Say It Ain't Joe

Fife is Fife. A liar and a fraud who won his office by deceit and gouged every living organism that strayed within his orbit. As is the case with Arpaio, Symington doesn't talk to New Times--hasn't since 1992. He has discouraged state agencies and their well-paid media flacks from talking to New Times. As is the case with Arpaio, this ostrichlike policy hasn't prevented a single story from being written. It merely means 400,000 or so readers don't get Symington's spin.

Despite his criminal tendencies, Symington's most pernicious legacy will be his systematic dismantling of Arizona's public education system. It will take decades to rebuild it. Perhaps he will have been paroled by then.

Which brings us to Joe Arpaio, whose paranoia and egomania eclipse all of the above.

Fife ripped people off, destroyed livelihoods. Arpaio and his hezbollah jailers are actually destroying lives.

Where to start the catalogue of Joe Arpaio's prevarication?
With his ironclad pledge to seek only one term?
How about his vaunted citizens posses and the millions he claims they've saved the taxpayers? As Tony Ortega established last year, the posses are a huge drain on the Sheriff's Office, not to mention the bane of dedicated deputies.

How about the pink underwear? How many thousands of dollars in undie thefts has Joe prevented? Forty thousand dollars' worth of undies out the door during the first nine months of 1995, you say? When Ortega did the math, that translated into 21,000 pairs of undies, or more than 75 pairs a day. Why are we skeptical?

How about the sheriff's misspending of $122,419 in state Jail Enhancement Funds, money intended to develop jail facilities? He assured the public it would not pay for his tantrum lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors, then turned around and spent $39,350 from the JEF for a private lawyer to wage his quixotic legal crusade. Another $11,969 in JEF money went to a video service that dutifully records Arpaio's media circuses as they play out on TV newscasts. His criteria for which programs should be taped? "Whenever I talk." What Arpaio did with that money was a crime, but our attorney general and county attorney are far too timid to apply the law to Joe.

How about the nights the fearless Sheriff Joe spent in Tent City? He volunteered to one interviewer that he passed the night without any special protection. This despite the fact that a sheriff's SWAT team was summoned and staged nearby in case Joe's courage flagged. During a recent deposition in one of his torture lawsuits, the sheriff came perilously nigh to perjuring himself when he was asked about this episode. He said, "No," no special precautions were taken. Pressed further, under oath, he equivocated.

In a similar vein, how about the February 6 speech in which Arpaio joked about having his wife start his car every day, ostensibly because arch-criminals are constantly plotting to do him in? Arpaio mentioned bodyguards, and for some reason added, "I don't use any, period." Meanwhile, outside the front door, two armed sheriff's reserve officers kept vigil. "Sure, I'm guarding the sheriff," one said. "He's worried about the threats against him."

How about the time he told Tom Snyder he had saved Maricopa County taxpayers $100 million? Asked to explain himself--this was back when he couldn't resist New Times' queries--he told me that he hadn't demanded a new jail, which would cost $100 million, so there you have it. He also told Snyder's national TV audience that his policies deter crime, but admitted to me that he had no such evidence and doesn't plan to seek any.

How about the military policeman the sheriff befriended and gave a badge? He turned out to be an impostor who used his access to do searches on crime computers. He allegedly checked female inmates out of jail for special counseling sessions, during which, they say, he fondled them.

How about the innovative "Scared Stiff" program, which uses inmates to bury paupers at the county's potter's field? The Arizona Republic splashed it on page one, despite the fact that inmate labor had been used to bury paupers for years.

How about the alleged Asian gang member who was given a badge as a member of Arpaio's Executive Posse (see page 15)?

How about that pesky U.S. Justice Department, whose investigators found that Arpaio's jailers were violating the constitutional rights of inmates, that they had applied a stun gun to the testicles of one inmate and denied proper medical care to scores of others?

How about the inmates who've committed suicide in Joe's jails, including two within the space of a week? This after the Justice Department warned about dangerous housing for suicidal inmates.

How about the alleged child snatchers who are fighting extradition from Iceland to Arizona on the grounds that in Joe's jails, inmates suffer physical abuse, that such abuse is covered up, and that inmates are denied access to adequate medical care or legal services? They claim that the jails would violate Iceland's humanitarian standards of inhumane treatment -- and they are getting a hearing. Amnesty International, which specializes in monitoring brutal regimes and Third World despots, is taking an interest in Joe's jails.

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