Analysis: Sheriff Arpaio Lied in 2009 About SCA Scandal and Still Won't Tell the Truth

In July of 2009, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio issued a bald-faced lie to the media when he claimed the SCA scandal "has absolutely nothing to do with the Sheriff's Office."

He knew it did.

But even worse, Arpaio still hasn't explained why he didn't take action against his top aides in late 2008 and early 2009, when he knew they were involved in possible crimes related to $105,000 in illegal campaign contributions to the state Republican Party.

As we've previously speculated, the reason Arpaio didn't take action makes sense if you assume he was culpable in the scheme. In other words, he knew that investigating the SCA scandal would lead right back to him, so he didn't do it.

But whether he thought it would incriminate him or not, Arpaio has never given an answer for why he sat by and did nothing as it became clear his trusted underlings had done something wrong, if not illegal.

Arpaio removed his top two men from their positions only in September of 2010, after a whistle-blower brought complaints about the men to the public's attention.

Yet had Arpaio acted responsibly as the SCA scandal exploded in the press from October of 2008 to the March 31, 2009 raid of one his captain's homes, county history would have turned out differently.

The man whom Arpaio later claimed "duped" him, former Chief Deputy David Hendershott, wouldn't have been around to lead an unethical "anti-corruption" team into bogus criminal investigations against county leaders that were later discredited. The arrest of Don Stapley would likely have never happened. Many corrupt decisions that led Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk in December of 2009 to liken the actions of the Sheriff's Office and office of former County Attorney Andrew Thomas to "totalitarianism" would not have been made. Maybe Thomas would not be facing disbarment.

Lisa Allen, Arpaio's longtime spokeswoman, knew Arpaio's denial in July of 2009 was a flat-out lie.

As Allen made clear last week during the job-appeal hearing for Joel Fox, the captain whose home had been raided by state criminal investigators, she knew early on that the top brass at her workplace was heavily involved in the scandal. Allen testified that she knew one of Arpaio's top aides, Larry Black, had been involved in a stealth fund-raising operation long before the 2008 campaign heated up. She said she knew that Hendershott had advance knowledge of the "deplorable" TV ad against Arpaio's 2008 opponent, Dan Saban.

The day after the ad aired in October of 2008, it was played in a command staff meeting, Allen testified. While many of the commanders were appalled at the sleazy ad, Hendershott didn't seem to be. Allen didn't say if Arpaio was at the meeting, but he usually attended them.

The sheriff was also presented with an opportunity to change history a few weeks before the Saban ad aired.

In late 2008, Arpaio watched as Hendershott launched into a inappropriate, profanity-ridden tirade against Allen.

Arpaio took no action against Hendershott for what was a likely policy violation.

Allen testified last week that she considered filing a workplace claim against Hendershott.

Had she done so -- in our Sliding Doors analysis -- there might never have been unsubstantiated charges against County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and Judge Gary Donahoe, and possibly no bogus racketeering suit against the Board of Supervisors, judges, lawyers and county officials.

An old saying comes to mind: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men (or women) to do nothing."

Jerry Sheridan witnessed the tirade, too, and was shocked at Hendershott's outrageous behavior.

He chose to do nothing.

Sheridan is Arpaio's current chief deputy.

He had been solicited by Black to contribute to the SCA fund and knew the Sheriff's Office was covering for its top commanders long before the public found out in July of 2009 who was involved.

Deputy Chief Brian Sands, Arpaio's head of enforcement, is another top commander who didn't act when he could have.

When Fox's home was raided in March of 2009, Fox was under Sands' chain of command. An investigator with the state AG's office and an FBI agent interviewed Sands about his knowledge.

"I asked if he was concerned that somebody under his command was the target of a criminal investigation, and Brian Sands said it did concern him," investigator Mike Edwards wrote in a 2010 report. "He did not express his concern to Chief Hendershott or Sheriff Arpaio."

Sands explained to Edwards that "they already had knowledge so it was their decision as to what to do."

And Sands saw, over the next few weeks and months, that both men did nothing.

You'd think that would raise the hackles on a veteran criminal investigator like Sands. But Sands, in his interview with Edwards, "made a point of saying he is and has been loyal to Sheriff Arpaio."

It should be clear that Arpaio could have been deprived of Hendershott by early 2009 had he or some of his employees done the right thing.

Arpaio would have been prevented from using Hendershott as his unethical enforcer. But, of course, that would have hindered Arpaio from carrying out his wishes. As Arpaio told the Arizona Republic in October of 2009, "When I make the call, (Hendershott) is very tenacious to get the job done."

The sheriff claimed after he fired Hendershott in May of last year that his chief deputy had "duped" him.

But that's as untruthful as Arpaio's 2009 claim that the SCA scandal "has absolutely nothing to do with the Sheriff's Office."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern