Pariah Joe

Dan Saban turns over materials to the FBI showing alleged improprieties by Arpaio and the MCSO.

Let's face it, Joe Arpaio's going to win re-election November 2 to his fourth term as Maricopa County sheriff. He has no serious opposition.

But that doesn't mean a legal tornado isn't swirling around the self-proclaimed " toughest sheriff in America," who's more aptly the meanest/dumbest sheriff in America. Only time will tell whether that storm will be powerful enough to blow him out of his 19th-floor office in the Wells Fargo tower in downtown Phoenix.

Retired Mesa police department commander Dan Saban -- whose spirited Republican primary campaign revealed Arpaio's vulnerability -- intends to keep the pressure on Outlaw Joe.

Joe Arpaio will coast to victory Nov. 2, but powerful people are watching his activities.
Jackie Mercandetti
Joe Arpaio will coast to victory Nov. 2, but powerful people are watching his activities.
Senator John McCain's considering Saban for U.S. Marshal.
Senator John McCain's considering Saban for U.S. Marshal.

Saban gave Arpaio the closest race in his 12-year tenure. In February, a poll showed Joe with more than 70 percent of Republicans on his side. In September, he won only 57 percent of Independents and Republicans voting in the primary.

Saban, 48, vows to run against Outlaw Joe in 2008 -- if the 72-year-old Arpaio lasts out his next term. Meantime, Saban is doing everything he can to get prosecutors to take a close look at Arpaio's Shawshank operation, hoping against hope that they can find enough to ruin his political nemesis.

"This guy needs to be taken before a grand jury," Saban tells me. "There are serious legal questions that need to be answered because he is manipulating the system using our tax dollars."

Saban has taken his plea for a criminal investigation of Arpaio to the state Attorney General's Office and to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. But neither decided to investigate the vindictive sheriff, despite receiving compelling evidence worth presenting to a grand jury.

"I'm disappointed that they are not willing to investigate," Saban says of Terry Goddard's and Rick Romley's offices. "But it isn't over because we have taken it to another authority. So we will see what they do."

That other authority is the Federal Bureau of Investigation's public corruption unit. It's clear from a conversation I had with an FBI official here that the agency is interested in the information Saban, and others, have presented concerning Arpaio. At this point, however, it's too early to tell whether a full federal investigation will result.

There are three sets of allegations against the sheriff's office that Saban has turned over to the FBI, two of which I have agreed not to divulge at this time. But one involves a leak to a TV station by Arpaio's office that Saban sexually assaulted his foster mother, when it was the foster mother, according to Saban, who assaulted him when he was a young teen-ager.

Leave it to a public servant like Joe to exploit a teenage sexual-assault victim to further his own political agenda and to attempt to punish an enemy.

"If Arpaio's willing to do this to me," Saban says, "he's willing to do this to anybody."

Don't expect to hear about whatever does or doesn't happen with the federal inquiry in the daily press. Most of the broadcast media unfortunately looks to the Arizona Republic to set the agenda for what's news in this town, and the state's largest daily steadfastly refuses to fulfill its public duty when it comes to Sheriff Geezer and his goons.

The gutless Republic would rather snuggle up to Arpaio than actually do in-your-face, confrontational reporting on the possible financial irregularities swirling around Arpaio, not to mention the deadly atrocities in his jails.

Even worse news for the egomaniacal sheriff is that he is now widely considered a huge political liability. You didn't see Arpaio hanging out with Dubya during the recent debates at ASU, did you?

It was Senator John McCain who covered the president's flank, not Outlaw Joe, who likes to brag that he is the president's main man in Phoenix. Not anymore. Not after all the bad press Joe's gotten during the last few months from New Times -- that wound up getting McCain's attention and the Bush administration's.

"You can see that things have started to move around Joe. He hasn't been a player, he hasn't been involved in photo ops with the president or any of the players in town," says Fred Taylor, state chairman of the African American Republicans Committee.

Taylor says he's been bombarding Bush's political advisers, including Karl Rove, with New Times' reports detailing Arpaio's serious problems.

The president's avoidance of Arpaio, Taylor says, "tells me that the information I'm shooting back east took hold."

As Arpaio's star continues to fade with GOP bigwigs, look for the sheriff to conduct police operations that will generate headlines -- like the unfolding heroin ring arrests in Scottsdale that Arpaio says includes students buying drugs on high school campuses. If this operation's anything like the big prostitution bust by the sheriff's goobers, these arrests will probably get thrown out, too, because of unbelievable MCSO stupidity.

Such, um, high-profile cases only mask Arpaio's embarrassing inability to hire the nearly 1,000 detention officers he needs to safely open and operate new jails in downtown Phoenix and at the Durango complex. Taxpayers have spent more than $500 million to get the jails built, but now they can't open because not enough qualified guards wants to work for a nutcase like Arpaio.

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