Props to the Arizona Republic's Richard Ruelas for looking into Sheriff Joe's Fox Reality show boondoggle, Smile...You're Under Arrest! Ruelas, a former Rep columnist whose byline is far too infrequent these days, sought to find out just how much Joe's lame-o reality show cost Maricopa County. Alas, the MCSO stonewalled him on a key piece of info, the same info they stonewalled me on back on January 9 of this year: i.e., the number and names of deputies who worked on the show, and what sort of time they were paid on, whether regular time, overtime, or what have you.
"Footage from the show indicates that a slew of Sheriff's Office personnel were used," writes Ruelas in Sunday's paper. "Records show that the Sheriff's Office gave producers lists of undercover deputies, about a dozen in each episode, who needed to have their faces fuzzed out before the shows aired."
Ruelas continues: "But the Sheriff's Office said it could not say how many sworn deputies worked during the three long production days during August 2007."
"`I couldn't even guess,'" Ruelas quotes MCSO civil division Commander Larry Farnsworth as stating.
That's about the same line I got after I submitted a public records request asking for the names of MCSO employees who worked the show, their hourly rates, and the hours they were paid for.
"No records were maintained by the Media Relations Office of the individual employees that participated in this public service and compensation of office personnel was at the rate consistent with the hours that the individual employee worked."
Of course, this is colossal diaper-load. You're telling me the MCSO brass doesn't know where its deputies are on any given day? We're talking about a paramilitary organization here, one that has to pay salaries. How then did MCSO muck-a-mucks know how much to pay their deputies, who were on the clock when they worked the Fox Reality show detail?
More proof of MCSO prevarications comes in the revelation from Ruelas that, "Deputies made 353 more arrests in the 31 days following, according to a spreadsheet provided by the Sheriff's Office."
This is contrary to the MCSO's response to another of my public records requests on the subject, which I received on February 18. On that day, I received a letter from one Officer M. Rodriguez , who informed me, "Regarding your January 9, 2009 public records request seeking the arrest reports of those arrested in the course of this operation, we did not maintain a log of those persons arrested during this warrant detail."
So was Officer Rodriguez being less than truthful with me? Or did the MCSO come up with this spreadsheet after it turned down New Times' request? There is a public records law in this state, but the MCSO regularly flaunts it, whenever it sees fit.
In this instance, the MCSO's top cats are damned either way. If they really did collar 353 petty criminals after the show had been taped, then this was the sort of stunt the MCSO could have pulled at any time, and with far fewer resources.
Ruelas scores on other fronts, discovering that the arrested "fugitives" were paid off, as you might expect, and that the MCSO went to great lengths to make the Fox producers happy, even allowing them the use of the sheriff's mobile command center.
MCSO bigwigs played ball with Ruelas, as they often do with the Republic, knowing they'd thereby avoid the hot lead enema they receive with regularity from New Times. Ruelas' piece raises more questions than it answers, but it lets the taxpayers of Maricopa County know one thing: They picked up the tab for the Fox Reality program, even if the MCSO refuses to tell them how much that tab was for.