Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas claimed at a news conference on Tuesday that allegations of problems with Sheriff Joe Arpaio's financial-disclosure forms "haven't panned out."
He also says that if his office received bona fide information about a possible violation of the law, he'd act on it. Well, Mr. Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio, explain this:
Above is a copy of part of Arpaio's 1994 financial disclosure form. Yeah, we know it's a bit blurry, but look at the last entry, the one that reads, "Comm. Rental, 1300 Sq Ft, 10614 N. 71st Pl, Scottsdale." The acquisition date reads 12/17/93.
Now take a gander at this:
This is a copy of part of Arpaio's 1995 financial-disclosure form. Notice the second-to-last entry. It reads, "Comm. Rental, 4000 Sq Ft, 10614 N. 71st Pl, Scottsdale."
Funny, isn't it, how the same property magically grew by 2,700 square feet?
It wasn't magic. County records show that Arpaio and his wife paid $250,000 in April of 1995 for a property with the address of 10610 North 71st Place in Scottsdale. The sheriff seems to have added the new property's square footage onto that of the 1993 purchase.
The two addresses, 10610 and 10614, are apparently in the same building. But the purchases are clearly separate -- one occurred in '93, the other in '95.
Now, if you had a suspicious mind, you might think Arpaio intentionally tried to hide his 1995 purchase. If you were the sort of prosecutor that Thomas apparently is, and if this was a County Supervisor we were talking about instead of the sheriff, you'd charge Arpaio with a criminal count for every year he failed to list his 1995 acquisition. Which would be every year since 1995. That's a lot of criminal counts.
Of course, Arpaio would probably argue that since he purchased more square feet in the same building (even though it has a different address), it doesn't need to be separately disclosed.
By that logic, a public official could acquire one small property in a big building for a few bucks, then spend millions over the coming years in new property purchases within that building -- and declare only the increase in square footage on the initial property. Obviously, that sort of scam flies against the spirit of public disclosure.
We don't bring this up minimize the apparent failure of Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox to disclose certain things on their own financial-disclosure forms. But Thomas did tell the local press corps two days ago that no one was above the law.
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As we mentioned in our feature article last month about Don Stapey, the Stapley case began with an allegation about disclosure form problems. Based on that feeble beginning, search warrants were served that turned up more dirt on Stapley.
The same thing could happen with Arpaio. As a former New Times writer noted back in 2004, much of Arpaio's commercial real estate holdings are being hidden by the sheriff under a law designed to black out the home addresses of cops.
Thomas and Arpaio wonder why people are questioning their own ethics in the midst of their allegations against county supervisors and judges. The selective enforcement of financial-disclosure form violations is one big reason.