Activist Randy Parraz led a disruptive walkout on Tuesday at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meeting in protest of board policy and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
As they left noisily, Parraz and his supporters claimed that they'd been promised a chance to speak after each segment of the meeting and were miffed that Chairman Max Wilson told them their comments would have to wait until the end.
But that wasn't the only reason they split. Arpaio's critics knew they'd get a chance to speak at the meeting, and some of them later did speak.
Their frustration was also clearly fueled by the attitudes of Jerry Sheridan, Arpaio's chief deputy, county attorney Bill Montgomery, and most of the board itself.
Because in the midst of all those officials' talk of new-found cooperation between county administration and Arpaio's office, of how the allegations of racial profiling were "serious" and of how Arpaio was taking responsibility for the scandal of uninvestigated sex crimes, no one's feet were being held to the fire. Least of all Arpaio's.
And that's despite tens of millions of dollars misspent, the sex-crime debacle, the screw-ups and wrongdoing in Arpaio's command staff, the politically motivated witch hunts of Arpaio's enemies and the allegation of widespread bias and racial profiling against Valley Hispanics.
Early in the meeting, Sandi Wilson crowed to the Supes about the progess being made on time-clocks for detention officers and other measures to rein in spending. Very little was said about how the reason for the changes was Arpaio's allegedly intentional abuse of his office's finances.
Montgomery reiterated his skepticism about the U.S. Department of Justice's recent findings of racial profiling under Arpaio's watch. Sure, he said, there were a few isolated instances of bias, but it wasn't "systemic." Montgomery claimed he's not looking at the problem through a political lens, but implied strongly that the Justice Department was just playing politics.
Again, Montgomery brought up the fact that Justice Department hasn't released the studies behind some of their claims, such as the statistic that Hispanic motorists are four-to-nine times more likely to be stopped by MCSO than white folks.
He hasn't heard about any cases that may have involved racial profiling since he took office in late 2010. That's certainly good news. But Arpaio's increasingly vocal critics, (such as the city of Phoenix's human relations commission, which recently voted to recommend asking Arpaio to resign), don't seem ready to just move forward with a few changes.
Sheridan seemed to be holding back anger as he voiced how "upset" he was that critics and the news media didn't seem to understand that the problems with poorly investigated sex-crimes cases weren't that numerous.
"I would like everyone here today to understand there were 15 uninvestigated sex-crimes cases," he said. "The number is 15."
An Associated Press article tonight states that Sheridan wasn't correct about "15" being the total number of sex crimes cases:
The figure Sheridan provided, however, didn't include dozens of cases from El Mirage, where Arpaio's office had provided contract police services from 2005 through mid-October 2007.
In El Mirage alone, officials discovered at least 32 reported child molestations -- with victims as young as 2 years old -- where the sheriff's office failed to follow through after the crimes were reported, even though suspects were known in all but six cases.
Mary Rose Wilcox, the five-member board's lone Democrat, was the only one challenging the statements by Montgomery and Sheridan.
Then, after Wilson began sympathizing with Montgomery over the challenges of investigating sex crimes, Parraz stood up and rallied his troops to leave.
Parraz is the co-founder, along with lawyer Chad Snow, of Citizens for a Better Arizona, which led the successful effort to recall now-former state Senator Russell Pearce.
Numerous Arpaio supporters, including many Tea Party activists, were mixed in with the critics, filling all of the 200-plus seats at the Supervisors' auditorium at 2nd Avenue and Jefferson Street and were making for a lively meeting even before Parraz's stunt. About two-thirds of the crowd remained after the briefings and walkout, and perhaps 20 people spoke after Wilson opened the meeting up to public comments.
Valley Latino activist Salvador Reza was among several who claimed that Arpaio's troops were still committing racial profiling, despite what Montgomery said.
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One speaker who said he was with the Red Mountain Tea Party challenged critics to take their best shot at Arpaio -- in this year's election.
With the apparent support of most of the Board of Supervisors and millions of dollars from out-of-state donors, the critics have work ahead of them.
Check out our short video, shot with our phone a few seconds after Parraz called for his supporters to bolt: