Bill Montgomery, a potential candidate for Maricopa County Attorney backed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, disparaged the sheriff in an hour-long talk with County Supervisor Don Stapley, a county official says.
The whole thing was caught on tape without Montgomery's knowledge. County officials plan to release a digital version to the media later this afternoon or tomorrow.
We haven't heard it yet. But the woman who made the tape, Susan Schuerman, Stapley's executive assistant, tells us that Montgomery alludes to problems with Arpaio's mental health.
Montgomery, who resigned from his job as a deputy county attorney last week, has launched an exploratory committee for county attorney. In a recent fundraising letter, Sheriff Arpaio urges his supporters to give generously to Montgomery's campaign, and pledges to do everything he can to help the man get elected.
Yet Schuerman tells how, while interviewing with Stapley for the interim county attorney job earlier this month, Montgomery chatted about meeting Arpaio the week before.
Montgomery said he had "felt a little bit like he was in a nursing home," says Schuerman.
During the course of the session with Arpaio, Montgomery reportedly explained on the tape, he was talking about his position on the county's internecine legal troubles when the sheriff suddenly changed subjects "and started talking about a Valentine's Day party."
Montgomery then related how an "aide" popped in at the door to Arpaio's office and said, "Oh, sheriff, are you telling Valentine's Day stories again?" according to Schuerman.
Montgomery continued on the same tack, Schuerman says, telling how Arpaio spoke "15 minutes too long" during a 20-minute speech at a legislative district meeting in Fountain Hills.
Montgomery made several other less-than-flattering statements about the sheriff, she says.
Schuerman says she and Stapley came away from the meeting with Montgomery thinking that Montgomery would not form an alliance with Arpaio as former County Attorney Andrew Thomas had.
Stapley and three other members of the Board Supervisors ultimately voted to give Rick Romley the interim job, not Montgomery.
But now Montgomery is running for the office against Romley, and he's turned to Arpaio for support.
In a recent fundraising letter sent out by Montgomery's exploratory committee, Arpaio urges people to give generously to the candidate's campaign.
"Romley's election to this office would be one of the biggest tragedies for the future of our state," Arpaio writes in the letter. "Bill Montgomery needs your help now. I've pledge to him my unwavering support..."
Schuerman says Stapley agreed to the surreptitious recording of Montgomery, (which is legal under state law), because Montgomery was still working for Thomas at the time.
Stapley's staff felt that, even though they had no reason to distrust Montgomery, the recording would help protect the supervisor's words from getting misconstrued -- and possibly used against Stapley for yet another investigation, Schuerman says.
That makes sense. But the pending release of this tape by Stapley's office -- the scene of drama in the last few years that included a raid by sheriff's deputy -- seems tinged by a need to give Arpaio some payback.
We reached Montgomery yesterday after first getting wind of the tape.
Montgomery says the comments supposedly attributed to him on the tape are taken out of context, that he never talked trash about the sheriff.
"I said he was feeling under the weather, that he had the flu," Montgomery says.
The allegation that he dissed the sheriff is just more proof of the animosity between county officials that he hopes to smooth out, Montgomery says.
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We'll get back to you -- and Montgomery -- with an update after we hear the tape.
Click here for update and copy of the recording.