Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Joe Arpaio: Lousy Bookkeeper or Petty Tyrant?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I used to fear living in Maricopa County, Arizona - literally fear for my personal safety and that of my friends and neighbors.  It wasn't the fabled (and mostly imaginary) murderous cartels and gangs of kidnappers that had me quaking in my cargo shorts, rather it was the county's front line defense against crime: the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.  Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the nation's poster boy for police-thuggery, managed to get his mug in the papers and on television almost daily with ridiculous "sweeps" that would net a handful of undocumented workers and tie up traffic and whole communities for hours on end, and barbaric treatment of prisoners in the county jails that resulted in injuries, deaths, and expensive lawsuits whose damage awards ultimately had to be footed by the taxpayers.

(Personal dealings with Sheriff's deputies on two occasions convinced me that even though the Sheriff and his top deputies and aids had power and control issues, the deputies on the street were amazingly courteous and professional.  Indeed, I got the distinct impression from one that he was embarrassed by all of his boss's publicity-seeking behaviors.)

One of the most heinous and truly scary activities of Sheriff Joe, however, was his open feud with the County Board of Supervisors.  The Sheriff of Maricopa County is an elected position, as are the positions of County Supervisors who are charged with the management of the county and its finances.  Sheriff Joe had (still has) the mindset of a middle eastern potentate, and he would not suffer "management" by anyone.   Arpaio and his glove puppet, former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, literally went to war with the Board of Supervisors - arresting Supervisor Don Stapley on a list of over one hundred charges - which were later dropped, and then bringing racketeering charges against Stapley and Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, as well as three judges and a few other individuals in an action that was later thrown out of court.  Currently, lawsuits totaling $5.6 million are pending over that fiasco.

(Andrew Thomas subsequently resigned, ran for state attorney general and lost the Republican primary. He was replaced as County Attorney by Rick Romley, a dedicated public servant who is not so enamored of Joe.)

So now the ball is in the Supervisors' court.  A recent audit and subsequent budget report has been issued accusing Arpaio of misspending as much as $80 million on immigration sweeps, public corruption probes, unauthorized travel to luxury destinations, and even the purchase of a tour bus to transport prisoners.  The report also indicated that the Sheriff's office maintained secret bank accounts to keep the county government from being able to monitor its expenditures, as well as keeping two sets of payroll books.

The monkey is on Joe's back and he is supposedly busy figuring out how to restore the funds and put proper safeguards in place for expenditures by the Sheriff's office.  County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who is undoubtedly still smarting over being referred to as a "racketeer," said that if the Sheriff's office fails to cooperate with fixing the situation, she will ask the federal government to take over the operation of the county's jails.

Federal involvement in Joe's shenanigans is long overdue.

1 comment:

Xobekim said...

I think he is both a petty tyrant and a lousy bookkeeper.