Legal Reference

It is illegal for Barnett Lotstein to have a government car

It is illegal per Federal and State law for Barnett Lotstein to have a county car!

This cop is an over paid government nanny who thinks the taxpayers owe him a car! Now the truth of the matter is both Federal and Arizona law makes it illegal for Maricopa County to give Barnett Lotstein a car as a job perk!


Barnett speaks!

Barnett Lotstein called me late this afternoon to explain why he has a county car at his disposal. He was a bit chattier today than yesterday.

Lotstein says he’s had public wheels for 10 years, having first gotten a take-home car while working for then-County Attorney Rick Romley.

“You ask why. I have a car because I’m a member of the senior staff, because both Mr. Romley and Mr. Thomas believe we are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which I am,” he said. “I attend public forums. I go to make speeches to community groups. I go to meetings at night. I’m often out on the weekends, on Saturdays. I do confidential matters. I’ve been involved in confidential investigations personally. I’m on call. I have attended crime scenes in the past. So basically, that’s the reason.”

Translation: it’s a perk.

Lotstein said Thomas has reduced the fleet of county cars issued to his staff by 20 percent but he couldn’t say how many cars that would be. He did tell me what we’re providing him: a 2006 Taurus.

I guess he's not so high on the food chain after all.

Lotstein said he doesn’t believe state law banning take-home cars applies to the county.

“There has never been a question about whether he could do that, about whether the county attorney can assign cars,” Lotstein said. “We are a law enforcement agency.”

I have a few calls out to see whether he's right about the law. If he is then the law should be changed as we obviously can’t trust that logic and good sense will apply.

Take-home cars for prosecutors who have to rush out in the middle of the night to a murder scene? Yes, absolutely.

Take home cars for public spokesmen who have to rush out in the middle of coffee hour to give a speech?

Sorry, Barnett, but no.


More on Barnett and his county-issued car

Regarding my blog entry yesterday on the curious case of why Barnett Lotstein, a special assistant to Maricopa County Attorney Andy Thomas, is driving around in a county car paid for by the taxpayers:

State Superintendent Tom Horne, who is running for state attorney general, points out that state law bars state (and by extension county) employees from having take-home cars provided by taxpayers.

ARS 38-538.02: “A motor vehicle owned or leased by this state shall not be provided to an employee, including an elected official, for the employee’s personal use except as provided in subsection D of this section.”

Subsection D – and by extension ARS 38-538.03 - exempts the governor from the take-home car ban. It also says the heads of agencies or departments that “conduct rehabilitation or social service programs, felony investigations or activities of a confidential nature” can apply to the governing body of the political subdivision for an exemption to the ban on take-home cars. The governor or political subdivision governing body – presumably in this case the Board of Supervisors – can then grant an exemption for not more than one year.

Now, I'm pretty sure that Barnett is not out investigating felonies (other than perhaps all those felonies committed by Thomas' political enemies). And even if he is out there investigating felonies, I'm pretty sure the above law says you can only get an exemption to the ban on take-home cars for a year.

I’d ask Lotstein or Thomas’ spokesman, Mike Scerbo, how they get around the law, but they who are paid to speak about matters apparently have nothing to say on this issue.

The Republic's Craig Harris did a story last fall, reporting that Thomas used RICO money to provide new cars for himself and three of his top deputies. According to county records, Thomas bought a brand new 2008 Mercury Mountaineer for $35,195 for himself and bought these vehicles for top staffers: a 2008 Mercury Grand Marquis ($22,759); a 2008 GMC Yukon for $37,244; and a 2008 GMC Yukon for $38,329.

RICO funds, by the way, are public funds, which means the stuff bought with them is publicly owned stuff.

I've got a call into the county's spokeswoman, Cari Gercheck, to ask her how this crew comes to be driving around town on our dime.

Who the heck is running things in this county?