By New Times
By Connor Radnovich
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Ray Stern
By Keegan Hamilton
By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
A week later, on December 9, Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe was charged with bribery, among other things, yet Thomas never produced evidence that such a crime had occurred. Arpaio and Thomas' critics suspected something more sinister — that Thomas had used the charges against Donahoe to stop a hearing the judge had planned for that afternoon. The hearing concerned Thomas' plan to hire special prosecutors to aid Arpaio's MACE investigations.
A MACE deputy told an investigator with the State Bar that, according to Hendershott, it was Arpaio's idea to charge the judge. The revelation is contained in the bar's findings that Thomas and Aubuchon acted unethically in the MACE cases and, in the Donahoe matter, had no legal basis for the charges against the judge.
All the charges fell apart in the next two years: The Wilcox and Donahoe cases were tossed by a Tucson judge in February 2010, following Polk's testimony about the outrageous behavior she had witnessed on the parts of Arpaio and Thomas.
The RICO suit later was withdrawn by Arpaio and Thomas. Just this month, Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores declined to prosecute the one case that was hanging by a thread, the fraud case against Stapley.
Flores wrote in a 47-page briefing sent to current County Attorney Bill Montgomery that the actions of Arpaio's office were "egregious."
She clarified her position recently to New Times, saying that if Arpaio ordered the arrest of Stapley (which he did, according to Arpaio), then the sheriff himself committed an "egregious" act.
Aubuchon will appear with Thomas this fall for the scheduled hearings by the State Bar's discipline judge regarding whether the pair will lose their law licenses over all this.
Methods for the wide-ranging, trumped-up criminal investigations against Maricopa County leaders included spreading fear and intimidation among their employees.
Deputies were sent to the homes of dozens of county workers during 2009, supposedly to gather information for the investigations. The move turned out to be a major blunder by Arpaio.
Some county employees took notes on who had visited them. County officials, apparently believing the best defense was a good offense, compared the names of the deputies with county payroll information. They discovered that some of the deputies bothering employees had been paid by a fund set up by voters in 1998 and, then, extended by them in 2002.
In a publicity pamphlet for the 2002 election, Arpaio blathered about the need for the one-fifth-cent addition to sales tax that would supply this fund for the following 20 years.
"While I am reluctant to further burden taxpayers, morally and ethically, I feel I must support this tax extension [to maintain and improve county jails]," Arpaio stated in 2002. "Extending the jail tax makes good sense for the future of this county."
Arpaio's office illegally dipped into the fund time and again over the past decade to finance deputy salaries that the MCSO's budget wouldn't otherwise have covered.
Arpaio assigned many, if not most, of the improperly funded deputies to his pet projects: a human-smuggling task force, a separate unit to help comply with a law that denies bail to illegal immigrants, and the now-discredited MACE unit.
The extra millions allowed a no-holds-barred approach to MACE investigations, which demanded obscene amounts of time by the office. In one particularly flagrant example, 13 deputies were assigned to sift through more than 120,000 of Supervisor Wilcox's e-mails in a fishing expedition for criminal activity. Nothing was discovered in the e-mails, but each deputy racked up about $12,000 in overtime, the Babeu report details.
To hide what it was up to, the MCSO employed an elaborate shell game, county officials say, that made it difficult for county auditors to discern what was going on.
For example, a deputy would be assigned to transport inmates to court for a few days, explains county spokeswoman Cari Gerchick, and then be assigned to help investigate an alleged crime against one of Arpaio's enemies. The former would be a legitimate use of the jail-tax fund, but not the latter.
Arpaio's office doesn't dispute the estimate that $99.5 million was misspent, Gerchick says.
The big question — how much Arpaio knew about this misspending — was answered recently by his retired CFO, Loretta Barkell.
Barkell, in a recent TV interview, said she was tired of hearing from her former boss that others were to blame. Arpaio, not just his underlings, was involved directly in "decisions on where to place personnel" and was told "several times a year" that he was using the jail-tax fund illegally.
"The sheriff waved his hand and said he was not allowing the bean counters to manage his operations," Barkell said. She didn't return phone calls from New Times for this article.
Arpaio responded by basically calling Barkell a liar, denying she had brought up the issue at all until county officials discovered the discrepancies. He bragged that she has no documentation to back up her claim about what he knew.
But how could the sheriff not have been aware? She is referring to nearly $100 million.
To get its hands on the detention-fund money, Gerchick says, Arpaio's office had to ask the county to release what he needed each year. The Sheriff's Office always justified the request by stating officially that the money would be used for jail-related purposes, she says.