tightened their belts like the rest of the county, namely the Superior Court and the County Supervisors, have instead decided to give certain special employees large raises.


The most outrageous raise went to Jessica Funkhouser, “Special Counsel for the Courts,” who received a $26,624 pay raise, putting her salary at $159,000. That raise alone is as much as an average county employee makes! Ms. Funkhouser arrogantly had the nerve to claim that she *deserved* the raise. “I’ve more than saved what I get in a raise. If times were better…with the economy, then I’d be doing better with the number of years I have being a lawyer, and the public service I have,” she said. Ms. Funkhauser is widely known in political circles as a “court mouthpiece” whose position as such is grossly overpaid for a government employee. But working for the Superior Court, she shares a cozy relationship with the County Supervisors, who no doubt failed to object to the greedy pay increase. Although some pay raises for court staff like judges are required by law, Ms. Funkhauser’s was not.

There was a total of $1.2 million in salary increases awarded last year countywide. The Republic article failed to list how much of those raises went to County Supervisor employees, but considering that agency’s out of control record of spending over the last few years on everything from diversity promotion to grants to Chicanos por la Causa to global warming reduction programs, it is safe to assume many of the raises went to those employees. Nor did the article indicate whether the number included pay raises given to attorneys and staff who were lured over to the County Supervisors’ new shadow County Attorney’s Office which was stolen from the County Attorney’s Office. Several of those employees reported receiving large pay increases in exchange for transferring over, as much as $26,000! Pretty ridiculous considering other employees who stayed hadn’t received a raise in three years.

One of the Supervisors claims that the duties of the employees who were laid off were taken on by remaining employees – if true, then what were those other employees doing before, sitting around performing at half-effort? (http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/2010/04/04/20100404sunlets045.html) Perhaps the real reason the employees were laid off is so the Supervisors and Court could afford their brand-new new $340 million Taj Majal court tower, the most expensive project in county history, being built during a recession, and featuring porcelain, travertine, wooden floors, and penthouse quarters for the judges with private robing rooms. According to the Republic, it is almost complete now, no one has been able to stop them from spending the millions despite the sheer absurdity of building a luxury building when the revenues aren’t there. (http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/2010/04/04/20100404maricopa-court-tower.html) A monument to fiscal irresponsibility.

The financial irresponsibility at the County must stop. It is time for local Tea Parties who have been protesting the massive spending at the federal level to start protesting the bankrupting spending levels taking place at our local level. Otherwise we will be stuck paying for their excesses with higher property taxes.

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Comments

  1. I just read somewhere that even though Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas is resigning, the Supervisors STILL won’t return the county attorney’s civil division of attorneys. Even though the judge they got to rubberstamp their illegal takeover of the office said if the conflict with him investigating them went away, they would need to return the civil division.

    The arrogance. The nerve. It’s all about POWER, not about the taxpayers like it should be, and it’s pretty disgusting. I can’t wait for Stapley and Wilcox to finally be convicted and removed from office.

  2. If you’ve ever met Don Stapley or Mary Rose Wilcox, none of this comes as a surprise. They have operated shadily since they first took office many years ago (do a search on their names on the phoenix new times website). I’ve met them in person several times and they ooze sliminess. But they’ve gotten away with it for years, given their friends special favors from the county as everyone else looks the other way. Will be interesting to see if they do finally get convicted. They’re as weaselly as they come and have the full arsenal of tax payers money behind them to buy the best PR and attorneys.

  3. Conservative PC says

    Every time I hear the name Don Stapley I see red. Why does he get away with spending oodles of money on personal luxury goods that he raised as campaign funds in a race where he didn’t even have an opponent???? The media tell us he is being PERSECUTED by the Sheriff and our County Attorney because they’re prosecuting him over this? And now his wife can’t buy a brand-new Lexus as a result? Who buys into this line of defense attorney spin! He’s a crook and he needs to GO TO JAIL NOW. He shouldn’t get special treatment because he’s a powerful county supervisor, he should have to face the consequences like the REST OF US!

    ***

    Stapley allegedly spent $6000 of these funds at Bang and Olufson electronics, along with $1300 for hair implants, $400 for candle holders and $10,000 for furniture for his home. He also spent these funds, solicited as campaign money, to buy tickets to Broadway plays and movie theatres, flowers, grocery store bills, massages, department stores and trips for his family to Sundance, Utah to ski, a trip for his son and friends to Florida and a three-week vacation in Hawaii for his entire family at a beach house costing approximately $11,000.

  4. The Mole says

    Enough is enough!! The Boards ability to waste money is beyond belief. There is absolutely NO accountability. It’s enough to make you pull your hair out even if you can’t get voters to pay for replacing it.

  5. I sure didn’t get any raise and I have very little hair left. Most people in my department are just glad we still have jobs at all. We all had to take on more work and we were already busting our butts. Now people are terrified when things don’t get done on time. Still better than the families they tossed out on the street to pay for the Taj or raises to their lawyer friends. Guess you got to kiss Stapley’s ring if you want a raise.

  6. Good point Billbo. I work for a county agency, and the word in our agency is you shut-up or risk being a target for lay-offs. The Stupidvisors will silence anyone who squawks. They have gotten control over the other county agencies because they have final say over their budgets, so they use that final say to bludgeon other agencies into doing what they want. The agency I work for is tiny, but it doesn’t matter, if we express any objection to the Supervisors, we could individually be targeted. Honestly, I’m at the point where I’m now looking for another job. I have a wife and kids to support, and I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder all the time wondering if anything critical I say against the Supervisors is going to cost me my job. We all do it, but at some point it’s going to get back to them and they will find a way to RIFF us. I admire the Sheriff and County Attorney for standing up to them, because the rest of us little guys aren’t in a position to.

  7. SLightly OT.
    The choice of the Taj Mahal as a symbol for outrageous local government spending on deluxe monuments is quite appropriate … for another reason.
    India national government hit the roof when it was discovered that local Agra (the city where the Taj Mahal is located) politicians gave approval for a developer to built a shopping complex between the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. Both structures sit on the riverbank. The shopping complex actually was planned to be on landfill to fill in the river curve between the two edifices. The landfill was well under way when an engineer raised the alarm that the landfill was redirecting the flow of the river around the Taj Mahal. The massive marble Taj Mahal actually sits on huge wooden pylons, which to retain their strength are sunk into the mud and must stay wet. The new development was forcing the river away from the Taj, and the pylons were drying out.
    Despite a country quite used to bribes, it has been a national scandal that local politicians were so greedy to accept gratutities that would result in a shopping mall actually being the cause of the destruction of India’s national symbol, The Taj Mahal, one of the 7 wonders of the world.
    Local politics.

  8. Steve Calabrese says

    The county has been saving money to build the court tower for a decade.

    They didn’t want to use bonds, which are financially irresponsible.

    Arpaio and Thomas were involved with every step of planning for the tower.

    The county has been behaving in a fiscally responsible fashion in putting aside the funds to build the tower.

    Arpaio and Thomas were faced with budget cuts, and decided that they were above everyone else and that the funds that were painstakingly stashed away over a decade should go to them.

    The supervisors said no, and Arpaio and Thomas started indicting anyone who backed them up, including judges who ruled in favor of the supervisors.

    That’s the real story.

  9. Cola drinker says

    It doesn’t matter how long you save up for a plasma tv if when you need to pay rent you don’t have any money left. The politics here started long before the court tower, namely with the judges refusing to enforce Prop 100 and the Spanish court system shenanigans.

    You can’t get indicted without a grand jury of ordinary people agreeing there’s something to the charges.

  10. Steve,

    And unlike the greedy court officials and their big government enablers at the supervisors office, when the entire country entered one of the worst recessions in years, Arpaio and Thomas had the sense to say stop, this isn’t prudent to build this right now, especially considering all the lavish excesses.

  11. We seniors are not getting a Social Security raise for 2 years. Guess we should be working for the County.

  12. Wanumba, the level of corruption and payoffs involved with this court tower is huge. Some of the contractors contributed money to the campaigns of the Supervisors. You give me money, I’ll give you overpriced government contracts. Chicago politics pales in comparison. As long as the Supervisors can successfully portray this as some vendetta by Thomas and Arpaio, they can continue these kinds of political payoffs. It’s appalling.

  13. Steve Calabrese says

    The courts are already bursting at the seams.

    Simple economics – if the money is already at hand, it’s the best time to build because supply & demand dictates that material and labor costs will be less.

    Indeed, the court tower is current $6 million under budget.

    Arpaio and Thomas are NOT true conservatives. They prosecute illegal aliens because it’s popular. Big deal. A TRUE conservative fears unchecked government/police power, and Arpaio & Thomas’ crusade to investigate and indict any elected official who dares oppose them is un-American.

    Are some of the people they’ve investigated dirty? Maybe. But the quickest way to get indicted by the sheriff in this county is to oppose him publicly.

    It’s truly ironic that Thomas is now using the same defense against the Feds that the supervisors used against him – conflict of interest.

    I look forward to the coming indictment of Joe Arpaio for abuse of power. I fear, however, the effect it will have on the Republican party, as the party splits between those who will be appalled at what Arpaio’s previously hidden records will reveal, and those who will support Arpaio no matter what he does.

    And yes, there are strong liberal forces looking to bring Arpaio down for political purposes, which is a shame, but it doesn’t mean that he isn’t guilty of abuse of power.

  14. East valley voter says

    The myth that the county saved for this tower will not go away. The county had saved for a great number of capital projects with the tower being but one. They had completed all the work to build a new courthouse for east valley justice court and a number of other projects and cancelled every other project to build the tower. These were not dollars set aside for this particular project. It is not surprising that the Republic perpetuates this myth since the County was nice enough to buy the Republic’s worthless property surrounding the Mesa Courthouse. If Thomas prosecutes all those who politically cross him where were the indictments of Fulton Brock and Max Wilson.

  15. Stephen Kohut says

    Steve Calabrese LD22 RINO PC,

    Get over your boy losing the MCRC chairmanship to Haney in 2009. It’s done. Your ongoing rants against Arpaio and Thomas for doing their jobs are no different than those of Don Biven’s mouthpiece Goddard. You, McRINO and all the little RINO’s lost the MCRC war boy. It must really gall you that for all the roadblocks that LD22 RINO’s have used to try and block the appointment of new conservative PC’s from the Tea Parties, 9-12 Groups, etc. they have gotten in and are messing up your little world and have turned the MRCR into a 4 to 1 conservative majority. I can’t wait to see the results of this year’s elections for county leadership and state committeemen and next year’s state leadership election. It’s going to be a massive RINOectomy!

    “Arpaio and Thomas are NOT true conservatives. They prosecute illegal aliens because it’s popular. Big deal.”

    Enforcing US law is not a big deal? Arizona has passed EVERY ballot initiative to tighten control of illegal aliens by over 70%. This is the one surefire winner in the electorate. Tell all your candidates (McRINO, Flake, etc.) to be outspoken in their pro-amnesty positions. It just makes the job of true conservative activists easier in the primary to make sure they get the boot from the electorate.

  16. Good points, East Valley Voter. And if this was about political points, why did Thomas and Arpaio take on a powerful REPUBLICAN supervisor, Don Stapley, who controls their budgets? The Supervisors can spin it all they want, with the help of the Repugnant, but facts don’t go away.

  17. The first action of the local and state governments to show the public they are even halfway serious about the deficit would be a pay freeze across the board.

    This past week’s reports showed over 20% of the workforce is underemployed. Pair that with 9-35% unemployment depending on the locality, the condition of employment in this country right now is getting downright scary. It means people are scrambling for any work, and accepting major cuts in
    take-home income – just to stay afloat.
    The Democrats have been blabbing nonsense about, “Shovel ready.” What good does that do a manager or real estate agent, an accountant, a computer technician, an insurance appraiser?

    The public sector is paid by the private sector. Destroy the private sector and there’s no pay, no taxes, no money for “safety nets” no money to invest in starting new businesses, maintain existing ones, much less government edifices or government salaries.
    Hullo?

  18. Steve Calabrese says

    Stephen Kohut, I’m afraid that I don’t know where to begin with all your name-calling.

    LD22 a “RINO” district? You’re kidding, right? The district that elected Andy Biggs is a RINO district?

    I have no problem with enforcing immigration law. I have a serious problem about repeated refusals to respond to legitimate public records requests and arresting newspaper editors in the middle of the night on misdemeanor charges.

    Arpaio and Thomas consistently act like they are above the law. That’s not conservative.

    Arpaio’s deputies arrested the editors of New Times at 21:00 at the residences. Arpaio said he didn’t know they were going to do it.

    Do you really believe that Arpaio’s deputies didn’t see fit to inform him that they were going to be arresting two of his political enemies in the middle of the night?

    Either Arpaio is a liar or incompetent.

    If a liberal was pulling what Arpaio was pulling, we’d be screaming bloody murder.

    Come to think of it, one is. Terry Goddard; he’s just more subtle about it.

    Nonetheless, so-called “Republicans” who back police who think they are above the law just because they like their political stances are going to cause this party to suffer in a year when it should be triumphing.

    Poor Mr. Kohut. You seem to be one of those who has a checklist and anyone who doesn’t agree with you 100% is not worthy – in your eyes – to be a Republican. It’s a sad trend, and it’s one of the reasons we have Obama in the White House instead of McCain – who while not ideal is certainly better than Obama.

    Don’t waste your time attacking me, or other Republicans who most likely already agree with you on 80-90% of issues. Use your time more productively – for example, you seem to hate Goddard. A worthy target of hatred, actually. Why not figure out why he went to Washington DC in December to meet with bankers about the mortgage crisis and then came back to Arizona and within a month started filing suits against every medium-sized and large mortgage modification firm he could find? Goddard seems to be bought and paid for by the banks, and if someone could point that out effectively it could undermine his Dem support…especially if that research was then turned over to the winner of the Republican primary for AG.

    But no, you’d rather run around calling people “RINO”, as if that solves anything.

  19. Interesting points here but I still think the government spending is outrageous and is in serious need of inspection.

    For what it’s worth, we’ve been discussing these types of issues over at http://www.helpingaz.com for anyone interested.

  20. LMFAO! I’d take you guys more seriously about pay raises at the county if you paid equal attention to wastful spending at the Sheriff’s department too. For example, Arpaio’s top deputy Hendershott is a double dipper. He “retired” as an officer to take the exact same position as a “civilian” just so he could take a pension in addition to his huge salary. He currently makes something like 170,000 in salary and like 70,000 in pension. (And somehow despite making all that money, he has managed to go bankrupt twice and his house is reportedly currently in forclosure.)Or remember when Hendershott went to Bay Island in Honduras, a vacation destination, to “train” the local police there on the County’s money (until the evil New Times reported on it)?

    There is lots of waste at all levels of government. It’s not just the supervisors. It’s all over the place including the Sheriff’s office. And if you only criticise the guys you don’t like while protecting the guys you do like, you are nothing more than a bunch of lackeys!

  21. “And if this was about political points, why did Thomas and Arpaio take on a powerful REPUBLICAN supervisor, Don Stapley, who controls their budgets?”

    IT WAS 100% BECAUSE HE CONTROLS THEIR BUDGETS! LOL! They didn’t like that Stapley didn’t rubber stamp their budgets so they went after him to send a message.

  22. Stephen Kohut says

    Steve Calabrese,

    LD22 is renowned in the Tea Parties for not processing, losing, misplacing and otherwise interfering with the appointment and election of conservative PC’s. It is legendary as is your positions on attacking conservatives like Arpaio, Thomas and Haney while supporting RINO’s like McCain. As Reagan said, anyone who agrees with me 80% of the time I call a friend. I have yet to find a RINO I call my friend.

    I do feel for you. We have taken on Reagan’s challenge to revitalize the party and return it to its roots.

    “I don ‘t know about you, but I am impatient with those Republicans who after the last election rushed into print saying, “We must broaden the base of our party”—when what they meant was to fuzz up and blur even more the differences between ourselves and our opponents.

    Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?

    A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.

    I do not believe I have proposed anything that is contrary to what has been considered Republican principle. It is at the same time the very basis of conservatism. It is time to reassert that principle and raise it to full view. And if there are those who cannot subscribe to these principles, then let them go their way.”

    The precinct committeeman project has been an overwhelming success in AZ. We have packed the GOP with conservative PC’s. We are going to have vigorous primaries to select the best people we can. Later this year we will fix county and state leadership. It is time for RINO’s to go their own way elsewhere. Can you say Tea-publican?

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