Maricopa County leaders and Sheriff Joe Arpaio are in some sort of fight over the insurance coverage of vehicles owned by posse members, but neither side is giving details.
The issue, whatever it is, led to recent news stories about the Sun City posse being suspended, but now Arpaio's office is saying the posse isn't really suspended.
A posse source tells New Times that it's true the west-side posse isn't suspended -- but that it might as well be, because members have been forbidden to drive anywhere as part of their duties.
"We're still in full force," the source says. "But I have no way of getting anywhere."
The problem was revealed on Saturday at a 35th anniversary party for the Sun City posse, according to news media reports, leading to the suspension of posse activities. As yourwestvalley.com reported, Commander Don Sampson sent an email to posse members stating that, "Effective immediately, on March 29, 2014 at 10:00 hours all activities of the Sheriff's Posse of Sun City West were suspended. The suspension will be in effect until such time as the command staff resolve open issues."
Then, a couple of hours ago, Sheriff's Office spokesman Deputy Joaquin Enriquez issued this short bulletin to local news outlets:
"Sheriff Joe Arpaio is working hand-in-hand with County Officials to resolve the issue regarding the use of Posse-owned vehicles. This has impacted a small number of posse patrols, though the Sheriff's Office has not suspended any posse operations. Sheriff Joe Arpaio expects the issue to be resolved quickly."
So, right away you can tell there's a discrepancy -- Arpaio's office is apparently denying what the posse commander said, which was that a suspension of operations had, in fact, at some point been ordered.
But it gets weirder.
We called Cari Gerchick, county spokeswoman, and asked her to elaborate on what Enriquez means by "the issue."
Gerchick answered: "Risk management is trying to find an insurance policy that will cover cars owned by posse members in all legal situations."
Yet she was unable to clarify the statement, saying she didn't know much more than that.
Were vehicles owned by posse members previously not covered in all situations? we wondered.
Gerchick was not sure, but said she believes posse members and their vehicles were covered when performing official posse duties, and that the lack of coverage may have been for the personal use of their vehicles.
But that answer raises another question -- why would posse members believe they didn't need personal insurance for their vehicles, and doesn't the posse check to make sure members have insurance on the private vehicles they're using for posse duties? Gerchick didn't know.
Gerchick did believe, however, that "the issue" relates to every posse member with a vehicle. When Enriquez says only a "small number" of patrols were affected, we're not sure what he means. We're waiting to hear back from him on our follow-up questions.
Arpaio expects this issue to be resolved "quickly?"
Good luck with that.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.