Andrew Kunasek Allegation Denied by County; Sheriff's Office Smear on County Supervisor Came Without Details

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County officials say they aren't sure what the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is talking about when it comes to yesterday's serious, but vague, allegation against a County Supervisor.

But Jim Bloom, executive assistant for Supervisor Andrew Kunasek, says he "categorically denies" the allegation that Kunasek swiped $15,000 in public funds.

Bloom adds that Kunasek could not be reached yesterday by New Times because he is out of the country.

The Sheriff's Office, in two documents released to media outlets yesterday, didn't offer any further details about the alleged theft, leading officials to suspect a blatant, retaliatory smear against Kunasek.

The lack of explanation accompanying the accusation is suspicious, to be sure.

Read the news release and e-mail by Chief Deputy David Hendershott by clicking here and here.

Though Kunasek and Sheriff Joe Arpaio were friendly for years, the good relationship unraveled two years ago after Arpaio and then-County Attorney Andrew Thomas targeted Supervisor Don Stapley in a criminal prosecution.

If the Sheriff's Office began its investigation of Kunasek after Stapley's first indictment, when Kunasek raised issues of a conflict of interest in the Stapley case, it would be hard to discount the idea that Arpaio and Hendershott are retaliating.

Arpaio's office made the announcement about Kunasek, then claimed the "evidence" will be released in a few weeks -- an unusual, arguably unprofessional, way for a law enforcement agency to do business. The tactic seems similar to that used against state Attorney General Terry Goddard. In that case, Thomas and Arpaio painted Goddard as a criminal at a news conference, then let the smear fester for two years without revealing evidence to support the charge -- which was later dropped. 

Cari Gerchick, spokeswoman for the county, says officials "can't even begin to understand what Hendershott is talking about" when he refers to a theft of funds by Kunasek. The documents linked in yesterday's New Times article about the accusation read "like the ramblings of a madman," she says.

As far as the "evidence" of crimes supposedly committed by Kunasek and other county officials that Hendershott says his office will release in a few weeks, Gerchick says the county will make a "rational response" after the the info is received.

If the Sheriff's Office wants to boost its sagging credibility, it ought to make clear what evidence it has against Kunasek -- immediately -- as long as it went to the trouble of accusing him.

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