The world's pettiest law enforcement duo is at it again. Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas have socked Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley with 118 felony counts for — gasp! — failing to fill out paperwork properly.

I'm not exaggerating. The 39-page indictment issued against Stapley last week is full of serious-sounding allegations: perjury, forgery, false swearing. But here's what it comes down to. Stapley listed his real estate investment company on financial disclosure forms with the county. But, for fourteen years, he failed to list the company's holdings.

That's it.

Don Stapley supported Sheriff Joe's agenda for years. Now he's the latest victim of his tactics.
Don Stapley supported Sheriff Joe's agenda for years. Now he's the latest victim of his tactics.

There is no suggestion in the indictment that Stapley used his position to enhance the value of the property. Nor does it appear that he actively sought to hide his assets. Stapley repeatedly listed his partial ownership of a company called Arroyo Pacific — and that company, records show, was the owner of the majority of properties in question. Any doofus with minimal knowledge of the county recorder's office could easily track the company's holdings.

Which, of course, is not the case when it comes to the real estate dealings of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Seven years ago, as my former colleague John Dougherty first reported, Arpaio obtained a court order to purge his real estate records from county files. Arizona law allows judges, cops, and prosecutors to petition the court to keep their home addresses and telephone numbers out of county records.

But Arpaio used the law to hide records of his commercial dealings, too. You want to know how much he paid for a pair of strip malls, or who loaned him the money to do it? Good luck. Dougherty was only able to report a few minimum details of the sheriff's activities — for example, that Arpaio plunked down $440,000 in cash for a piece of property in Fountain Hills — because a few files had accidentally escaped deletion.

As loyal readers will remember, it was Dougherty's push to learn more about the properties in question that triggered the sheriff's attempt to prosecute him, and this newspaper. (We had the temerity to point out that the sheriff's address was all over various county records, so why the secrecy regarding the commercial stuff?)

So. Arpaio brazenly manipulated the law to hide his own investments. "These aren't things that are bought by county money," his flack later told KTAR, trying to justify the secrecy. "This is personal, personal money."

But when Stapley failed to disclosure his "personal, personal" business dealings on a county form, Arpaio and Thomas nailed him with 118 felonies?

This has gone beyond irony.

This is insanity.

On some level, Stapley has only himself to blame. Financial disclosure forms are mandatory for a reason: We, the public, need a way to keep tabs on our politicians' potential conflicts. Full and complete disclosure of all assets, whether owned by a guy like Stapley or a business under his control, is the best way to facilitate that.

But, as Robert Robb pointed out in the Arizona Republic on Sunday, the Legislature has enacted a very specific penalty for public officials who don't fill out the forms, or (like Stapley) do so incompletely.

It's a first-degree misdemeanor.

After looking closely at the indictment, Stapley's forms and other public records, that sounds just about right in this case. As best I can tell, Stapley's failures are a case of sloppiness more than willful concealment.

Take, for example, a limited liability company called Mariposa Pacific LLC. Arpaio and Thomas socked Stapley with 13 felonies for failing to report his interest in the company on financial disclosure forms from 2001 to 2004.

But it's not like Stapley was trying to hide it. In a personal disclosure statement he filed with the county recorder in 2000, he listed Mariposa Pacific. He just failed to include it in a slightly different set of forms filed with the clerk of the board of supervisors.

Or take another limited liability company, Galleria III. Stapley is charged with four felony counts for failing to disclose his membership in the company in 1997. But Stapley clearly wasn't attempting to hide the company's existence — just months before, he and his partners had discussed their new venture, and its plans to rehab the Scottsdale Galleria, in a puff piece that ran in the Phoenix Business Journal.

At their press conference last week, Arpaio and Thomas suggested that Stapley was hiding his real estate dealings because he didn't want to be associated with Conley Wolfswinkel. Wolfswinkel, it's fair to say, is a lousy bedfellow for any ambitious politician: Convicted of bank fraud in 1993 in the wake of the savings & loan scandal, his name is invariably preceded by "the notorious" in newspaper stories, even today.

But Thomas' suggestion that Stapley was trying to hide his association with Wolfswinkel simply doesn't hold water.

The Wolfswinkels are part of the same old East Valley crowd as the Stapleys. They are not persona non grata, as much as we journalists may wish it.

Just look at that story in the Phoenix Business Journal. It clearly discusses the fact that Stapley and Conley Wolfswinkel were partners in the Scottsdale Galleria venture.

Anybody who wanted to connect the aging ex-con to Stapley didn't need to put in a public records request for Stapley's disclosure form.

They only had to put the two names into Google.

Beyond those easy examples, the indictment is simply loaded with overkill. Stapley's Arroyo Pacific company owned a few commercial lots in downtown Mesa even before he ran for supervisor. He failed to disclose them for all ten years they were under his company's control — a decision that netted him 40 felony counts. Forty!

The indictment even dings Stapley with a pair of felonies for failing to disclose that he'd joined the county's deferred compensation plan.

So, yes, Stapley was sloppy. But sloppiness isn't the only reason he's in this jam. The bigger problem, I think, is that Stapley helped create a monster.

For years, he and the other Maricopa County supervisors have allowed Joe Arpaio to run amok. Even though every limited audit of Arpaio's operations has found serious problems, the supes have never called for a full audit of the sheriff's office. They don't seem to care that Arpaio's overpaid henchmen are cavorting on company time in Honduras — and that every reason proffered for the trip has been effectively disproven. Or that I reported last year that the sheriff has been using jail enhancement funds — which, under state law, are supposed to be used to better jail conditions — on stuff like news clipping services and Photoshop classes for his employees, despite a report from the state auditor general years ago specifically telling Arpaio such expenses are verboten (see "Money Shot," December 27, 2007). Not a single supervisor bothered to follow up.

And that's kids' stuff compared to the shenanigans at Arpaio's jails. We're now at $43 million and counting in insurance payouts and settlements. The supervisors don't even bother pretending that they care. Go figure: When U.S. District Judge Neil Wake found recently that Arpaio's jails don't meet constitutional standards, the supervisors' staffers actually tried to spin the verdict as a victory for Arpaio. (Never mind that the supervisors have decided to appeal.)

Meanwhile, the sheriff's highly-publicized "investigations" keep leading nowhere. I'm talking about Russell Jones, the state representative from Yuma who was charged with nine felonies for signing as the "circulator" on his campaign petitions when he wasn't physically present to witness their signatures. The petitions in question had already been thrown out under a civil suit. And the Arizona Supreme Court had already ruled, as part of the civil suit, that Jones' actions did not rise to the level of petition forgery.

Still, Thomas and Arpaio spent months investigating the case — and managed to find a way to charge the Yuma-based legislator in Maricopa County. Wouldn't you think this county has enough real criminals to catch?

The Jones fiasco was the first case brought by Thomas and Arpaio's much-vaunted anti-corruption task force. A superior court judge, wisely, tossed out the entire indictment.

And then there's former Maricopa County School Superintendent Sandra Dowling. This one we can't blame on Thomas; Attorney General Terry Goddard was originally at the helm, only to pass the case off to the U.S. Attorney when Arpaio started investigating him.

But it was Arpaio-style tactics all the way. A highly publicized investigation resulted in a 27-count indictment — only to end with prosecutors dropping every single charge when Dowling agreed to plead to a single misdemeanor. The misdemeanor, a charge that she hired her daughter ten years ago, wasn't even in the original indictment. Dowling's attorney, Craig Mehrens, tells me that he had to volunteer the information just to find some charge that she could plead guilty to.

"The U.S. Attorney said, 'We've got to have something,'" Mehrens recalls. "I couldn't see anything in all the charges the sheriff had. So I said, 'I'll tell you something you don't even know she did ten years ago.' We had to waive the statute of limitations!"

This newspaper has never been a fan of Dowling. She was a sanctimonious publicity whore who used homeless children to make a name for herself — even as she failed to give them a decent education. But she isn't a crook.

And, frankly, I feel kind of the same way about Don Stapley. He's never once been willing to take my call; like Arpaio, he was the subject of some pretty intense reporting by my old colleague, John Dougherty. I don't think he's ever forgiven us.

Indeed, Stapley is the guy who carried the water for Arpaio and Thomas when the duo sought to have Thomas' old boss, Dennis Wilenchik, appointed special prosecutor to investigate New Times. That action ended with this newspaper's owners, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, hauled off in handcuffs. Stapley, clearly, is no fan of ours.

But that doesn't matter, not now. What matters is that people in this county are routinely being charged with a fleet of felonies when a misdemeanor or two would do. What matters is that Arpaio and Thomas are out of control.

And what I'm betting is that Don Stapley finally realizes it, too.

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If this paper looked into it I think they would find both officials named in this story violated their oath of office. Once they failed to file the require oath of office with in the prescribed time limits.


People need to visit the New York Times blog The Board and read the editors "worst sheriff". Now that Arpaio has gone nationwide on Fox Reality, then others from out of state (outside of the AZ rat's nest) can now weigh in. Arizona should be ashamed of this abuse of power by a sheriff and his enabler, the county attorney a. thomas.


when all said and done watch the number of indickments go from over a 100 to maybe one, hired his relative---like the sandra dowling case, abuse of power those who have the power to stop this nutsyness do nothing, shame on them, get out if you cant run these two slugs in jail. joker and thom ass

State of Fear AZ
State of Fear AZ

to JM from AZ, you better pay attention to what is going on in Maricopa County because these 24/7 grandstanders, power abusers are knocking off their competition so they have a clear shot to a Governor position and controlling your life, rights and property, also! You need to help spread the word because these policies are going nationwide with the Governor head of the one of the largest budgets in our nation. AZ is in a serious financial crisis, it's a mass industrial prison complex with a mass industrial border complex growing to become our next Iraq. It's time people get informed. The Phoenix New Times and their courageous reporters are fighting for justice and to get the truth out.

Go into the library of Phoenix New Times archives -- search some of the names in power and take the time to read what they write. This is NOT "sound byte" journalism that the public is fed with 24/7, but true investigative work.


Interesting article, very well written. The rest of us in Arizona (not Maricopa County) are glad we dont have to deal with Sheriff A and his blowhard ways. Shoot, at least in some of the other counties we actually try to prevent crime versus getting in the News constantly.

Thank you New Times, keep reporting. And Sheriff A hope you get yours soon!

Tom Bearup
Tom Bearup

I have heard all of these stories in the past and know all of the players. I have called for years to have a full audit of the MCSO as well as pink short funds but nobody has the guts to do it all because the BOS are afraid of Joe and him suing them again.

Joe has attempted to destroy my family and me with all kinds of lies. Our son is on Death Row in Arizona for a crime that he didn't commit while the murders that placed him at the scene of a murder all made a plea agreement for second degree with the side kick of the sheriff. The judge even stated in his minute entries, "That justice was not done in Patrick Bearup's case." The country attorney even brought in a contract attorney to prosecute Patrick for one case.

In addition, our church phones were tapped and my family was under surveillance. A good use of taxpayer's money. Our bank records were also looked at to see where we would have the money to run against him.

Was all of this payback because I had the guts to run against Arpaio twice?

I hope and pray that someone comes in to investigate the sheriff's office including Joe, David and the many others that continue to cover-up crimes within the MCSO.

Rick Romley would not put up with this but Joe now has Andrew Thomas to do the dirty work for him.

Yep, the citizens of Maricopa County will have to pay the bill when the truth comes out.


so joker arpaio can have his brother in law run the concession stands and Andy dandyless wifes stupid brother work for the county attorneys office and sandra dowling gets a sqat team for having her daughter work part time. What is wrong with this picture? We need a full investigation, and get these crooks out of office.


so joker arpaio can have his brother in law run the concession stands and Andy dandyless wifes stupid brother work for the county attorneys office and sandra dowling gets a squat team for having her daughter work part time. What is wrong with this picture? We need a full investigation, and get these crooks out of office.

Jim Cozzolino
Jim Cozzolino

Don't count of the FBI, they have proved to be nothing but worthless.

The meaning of FBI needs to be changed to Federal Bureau of Ineptness.

Maybe it's time for a revolution to wake these Political slimeballs up.


excerpt that says it all: "What matters is that people in this county are routinely being charged with a fleet of felonies when a misdemeanor or two would do.

What matters is that Arpaio and Thomas are out of control."

FBI and DOJ where are you?

Concerned Citizen and Taxpayer
Concerned Citizen and Taxpayer

And these elected officials destroyed Sandra Dowlings life, career and future and that of her family with the dramatic helicopter and tens of sheriffs special forces team to take her down in one night??? As we all sat in horror watching her journey through hell in Maricopa County, Arizona. Ends with a violation of her daughter working part-time in the summer. Disgraceful abuse of power by a MCSO Arpaio, MCBOS Stapley, and MCAO County Attorney Thomas -- daily grandstanders at the podium, on their "high-profile" targets.

Where's Arpaio and Thomas on the arrests of the "high-profile" Skinsheads who have terrorized the community, state, jails and prisons?? Investigate that!


Sarah, once again, outstanding and courageous story which makes Illinois look like Corruption 101. Frank Grant and Fitzgerald, where the hell are you when we need you?

The arrogance and abuse of power by these Maricopa County elected officials, who grandstand daily, fight costly legal battles against one another is breathtakingly disgusting. And those who voted these criminals into power are complicit in the demise of our community and justice system.

Those courageous people, who attended the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, who picketed and cried out to cut the Thomas and Arpaio advertising budget and get rid of the leases in the "premier" luxury Wells Fargo Bank building (Penthouse offices in the sky overlooking their minions (who pay for it) and were ignored, and Thomas and Arpaio's budgets approved. Shockingly awful.

This sounds like a "war game" -- now Thomas and Arpaio take great pleasure in turning like a snake on Stapley (presumed innocent until found guilty), It raises questions about how many officials (in high places) have been silenced until Thomas/Arpaio get their vote and then turn on them like a snake.

Comment from above says it all: "Before Thomas and Arpaio start accusing others of finanical malfeasance, a FULL and complete audit of MCSO should occur, and that includes the jail commissary funds...anything less is unprecedented hypocracy."

Jim Cozzolino
Jim Cozzolino

I think it's a great thing that Stapley finally gets a taste of he and his fellow Board of Stupidvisors have allowed to happen to so many others by Bozo Joke Arpaio...

Karma's a bitch, isn't it Stapley....

david saint
david saint

Dead on point about Arpaio HIMSELF doing the same thing they are charging Stapely for. Im surprised thngs like the jail commissary contract hasnt gotten more media scrutiny, considering joes brother in law owns the company that it contracts with. And if i recall correctly thats what Dougherty was trying to bring more attention to, that all that money seems to be kept secret with no one able to review these books. Last time i checked, not only is it a conflict of interest, but how do we not know that arpaio isnt just splitting the profits with him?...Cause his 400k a year PR team and he says so, lol? When all the items they sell are donated as tax write offs, whos to say how much money has been made? What are they using it on? Is there enough to open the VITAL sattellite jails in the outlining communities? Or did it get spent on Honduras trips, campaign donations (SCA ??), and personal financial investments? Before thomas and arpaio start accusing others of finanical malfeasance, a FULL and complete audit of MCSO should occur, and that includes the jail commissary funds...anything less is unprecedented hypocracy.


again the only place to get the real story is the Phoenix New times, great article. Seeing this on TV sounded like wow , this guy did al this, nope just the partners in crime at it again. Who's doing their jobs while their playing around costing taxpayers a ton of money.Full investigation warranted!

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