Doubting Thomas

Tom Bearup helped elect Joe Arpaio and mold the myth of "America's Toughest Sheriff." Now the former executive in the Sheriff's Office is convinced he was wrong.

Hentoff: "Was money missing?"
Bearup: "Nobody knows. . . . Nobody knows if there was money missing. All I wanted to have was an accounting."

Hentoff: "Did you ever receive an accounting?"
Bearup: "Oh, no. . . ."
Hentoff: "What was his response when you brought this to his attention the second time?"

Bearup: "He was angry. He told me that I was just jealous of Dave Hendershott. . . ."

Arpaio may regret dismissing those concerns. If large sums of money were placed in Hendershott's control with little or no accounting--the money has since been transferred to the Posse Foundation, which claims to keep a complete accounting of it--Arpaio could come under question for what he knew about Hendershott's own financial history.

At that time--late 1995 and early 1996--Hendershott faced state and federal liens of $69,766 for failure to pay taxes over a six-year period. In March 1996, he managed to pay off the state liens when he refinanced his house. He still owes the federal taxes, which total $54,851. One of Hendershott's creditors won a $19,000 judgment against him when he failed to appear in court. This year, Hendershott filed bankruptcy for the second time in 10 years.

Yet despite that history, Hendershott was entrusted with large amounts of cash that passed through no known accounting.

Allen Wilson, presently the Posse Foundation's statutory agent and a CPA by trade, admits that money-handling was lax in the early months of the pink-shorts trade. He claims that a better system is now being followed. The Foundation was sufficiently concerned about the earlier cash flow, however, that an audit was recently carried out. Despite the assurances of Foundation board member Jim Irvin and Executive Posse commander Marvin Weide that the audit accounted for every last dollar, Wilson admits that that's not the case.

"The [Foundation's] board all along has known that the cash situation at the beginning was hard to account for," Wilson says. But could there be tens of thousands of dollars missing, as some deputies have suggested? "It didn't happen," Wilson replies.

"A few thousand? It could have," he admits.
And now, the concern by deputies has apparently spread beyond the Sheriff's Office.

New Times asked Bearup whether he's been contacted by a law enforcement agency which is asking questions about missing posse money.

"Yes," he replies.

Hentoff quizzed Bearup at length about the environment in Maricopa County's Sheriff's Office. The picture that emerges is a bizarre one.

There was the simple matter of Bearup's job title, for example.
After helping to run Arpaio's 1992 campaign for sheriff, Bearup was rewarded with a job as one of five "executive officers." The job paid $39,000. Soon, however, Bearup proved to be an asset to Arpaio smoothing over minor emergencies, and Arpaio promoted Bearup to chief of his executive officers.

Then, Bearup says, someone must have pointed out to Arpaio that as "chief executive officer," Bearup's title made it sound like he ran the place. At least that's the only explanation Bearup can come up with for the angry phone call he received over the July 4 weekend in 1995. Bearup took the call on his cellular phone as he and some members of his family were shopping.

Hentoff: "What was he irate about?"
Bearup: "I can't recall other than my title, and he's the one that gave me the title. I didn't ask for it. I didn't go out to get it. I was working just because I was loyal to the job I had to do."

Hentoff: "Did you find it peculiar that he was calling you up and screaming at you about your title?"

Bearup: "Yeah."
Hentoff: "Was he yelling at you?"
Bearup: "He was screaming. In fact, he was screaming so loud, I was on the cellular phone, and my wife and the general manager of Sam's Club was standing close by with my children. They could hear his conversation."

Hentoff: "And the sole reason he was screaming at you was because you had a title that he didn't like?"

Bearup: "That seemed to be the gist of it. . . . He explained to me that people would think that I'm running the show, and that CEO sounds like that I'm higher than the sheriff. And I said, 'Sheriff, there is nobody in this world that doesn't know that you run your camp,' and . . ."

Metcalf: "I'm just getting confused. What is the question?"
Metcalf would interrupt constantly to object to Hentoff's questions, a common tactic in depositions. But her interruptions didn't seem to stanch the flow of Bearup's confessions.

New Times asked to speak with Arpaio about Bearup's testimony, but he did not return calls. His spokeswoman Lisa Allen says that she has read the transcripts of Bearup's testimony and finds nothing in them that she would characterize as significant admissions. She also called Bearup's credibility into question, particularly after the New Times story about his firing at HUD.

"The sheriff is not going to answer allegations by a disgruntled employee. The truth will come out in the hearing," she says. (The Josephson matter is actually moving toward a trial.)

In his testimony and later discussions with New Times, Bearup describes an environment ruled by fear, where Arpaio relied on David Hendershott to be his enforcer as the sheriff himself spent almost his entire time on public relations.

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