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Sheriff Joe Sure Ain't a Conservative, and Here's Why

Sheriff Joe's soft on sex criminals and murderers, countenances corruption, rewards incompetence, and squanders taxpayer dough by the millions.
New Times Photo Illustration

What is it about Sheriff Joe Arpaio that makes the Tea Party animals go wild?

Is it his corpse-like demeanor, his way with words (think "dese" and "dats"), his scorn at the suggestion of debating his Democratic opponent, Paul Penzone?

It's probably more because most Teabaggers are racist peckerwoods who hate President Barack Obama because he's black and Mexican immigrants because they're, well, Mexican.

In addition, since Arpaio was willing to legitimize the conserva-nut lie that Obama's birth certificate is a forgery by sending investigators to Hawaii on a snipe hunt, and because Arpaio's raison d'etre these past few years has been chasin' illegal dishwashers and gardeners, they love the ol' coot.

No doubt many of the Ayn Rand-readin', Paul Ryan-lovin' Tea Party types out there would vigorously object to my characterization.

They ain't bigots, they want us to think. They're, um, "patriots" and believers in small government and fiscal responsibility.

If so, they should despise Arpaio the way they despise U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats.

When they gaze at Arpaio, they should see the ghosts of big-government, big-spendin' liberals like the late President Lyndon Johnson and the dearly departed Speaker of the U.S. House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill.

Let's look at Arpaio's record.

He rules over a bloated, top-heavy agency that boasts more than 3,500 employees, detains upwards of 8,000 to 10,000 inmates a day, and maintains a budget of more than $280 million a year.

Now with a budget like that, you'd reckon Arpaio would have more than enough dough to get his job done properly. But, alas, Arpaio's agency is a shambles, riddled with corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse.

More than 30,000 felony warrants are outstanding in the county. Does that sound efficient to you? Sure, not all of that is the MCSO's responsibility, but it's one of Arpaio's many duties.

Then there's the sex-crimes debacle, in which hundreds of cases in El Mirage and elsewhere were not properly investigated by MCSO detectives.

Rapists, child molesters, and, even murderers were allowed to roam free because of the MCSO's sloppy work. As a result, these criminals raped, molested, and killed again.

Gee, I thought the pinkos at the American Civil Liberties Union were the ones who were soft on crime.

Instead, it's the Tea Party's octogenarian Hercules, Joe Arpaio, who calls himself the "toughest sheriff in America."

Please, oh, please, someone inform me, what is "conservative" about not enforcing the law against dangerous predators and repeat offenders?

Then, there's the sheriff's attitude toward public coffers — which resembles that of plus-size stand-up comedian John Pinette toward Chinese buffets.

In most places in America, if an elected official misspent more than $100 million in funds that came, in part, from sales taxes, that politician would be run out of office on a red-hot rail.

But that's exactly what Arpaio did, intentionally, over several years, even though he repeatedly was warned by his then-chief financial officer Loretta Barkell that misappropriating these protected funds and spending them, for instance, on pursuing his political enemies, was illegal.

Where was the hell-raising from the conservatives? Why didn't the Tea Party patriots threaten to tar and feather the sheriff for wasting all that dough?

To be fair, many Republicans are fed up with Arpaio and plan to vote for Penzone.

I know this because they tell me.

Penzone has a number of big-time GOPers who have endorsed him, from former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton to former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods to businessman Mac Magruder.

Also, I should mention that former John McCain operative Carlos Sierra has joined forces with Democratic State Representative Ruben Gallego in forming the independent-expenditure committee Citizens for Professional Law Enforcement, which is running TV ads critical of the sheriff.

All the same, there are a lot of very conservative Republicans who are fearful of openly expressing their support for Penzone. So they do so quietly, among themselves or by helping raise money.

In some cases, these are Republicans who voted against former state Senate President Russell Pearce in his 2011 recall and in his attempt to return to the Arizona Senate in this year's GOP primary.

"Everyone I know," one East Valley GOPer told me recently, "is voting for Paul Penzone."

They do not boldly proclaim their newfound bipartisanship for a simple reason: fear of retribution.

The Maricopa County Republican Party, for instance, is chaired by Arpaio-worshiping, wingnut fanatic Rob Haney.

The state GOP is led by chairman Tom Morrissey, another Tea Partyin' Arpaio stalwart. His first vice chair is Pearce, a veritable Tea Party god.

And there's Arpaio himself, who as fellow tusker and Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley can attest, has no problem perp-walking those who question in the slightest the sheriff's authority.

Such perp-walks and Mafia-like vendettas against a string of politicians, judges, journalists, and civil servants are costing us mega-millions in legal fees and payouts, as well, thanks to the defunct partnership of Arpaio and his former stooge, disbarred and disgraced County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

These lawsuits, as well as those filed by victims of Arpaio's jails and other MCSO atrocities, have cost the county more than $50 million over the years.

Just recently, Phoenix attorney Mike Manning scored a $3.2 million settlement against the county in the 2005 wrongful jailhouse death of Deborah Braillard, who slipped into a diabetic coma because dumb, poorly trained MCSO guards looked the other way as she defecated, vomited, and moaned in pain for three days.

And as this column was going to press, Manning filed suit on behalf of U.S. Army vet Marty Atencio, who perished last year in an Arpaio gulag because the mentally ill man didn't take off his shoes fast enough for MCSO gendarmes and their sick sidekicks in the Phoenix Police Department.

The Atencio family's notice of claim filed earlier this year asked the county for $20 million in damages.

Not that I begrudge the family any amount. No award or settlement, no matter how immense, will bring back their loved one.

Maybe if you're a tough-on-crime conservative, you figure those in jail deserve what they get, even if the offense is petty, even if folks are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty under our system of justice.

But more than 70 percent of those in Joe's jails are pre-trial detainees, you see.

Teabaggers are supposed to be all about the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but the only thing they seem to really care about is the Second Amendment's right to bear arms. That'll work for them as long as one of their loved ones doesn't end up in Arpaio's custody.

But aren't the Teabaggers at least a teeny bit concerned about squandering taxpayer green?

Because there are more lawsuits a-comin', thanks to Sheriff Spendthrift's insane ways.

Stapley's is pending, as is one brought by former Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe, and another brought by former Village Voice Media execs Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.

And if Arpaio is re-elected, there will be more waste, more abuses of power, more suits, more cash down the drain.

After 20 years of malfeasance, incompetence, and squandering the people's money, do you think another four will be any different?

Prove to me you Teabaggers aren't just a bunch of redneck dimwits in dire need of dental care. Vote for what you say you believe in: prudent spending, tough-on-crime law-enforcement, and intolerance toward government waste.

Vote for Penzone.

Do it, and I'll return the gesture. I'll hold my nose and stop calling you Teabaggers.


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