Maricopa County Sheriff-Elect Penzone Brings in New Leaders for Ethics-Challenged Agency

Maricopa County Sheriff-elect Paul PenzoneEXPAND
Maricopa County Sheriff-elect Paul Penzone
Ray Stern

Paul Penzone, the sheriff-elect of Maricopa County, revealed plans on Tuesday for replacing the top leadership of the sheriff's office with his own team.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and two county supervisors, Denny Barney and Steve Gallardo, joined Penzone for the announcement at a news conference in the county office building at 301 West Jefferson Street in Phoenix. Penzone, a Democrat and retired Phoenix police officer, beat Republican Sheriff Joe Arpaio by a resounding 13 percentage points in last month's election, ending the six-term reign of the controversial politician.

Next month Arpaio leaves an office that — under his leadership for 24 years — gained a reputation for targeting political enemies with criminal investigations, treating jail inmates poorly, and creating an immigration-enforcement program that discriminated against Latinos. Two years ago, a judge installed a federal monitor at the office to deal with that last problem; Arpaio's lack of cooperation in the process resulted in a criminal misdemeanor charge against him last month for contempt of court.

None of Penzone's new team leaders are current or former employees of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. Not surprisingly, many of his choices are former Phoenix PD employees.

"We'll be working hard to renew relationships with the entire community," particularly those who were "disappointed" with the MCSO, he said.

"One of the most important decisions for me was their ethical commitment," Penzone said of his new team, adding that he hopes to "move the organization forward and make it a place of pride across the state."

Penzone's picks:

 Chief Deputy: Ben Henry. Henry is a retired PPD commander who recently headed up his former department's newly reinstated Tactical Review Committee. The panel analyzes police use-of-force incidents that, according to a September article in the Arizona Republic, are "lawful but awful."

"We’ve got to have the courage to confront [fellow police officers] and say, 'Man, what were you doing?'" Henry told reporter Megan Cassidy.

In his 25 years, Henry has worked everything from investigations to internal affairs and "possesses the unique ability to make those around him better," Penzone said.

Henry is also a former vice president of the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association.

 Chief of Staff: Stephanie Fleischman Cherny. Penzone said he created the new chief-of-staff position as a prime component of his effort to change culture at the MCSO. Cherny, a lawyer, will be responsible for the "long-term health of the agency," he said.

She's currently a high-ranking executive at eBay, handling legal compliance and anti-corruption work. Her husband, Andrei Cherny, is a former speechwriter for Al Gore who ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer in 2010 against Doug Ducey, who's now the governor.

Penzone called her an expert in ethics and government investigations who will work with Henry to implement the federal court mandates and "hold us accountable."

 Assistant Chief: Matt Giordano. A former PPD officer, Giordano helped create the Phoenix agency's first full-time Crisis Intervention Team, which employs a sergeant and six officers specially trained to deal with mentally ill people. In a recent video about why he's enrolled in a Valley Leadership class, he talks about the importance of police "fostering relationships" with the community it serves. Giordano will provide oversight and management of patrol and investigative resources, Penzone said.

Director of Public Information: Mark Casey. A 39-year veteran of TV journalism, Casey is the former news director and station manager for Channel 12 (KPNX-TV).

 Community Affairs Captain: Ken Mentzer. Mentzer is a former PPD officer.

* Director of Community Relations and Outreach: James "J.C." Collins. A former PPD officer, Collins serves on the African American Education Action Committee and on the Arizona Department of Education's Culturally Inclusive Committee.

 Community Outreach Officer: Ron Gomez. New Times writer Stephen Lemons detailed how Gomez, a former PPD officer and past president of the Arizona National Latino Peace Officers Association, left the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association in 2011 after souring on former PLEA president Mark Spencer's incessant anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Director Drug Education, Prevention and Initiatives: Shannon Scheel. Scheel is a retired U.S. Drug Enforcement agent.

Asked which team member would be in charge of financial matters, Penzone said Lee Ann Bohn, MCSO's current chief of administration, would be his chief financial officer. Bohn "does an exceptional job," Penzone said.

The sheriff-elect said he will begin an audit upon taking office, in order to better understand how the agency spends money and identify possible cost savings.

"It will take some time — it's a large budget with a lot of working parts, but it's a top priority for me," he said.

He promised "mutual accountability" with young men and women in the community who may have felt alienated by Arpaio's office. People who commit crimes will be held accountable, but so will deputies who commit wrongs, he said.

Penzone made no other major policy announcements on Tuesday. He has made no decision to terminate any employee, he said — although many longtime MCSO employees are merit-protected, making it difficult to fire them without solid justification.


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