Guess Which Local Politician is Sponsoring 'Islamophobic' Seminar for Arizona Cops?
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery
Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Last week, the spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Attorney Office said that "nobody" at the office knew anything about next week's Islam-bashing police-training seminar in Mesa.
But according to Mesa Interim Police Chief Michael Dvorak, grant funding for the controversial event was indeed provided by County Attorney Bill Montgomery's office.
The cost of the funding is unknown, but as New Times reported last year, Montgomery's office used about $40,000 in public money — from either his budget or funds obtained in forfeiture cases — for a similar event in 2014.
"Understanding and Investigating the Jihadi Network," the seminar led by John Guandolo, is set to be held May 16-18 at a Mesa Police Department training facility.
As former Phoenix New Times scribe Stephen Lemons reported in 2014, Montgomery hired Guandolo to lead a training session that year despite the fact that Guandolo was labeled a "disgraced conspiracy theorist" and "notorious Muslim basher" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, where Lemons now works.
Guandolo reportedly resigned from the FBI in 2009 as investigators were about to nail him for having sex with informants. Now he helps run a company called Strategic Engagement Group, which aims to "educate the public on the counter jihad movement."
Ostensibly, the event is to help local police deal with potential terrorist threats.
Yet besides the SPLC, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), have blasted Guandolo and his training sessions as "Islamophobic."
Guandolo has been criticized for claiming former CIA Director John Brennan had converted to Islam secretly, that mosques "don't have a First Amendment right to do anything," and other politically incorrect or simply bizarre statements. He's singled out CAIR as a "terrorist" group. His seminars have caused ruckuses and divided opinions in other cities he's put on his police-training sessions.
Lemons reported that the 2014 event became a "public-relations disaster" for Montgomery, and that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Phoenix Police Department declined to participate.
This year, Montgomery apparently decided to bring Guandolo's anti-jihad seminar back to town — once again by using the public's money.
In a May 10 letter to the national CAIR office, Dvorak states that the event is "sponsored and hosted by the Arizona Police Association through a grant provided by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office."
The Mesa Police Department is simply providing a space for the "Jihad" event and would keep its commitment to do that, Dvorak said in the letter, explaining why he would not honor CAIR's request to not provide the event a venue. He added that his department "is not participating as a host, sponsor, or monetary contributor."
Yet it doesn't seem like Montgomery is particularly proud of his office's role as sponsor and monetary contributor for the event.
When New Times writer Antonia Farzan asked Montgomery spokeswoman Amanda Jacinto last week if Montgomery had any connection to Guandolo's return, Jacinto responded: "Nobody in this office is aware of any bookings with anything to do with that ... I don’t know why our name would be associated — nobody here has any knowledge of any fees, or anything to do with that."
Assuming Dvorak is correct, it doesn't seem possible that "nobody" in Montgomery's office knew what was going on.
Montgomery's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening about the matter. New Times is also waiting for the office to respond to requests for the amount of the grant and where, exactly, the money came from.
New Times will update this article if Montgomery or his office can release further information.
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