The department released findings of a three-year investigation into civil-rights violations by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department in December and began negotiations for a voluntary settlement. Arpaio, who has been sheriff in a county that includes Phoenix and its suburbs since 1992, has become famous for forcing inmates to wear pink underwear, engaging in a crackdown on alleged illegal immigrants and, more recently, investigating President Obama's place of birth.
Deputy U.S. Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin said in a letter to one of Arpaio's lawyers that "a concerted effort to attain voluntary compliance by your client has failed," The Arizona Republic reported. Austin also accused lawyer Joe Popolizio of misrepresenting his conversations with the government.
"It is also clear that we should not discuss anything else by telephone because you will not accurately portray those conversations," Austin said.
John Masterson, another Arpaio lawyer, said in a news conference last week the sheriff would not agree to a court-appointed monitor. But he also said government lawyers had presented him and his colleagues with a 128-page proposed settlement and told them to accept it or not.
The next step would be for the government to file a civil-rights lawsuit against Arpaio and the department.