How does an administration as unhinged as Sheriff Joe Arpaio's flourish? One reason is the acquiescence of other elected officials. Their unwillingness to question the sheriff allows his noxious weed to thrive in Maricopa County's sandbox.
Take the MCSO's Honduras project, which has cost the county at least $34K in RICO funds — up from $32K the last time The Bird put quill to paper. Spearheaded by Arpaio's two-ton Karl Rove — Chief Deputy David Hendershott — the project's been ongoing since 2006, has involved 10 MCSO pooh-bahs that we know of (up from last week's nine), and nearly 2,700 man-hours from deputies working on the county clock.
This last bit about the man-hours is from docs recently obtained from MCSO flack Paul Chagolla. Conservatively speaking, if each high-ranking deputy is making $60K per annum (a definite lowball figure), that'd be about $30 an hour, and would mean $81K in county clock time. This is not counting the time-and-a-half of OT hours involved.
So this cranky cockatiel reckons the total bill for Honduras, including RICO and non-RICO funds, is well over $100,000. That's more than $100K for a financially strapped county department that's been cutting expenditures right and left.
The MCSO continues to release documents in dribs and drabs to this quacker, the most recent being a "Strategic Plan" that makes clear the MCSO was overhauling all six bureaus of the Honduran National Police, including patrol, traffic, investigations, training, border patrol, and prisons.
A high-minded "exchange of ideas" is proffered as the rationale, but the sweep of the program, with the MCSO advising Hondurans on every aspect of their police force, suggests something more's afoot. This beaker will bet you a bucket of buffalo wings that these upper-echelon deputies weren't messin' with Honduras out of the goodness of their itty-bitty cast-iron hearts.
Among the newly released docs is a Diploma of Recognition presented to the "Sub-Jefe del Sheriffits David Hendershott" by Honduran officials. Also, there are several letters from Arpaio to various Honduran bigwigs — the Bay Islands governor, the sub-commissioner of police, the secretary of security — that speak of "forging an alliance" and offering "resources that will enhance the local police."
In one letter, Arpaio invited four Honduran cops, all expenses paid by RICO, to Phoenix. While the Honduran po-po were here during the first week in June 2007, Arpaio scored them a gubernatorial proclamation and a photo op with Governor Janet Napolitano.
Why did Nappy do this? According to the Guv's flack, Jeanine L'Ecuyer, the Governor's Office isn't even sure who those Honduran hombres are, and can't identify them in the pic.
"As a courtesy to Sheriff Arpaio," L'Ecuyer stated, "the governor honored a request from his staff to issue a proclamation in recognition of his agency's work with law enforcement in Honduras . . . The governor spent five minutes with the delegation, during which time a photo was taken."
Just so happens that the MCSO's "work with law enforcement in Honduras" was improperly bankrolled by a RICO slush fund. But the Guv has denied knowing anything about RICO funds being used.
Still, it would've behooved Nappy to ask her political ally Arpaio why he was trundling Honduran cops through her offices. Especially since Arpaio's currently using this photo and proclamation to claim the Honduran caper was on the up-and-up. Is Janet hunky-dory with that? Particularly, now that she knows the MCSO was wasting taxpayer and RICO money on this scam?
L'Ecuyer couldn't answer that one.
"It may be useful to know the Governor's Office prepares and presents an average of 450 proclamations per year," she offered, weakly.
So if Sheriff Joe invited Fidel Castro to the PHX, would Janet pose for a pic and give the ex-dictator a scroll? If the sheriff told her to jump off the Luhrs Tower headfirst after making love to a koala bear, would she do it?
She just might. Back when Nappy was U.S. Attorney, she punted on an investigation of Joe's jails. Arpaio returned the favor a few years later when she was running for governor by backing her in a TV ad.
To be fair, the Guv has no authority over the MCSO's use of RICO funds. When it comes to RICO, it's County Attorney Candy Thomas, a.k.a. "Little Joe," who oversees its use by the MCSO, according to state law. Obviously, Candy's office rubber-stamped the MCSO's raid on the RICO piggy bank.
That explains why the County Attorney's Office has been so incredibly slow to turn over public docs on the decision to pay for the Honduran project with RICO scrilla.
THE SUPES, DUPED?
But what about the estimated $100,000-plus in MCSO payroll expenditures? That's the purview of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which rarely, if ever, challenges Joe's malfeasance in office, no matter what it costs the county.
According to Supes PIO Deanne Poulos, there were three occasions when the sheriff's Honduran project was mentioned during Supervisors' meetings.
The first, dated October 17, 2007, dealt with the acceptance of a $4,000 contribution from the sheriff's posse to the MCSO for the Honduran effort. The second, dated January 16, mentioned the donation of surplus MCSO computers to Honduras. The third was on February 4, when a presentation on the Honduran enterprise was made by MCSO muck-a-mucks Deputy Chief Mary Ellen Sheppard, Captain James Miller, and Captain Pat Lopez, who all participated in the project.
These MCSO big shots made their case during an "informal meeting" of the Supes. The Bird's blogging Siamese twin, Feathered Bastard, posted the presentation document forked over by PIO Poulos — and it's a humdinger.
The thing starts with the sort of pabulum you'd expect from a Peace Corps pamphlet. Stuff like, "Transnational cultural diversity is a reality for both agencies." And, "With the sharing of cultures also comes the sharing of problems." The doc makes the stunning revelation that some illegal aliens in the United States are from Honduras, and that some of these are involved in crime! (No duh, Dagwood.) Then it persists in this Hendershott-size pant load that MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, is a Honduran gang.
Don't take this talon-bearer's word that this is elephant caca. Read what the flippin' FBI has to say on its Web site:
"MS-13, which started in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, has an estimated 8,000-10,000 members nationwide, mostly Salvadoran nationals or first generation Salvadoran Americans but also including Hondurans, Guatemalans, Mexicans, and other Central and South American immigrants."
The MCSO presentation reads like a cover-your-ass move necessitated by the initial reporting done in January on this subject by both Feathered Bastard and The Bird. The MCSO also trots out the pic of the Guv with the Hondurans, and slyly mentions that it gave a presentation in June to Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, though this plumed penman wonders if this is true. (Wilcox reportedly has been out of town and unable to comment.)
The bottom line for all the Supes is that they've been snoozin' on duty, allowing Arpaio a free pass.
In the February 4 document, the MCSO stated it has used $28,809.35 in RICO funds and $5,252.46 from the Sheriff's Office budget. As The Bird's already demonstrated, these figures are grossly inaccurate.
What did the Supes know and when did they know it?
The above-mentioned discussion of the $4,000 posse gift to the MCSO, and all this stuff about donating MCSO computers to Honduras should have pricked the Supes' ears and got them asking questions. That is, unless they knew all along about the Honduran-RICO mess, just as Arpaio maintains.
Sheriff Joe can always count on ultra-conservative KTAR lip-flapper Darrell Ankarlo to wipe Arpaio's fanny clean with his kisser, even when Joe's been caught with his paw in the RICO cookie jar.
The Bird heard Arpaio growling on KTAR the other day as Ankarlo lapped it all up. Nothing new there. Ankarlo's been an unabashed Joe buttlicker since the hate jock arrived in Phoenix. Even the stink of corruption does not deter him from puckering up to Joe's geriatric hindquarters.
Basically, Ankarlo played Stepin Fetchit to Nickel Bag Joe, letting the geezer cop shoot off his mouth about the training of Honduran police by MCSO deputies, all paid for by the county and RICO money.
"What's 30,000?" asked our spendthrift sheriff, snarling that he's answerable to no one!
Joe justified the Honduran enterprise by claiming that the MCSO has received "millions of photos for our facial recognition" — whatever the hell that means. The number of photos cited by Joe has fluctuated wildly from 1 million to 5 million. Here's a news flash, dunderhead: There are only 7.5 million people in Honduras. So, what, have they photographed all the little old ladies and kiddies, too?
Arpaio always begs off when asked to explain what he's talking about, mumbling some malarkey about the situation's "sensitivity."
The money-shot of this Ankarlo-Arpaio love-fest was Ankarlo's query to Arpaio, "Did one penny of my tax dollars pay for this trip in any way, shape or form?"
Ankarlo was suggesting the nearly $34K in RICO money was a non-issue if there were no "tax dollars" used. Arpaio's response was chock-full of toejam.
"First of all, it was RICO monies . . . We were using that money — $30,000, which is nothing."
Ankarlo followed up with, "Not one penny other than RICO money was used: Yes or no, Sheriff?"
"Well, I don't know, there may be a couple of dollars here or there," Joe fumbled. "But if there was, it was not significant."
"Is that hundreds, thousands, do you know?" wondered Ankarlo.
"No, no, no," insisted the crotchety top constable. "The majority of the money was the RICO money. I don't know if we spent a few bucks otherwise. I doubt it."
Check it, peeps: RICO money is our money! It's money that comes from asset forfeitures from criminals doing bad stuff, and it's supposed to go for specific law enforcement needs — not so MCSO goons can use the excuse of training some other country's cops as a reason to vacay in Honduras on the county's freakin' dime (plus whatever else may be going personal-business-wise down there for any of these Deputy Doofs).
Ankarlo, of course, was clueless that county tax dollars were obviously used to pay for this Honduran adventure.
But the wing-nutty blowhard did correctly note the parentage of the Honduran story.
"Having seen the firestorm," said Ankarlo in a windy wind-up to a softball Q. "And, again, it's no love lost between you and New Times. New Times hates you, and I doubt you even have great aspirations to ever be a reporter for that organization. [Huh?] So New Times comes out, they expose it. And then KTAR, Channel 12, others pick it up."
You got that right, Jack-Off. This was a New Times baby, no matter what Channel 12 maintains. But at least 12 reporter Joe Dana's been dogging Joe's ass about the story, not licking it, like Ankarlo.
The Bird flew down to the Maricopa County Democratic Party's spring meeting recently to suss the Dems' two contenders for county attorney, and came away liking both catbirds for different reasons.
Either one would be hella-better than Candy Thomas! Electing Gerald Richard would be like putting Samuel L. Jackson in the CA's office to kick some tailfeathers. A top attorney-administrator for the Phoenix Police Department, he's lately been responsible for keeping us safe during the Super Bowl, and for keeping the two sides separated during the demos at M.D. Pruitt's Home Furnishings. Richard has also worked as a former prosecutor fighting gangs, which makes him far more experienced than Thomas, who has never personally tried a felony case.
Tim Nelson was most recently Janet Napolitano's top counsel, and can brag about pulling in mucho dinero in campaign contributions from his highfalutin legal pals. Word on the street is, Nappy's already making calls on his behalf, asking folks to support him, though both he and the Guv's flack deny this. Nelson impressed the winged wonder by making pointed attacks on Thomas during his remarks, mentioning the CA's abuse of power in the New Times case (see "Blowback," Februrary 21, among other articles). He's pursued big-time white-collar criminals in court, which also gives him a leg up on Thomas.
Space prevents this sandpiper from going on at length, so check the Feathered Bastard blog for more on this pair. This year, the Dems have much to be enthused about. Thomas is hobbled by scandal, and either Nelson or Richard has the chops to wring his chicken neck.