Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and County Supervisor Pete Rios Exchange Political Barbs; Supervisor Renews Call for Sheriff to Resign
Pinal County Supervisor Pete Rios has been calling for embattled Sheriff Paul Babeu to step down from his post as the county's top cop.
In the past few weeks, several individuals have lodged allegations against Babeu that he abused his power, was complicit in the abusive conditions at the DeSisto School in Massachusetts, which he ran for three years, and was romantically involved with a 17-year-old boy who attended that private boarding school for troubled teens.
Jose Orozco, a Mexican national and Babeu's ex-boyfriend, also has filed a $1 million claim against Pinal County and its sheriff, over allegations that Babeu abused his power and violated Ozoco's civil rights.
Babeu also has been scrutinized for wasting taxpayer dollars on frivolous items, such as centennial badges and a trip to St. Lois for more than two dozen personnel from the Pinal County Sheriff's Office to witness him receiving an award and for using the county website to promote his Congressional campaign.
"It is time Sheriff Babeu open up his eyes and see the damage he has done to the office and the dedicated staff he has under his command," Rios said in a letter to the editor he wrote earlier this week. "It's time for the Sheriff to consider the best option and that is to resign immediately so the people of Pinal County can have a law enforcement leader that cares about enforcing the law, not constant campaigning and more recently, doing personal damage control."
Babeu launched a counterattack against Supervisor Rios, claiming that the chairman of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors "spreads misinformation."
The sheriff, attempting to discredit Rios, says Rios has "a past history which shows hostility toward law enforcement." To bolster his claims, Babeu cites a 1996 incident when he alleges that Rios got drunk, slapped his wife, and called her a "whore" in front of deputies of the Gila County Sheriff's Office.
"Not only was Mr. Rios not arrested for the incident, he attempted to use his position as a state senator to get out of the charges; he then made a complaint on the deputies who were only doing their job," Babeu wrote in response to Rios.
The sparing didn't end there.
After Babeu accused Rios of this and other improprieties, Rios fired off another written response -- the latest one calling Babue's claims "libelous" and hinting that he might file a lawsuit against sheriff.
"Babeu always tries to discredit and destroy his critics," Rios wrote on March 7. "I have succinctly presented a factual case as to why I believe Sheriff Paul Babeu should no longer hold his current position. In turn, he sics his attack dogs after me with untrue claims about details of a traffic stop in 1996."
Below is a full text of the letters written by Rios and Babeu.
Letter to the Editor written by Pinal County Supervisor Pete Rios:
Babeu It's Time to Resign
It's time we take a step back and look at the overall picture of what has transpired over the past three years Sheriff Babeu has been running the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.
This is a person who came into office talking about "cleaning up" the office and making it "transparent." All evidence points to the contrary.
In three years we have seen the office used for everything at the expense of law enforcement. Some law enforcement personnel of our county have been used as a de-facto public relations machine for the Sheriff's self promotion. It's time this comes to an end.
How many more deputies will be placed on indefinite paid administrative leave for minor or no infractions? How many more lawsuits will the county be subject to due to his lack of oversight on the jail? How many more rape kits will fail to be processed on a timely basis?
Other law enforcement agencies across the state use RICO funds to prevent crime. What has RICO paid for in Pinal County? Brand new centennial badges that will be worn for a limited time. Military coins, trips, thousands in Arizona Diamondback tickets and coffee mugs. These are hardly preventative measures for criminal activity - but great PR materials for the sheriff.
In one of the worst economic downturns in our nation since the 1930's, the office under Sheriff Babeu's leadership had the temerity to take 25 of his personnel on a week-long, $53,000 junket to St. Louis to witness the boss receiving an award. At the same time, he comes to the Board claiming he needs more and more money to fight crime. For the second fiscal year in a row he is on course to overspend his budget. This disconnect is troubling.
His latest scandal is another "brick in the wall" when it comes to questionable judgments by this Sheriff. It is time Sheriff Babeu open up his eyes and see the damage he has done to the office and the dedicated staff he has under his command. It's time for the Sheriff to consider the best option and that is to resign immediately so the people of Pinal County can have a law enforcement leader that cares about enforcing the law, not constant campaigning and more recently, doing personal damage control.
Pete Rios, Chair
Pinal County Board of Supervisors
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's Response to Rios:
Rios: It's Time to be Honest
During the past three years, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office has seen reforms which have resulted in improved law enforcement service to Pinal families.
Unfortunately, Chairman Pete Rios continues to spread misinformation.
Mr. Rios has a past history which shows his hostility towards law enforcement, including on December 29th, 1996 when he was intoxicated, called his wife a "whore" and slapped her in the face in front of deputies of the Gila County Sheriff's Office.
Not only was Mr. Rios. arrested for the incident, he attempted to use his position as a state senator to get out of the charges; he then made a complaint on the deputies who were only doing their job.
This complaint was much like the complaint he made against the Hayden police officer and Chief of Police last year after he was stopped for speeding and failed to obey the orders of a police officer.
Both complaints made by Rios were full of false allegations and both were later unfounded.
More recently, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office received a complaint regarding criminal allegations committed by Mr. Rios including fraud and failing to live in the district he represents.
The case was conflicted to the Attorney General's Office and now is being investigated by the FBI.
Now to clarify some of the latest misinformation stated by Mr. Rios:
1. Several Pinal County Sheriff's Office employees have been fired and later appealed their firings through the Merit Commission. Mr. Rios appointed the head of the Democratic Party to lead the Merit Commission. The merit commission has overturned firings which would be upheld by any other law enforcement agency or merit commission in the state. Every time we have asked to have Mr. Joe Robson removed from the board, it's been turned down. The board has in fact said, we can't fire somebody just because they lied while in the performance of their duties as sworn law enforcement officers. We are forced to appeal every decision and, as a result, a Superior County Judge has upheld firings and said that the Merit Board has overstepped its bounds.
2. The County Budget office initially reported our office was projected to exceed our operating budget by 3.2 million dollars. After further research, they discovered a main reason was because of an MOU (wage contract) the Board of Supervisors signed with an employee organization after our budget was set and they failed to fund the cost increases. Fuel costs have also dramatically increased and there was no budgeted increase. Despite this, our Sheriff's budget will be balanced.
3. The National Sheriff's Association holds an annual conference every year which provides training specific to our member's positions. This year we sent 25 members to the conference. While Mr. Rios has attempted to make it all about me receiving the National Sheriff of the Year award, he fails to mention how our Adult Detention Center was recognized as the first ever to receive their National Accreditation with a 100% score, our Tactical Team Commander was a guest presenter, our Honor Guard was asked to present the National Colors, our office was recognized for cutting emergency response times in half and our members received the mandatory training hours needed in order to maintain their law enforcement certifications. The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission agreed this was well spent money as it only cost $2,000 per person for an entire week worth of training.
4. As proof of transparency, recently allegations were made against me that are completely false and baseless. While I have both explained publicly and show documents which prove the truth in an effort to maintain transparency, I have asked for the Attorney General's Office to investigate the allegations. I have full confidence that the investigation will clear [my] name.
Rios' Response to Babeu:
Babeu Always Tries to Discredit and Destroy His Critics
Where does decency begin, and where does it end?
I have been in politics a very long time. Long enough to have had quite a few pot shots taken at me - for everything from an unfounded claim about residency to any position I have taken in my time at the State Legislature.
But never have I been accused of striking a family member or calling them a vicious name in front of law enforcement officers.
That is until now.
I have succinctly presented a factual case as to why I believe Sheriff Paul Babeu should no longer hold his current position. In turn, he sics his attack dogs after me with untrue claims about details of a traffic stop in 1996.
Sheriff, your facts are wrong and most importantly - libelous! There are transcripts from the traffic stop your attack dogs referenced. And again, your version of the event is nowhere to be found.
Sheriff, you received a notice of claim two days ago for a million dollars for your actions involving Jose Orozco. Should you be looking at another lawsuit due to your libelous comments?
Pete Rios, Chairman
Pinal County Board of Supervisors
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.