Seven political activists claiming their civil rights were violated after they were arrested and cited for protesting against Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration policies have been awarded nearly $475,000 by Maricopa County, reports the Arizona Republic. The settlement was nine times more than what the county’s self-insured trust had originally authorized in February, and significantly higher than what the county planned to offer just days before the settlement.
The settlements skyrocketed during negotiations because two lawyers working for the County Board of Supervisors and a county risk manager persuaded the trust’s board to pay up to $100,000 per plaintiff. The money will come from the county’s general fund, whose reduction this year caused layoffs and budget cuts. Cari Gerchick, a county spokeswoman, said the earlier authorization “was an unreasonable amount” for the plaintiffs, and it would not have settled the case. Chief Sheriff’s Deputy David Hendershott called the settlement a “fraud on the taxpayers.” He said the county should have settled for far less or forced the activists to go to court.