Thursday, August 21, 2008

Andrew Thomas, a very fiscally conservative county attorney

Contrary to the mis-truths and half-truths printed in the media in regards to Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and spending, Thomas has ran a very fiscally conservative administration since taking office in 2005. When the full picture is taken into account, he very likely ranks among the most fiscally conservative county attorneys in the nation.

Decreasing illegal immigration means less crime and less costs to taxpayers

Andrew Thomas has made decreasing illegal immigration a priority. As a result of prosecuting illegal immigrants for conspiring to smuggle themselves, supporting and enforcing other laws such as employer sanctions and no bail for illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes, illegal immigrants are leaving Arizona. This has contributed to a decrease in crime in most cities within Maricopa County, costing taxpayers less for prosecution. And as illegal immigrants leave the state, they are using fewer government social services, emergency room services, and public schools. The Center for Immigration Studies found that illegal immigrant households imposed costs of $26 billion on the federal government and paid $16 billion in federal taxes, creating an annual net fiscal deficit of $10.4 billion at the federal level, or $2,700 per household. Arizona is currently facing a $2 billion budget crisis. At least 10% of Arizona’s illegal immigrant population has left the state within the past year. Arizona’s budget crisis may be resolved by this exodus.

Under Thomas, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office returned $2 million in unused monies to the county this year

The county saw its income decrease this past year due to low sales tax revenues from the sluggish economy. In order to compensate for this, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office decreased its spending by $2 million, returning it to the county’s general fund.

Length of time to prosecute felonies has decreased

Since Thomas took office, the average length of time it takes to prosecute a felony has decreased from 87 days to 37 days. Most counties our size average 92 days, including Pima County. Part of this reduction in prosecution time is due to the Maricopa County Superior Court consolidating the prosecution of felonies at a facility downtown known as the Regional Court Center. It is also due to Thomas changing MCAO plea policies to make it harder for defendants and their attorneys to add additional delays. If a defendant doesn’t decide to take the plea agreement offered by the County Attorney’s office 30 days before trial, the office no longer will give extensions or reductions in the plea, but instead the defendant must take his or her chances at trial.

Speeding up death penalty cases

Death penalty cases in Arizona take an average of 19 years to go through the system from the date of the crime until the date of execution. This is way too long. Many of the delays are due to stalling tactics by defense attorneys and the courts’ failure to enforce deadlines, which was detailed in a report issued by the office. (LINK to report) Thomas has taken some steps internally to prevent this, and will pursue legislation to curtail these practices.

Thomas has kept the office the same size as when he took office almost 4 years ago

Thomas kept the size of the office from increasing, even though Maricopa County is one of the fastest growing large counties in the nation and the number of inmate lawsuits against the county has doubled since he entered office.

Outsourcing work to private contract counsel saves money in the long run

Costly lawsuits by inmates have been assigned to outside counsel to handle, ensuring that they are fully litigated so the same issues cannot come up again in similar lawsuits. This was done to save the county money in the long-term, since other inmates are barred from re-litigating those claims.

Increased salaries for Deputy County Attorneys in order to retain experienced attorneys and reduce turnover

When Thomas took office in 2005, the attorney turnover rate was high because of the low pay. The East Valley Tribune ran a satirical cartoon mocking MCAO Deputy County Attorneys for having second jobs at McDonald’s. Experienced felony prosecutors were leaving the office to go work for higher-paying jobs with the city attorneys’ offices prosecuting misdemeanors. Excessive time and resources were expended constantly training brand-new attorneys. Inexperienced young prosecutors were left to handle the most serious crimes, going up against seasoned defense attorneys. In order to correct this situation, Thomas worked to bring attorney pay up to comparable levels in other agencies and similar work in the private sector, which decreased the attorney turnover rate.

Thomas issued a Crime Handbook which will deter crimes

Thomas was criticized in the media for spending close to $200k using RICO funds (money seized from criminal profiteering) for producing a Crime Handbook. However, this handbook will ultimately save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and pay for itself many times over as criminals are deterred and victims take precautions which prevent crime. It costs taxpayers thousands of dollars to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate just one felon. If even just a handful of crimes are deterred, the booklet will have paid for itself. Thomas has received hundreds of letters and emails from the public expressing their gratitude for the booklet and ordering thousands more copies.

Disclaimer: I work for Andrew Thomas

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