Newly released records show a top Arpaio official was convinced her superiors had bugged her office.
County observers may recall that Arpaio and his go-to guy, former Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott, wanted County Supervisor Andy Kunasek prosecuted for sweeping county offices for listening devices, claiming Kunasek had wasted taxapayer money.
Yet these same lawmen were apparently eavesdropping on their own chief financial officer, the now-retired Loretta Barkell.
Her account of the matter implies that she had long suspected as much. Then, in late 2010, came her "confirmation."
About a week after giving some advice in her office to Deputy Chief Frank Munnelll, the man who blew the whistle on corruption in the upper echelons of the department, she found herself called in for a meeting with Arpaio, Hendershott, and MCSO legal counsel Jack MacIntyre.
During an investigation of Munnell's allegations, Barkell related how Hendershott -- in front of Arpaio and MacIntyre -- proceeded to "ream me up one side and down the other."
Here's the part that caught our attention:
Um, and this was the first time that I actually had confirmation that my office was bugged. Because [Hendershott] repeated back to me exactly a sentence I had said to Frank. And that he was meeting with me under advice of counsel to let me know what I had done was wrong and that I had betrayed the sheriff. I said I didn't see it that way. I had an employee ask me a question as the person over HR and I informed that employee of their rights.
Hendershott was "kind of frothing" as he spouted off, while Arpaio "said nothing," according to Barkell. MacIntyre, meanwhile, "tried to interject and [Hendershott] cut him off."
The internal investigation of Arpaio's command staff, conducted at Arpaio's request by political ally Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, scapegoated Hendershott for much of the unethical behavior and potential crimes found to have occurred on Arpaio's watch.
Arpaio fired Hendershott and another top aide, Larry Black, after Babeu's report was released in May, then graciously allowed them to resign.
After Barkell retired, she made headlines in May when she announced how she'd told the sheriff that his office was using a voter-approved jail-tax fund illegally but did nothing. County Supervisors believe about $100 million was misspent and over the summer launched plans to ensure oversight of the fund.
UPDATE: Just got off the phone with MacIntyre.
He has no reason to think Barkell's office was bugged, he says, although he'd heard that she'd suspected it was.
He'd had many conversations with her in her office about various problems, he says, and she had always seemed "forthcoming" -- which he wouldn't expect if she thought someone was listening.
MacIntyre remembers being pulled in to the impromptu meeting by Hendershott, who said he needed MacIntyre as a "witness."
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"He was pretty much yelling at Loretta, and I had no idea what was going on," he says.
As he recalls, Barkell had told Deputy Chief Ray Churay about her conversation with Munnell, and that's where Hendershott had heard about it.
We couldn't reach Barkell for more info.