Arpaio Interview Transcript Missing from Sheriff Babeu's Report on Munnell Memo

The $102,000 bill for the job of rooting out high-level corruption at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office included $351 for a five-and-a-half-hour meeting in January between an investigator and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

But New Times has learned that a transcript of the interview is nowhere to be found among more than 13,000 pages of records relating to the Munnell Memo investigation.

The six-month investigation into Arpaio's office was conducted by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who hired Phoenix private investigator Keith Sobraske to do most of the actual work. Arpaio fired two top aides following the probe, which uncovered evidence of policy violations and potential crimes; a third high-ranking deputy, Captain Joel Fox, is appealing his termination order.

Because Arpaio had called for the investigation, and arguably because Babeu is a political ally of Arpaio's, the Maricopa sheriff's involvement in the alleged corruption wasn't explored by Babeu. Despite that lack of investigation, Babeu still managed to absolve Arpaio of guilt -- before reporters had a chance to read his report.

Nothing makes this whitewash more obvious than the bogus "interview" of Sheriff Arpaio.

Sobraske's invoice, which the Arizona Republic obtained in April, shows the $351 billing for a January 12 Arpaio "interview."

But any record of the talk with Arpaio is being kept hidden.

When asked about the omitted document, a spokesman for Pinal Sheriff Paul Babeu characterized the Arpaio interview as "relatively brief and limited in scope."

The interview wasn't recorded, admits Babeu's spokesman, Tim Gaffney.

That alone should raise alarm bells for anyone interested in government transparency. But it gets worse.

Gaffney explains in an e-mail to New Times that some of the five-and-a-half hours listed in the invoice submitted by Babeu's hired private investigator, Keith Sobraske, included the "drive-time" to and from MCSO headquarters and Sobraske's office.

That shouldn't account for much time, though, since Sobraske's downtown Phoenix is only three-and-a-half miles from Arpaio's office at 100 West Washington. Arpaio also had to deal with some office matters during the interview, and that took more time, Gaffney says.

Gaffney claims that the "vast majority" of the five-and-a-half-hour interview was used up by Sobraske telling Arpaio all about the "status of the investigation."

That's right -- instead of interviewing Arpaio, according to PCSO, Arpaio actually interviewed Sobraske.

Arpaio did spend some of the five-and-a-half hours answering "questions which came up during the investigation for which clarification was needed," says Gaffney, adding that the questions put to Arpaio by Sobraske were "about his knowledge of certain issues which came up in the investigation."

After the meeting, Gaffney says, "Sobraske documented answers to the questions asked of Sheriff Arpaio in the authored report."

In May, Babeu's office turned over a 1,022-page summary report and thousands of pages of supplemental documents to Arpaio's office, which released it to the public. (About one-third of the 13,000 pages, the sections that deal with Fox, remain blacked out.)

As it turned out, the bulk of the report documents almost no answers by Arpaio. And Arpaio won't discuss specifics from the Babeu report.

In dozens of allegations reviewed by Babeu and his investigators, Arpaio is described as a key witness by the other people who were interviewed. The summary report is mainly a compilation of the responses of the witnesses.

Yet New Times could find only one instance in Babeu's summary in which any response from Arpaio is noted. The paraphrased quotes can be seen on page 963 of the summary report, where investigators are exploring the allegation that Arpaio disregarded complaints about his former chief deputy, David Hendershott.

That section has Arpaio discussing the relationship between Hendershott and only three of his employees: his spokesman, Lisa Allen; his former chief financial officer, Loretta Barkell; and his legal counsel, Jack MacIntyre. It's clear by Arpaio's responses that he did, indeed, hear and disregard complaints about Hendershott.

Possibly, more quotes from Arpaio are lurking in the redacted portions dealing with Fox. But if the same ratio of witness quotes holds up on those portions, Arpaio's responses there will also be extremely minimal.

Arguably, the transcript of Sobraske's interview with Arpaio could be one of the most important documents in the voluminous investigative report. The document, whether typed up or in handwritten notes, would possibly reveal whether Arpaio was questioned much about his role in the various corruption allegations, and how he answered Sobraske.

Gaffney says Sobraske didn't turn over his notes or any transcript of the unrecorded interview with Arpaio, and PCSO won't ask him to do so.

We're hoping to talk to Babeu about the minimal Arpaio responses in the summary report, and the obvious lack of follow-up in the investigation when the leads pointed to Arpaio. Gaffney says that the investigation backed off whenever criminal matters came up, but the failure to follow up leads also occurs in alleged policy violations, which aren't criminal.

For sure, the 1,022-page report exposes many instances in which Arpaio is implicated in the allegations, either directly or indirectly. But in the following examples, Babeu's summary report contained no responses from Arpaio, or any other evidence that Babeu followed up the leads:

* No response from Arpaio is given for the section on how Arpaio's now-disgraced and disbanded Maricopa Anti-Enforcement Team ran politically motivated investigations. Yet witnesses described Arpaio as a knowledgeable and active member of the team who attended strategy meetings, suggested investigation tactics and reviewed at least one search warrant personally.

* Four MACE supervisors were transferred to other duties after questioning the unit's unethical tactics. Hendershott told investigators he discussed the transfers with Arpaio.

* One MACE supervisor said Arpaio may have been at a meeting in which draft indictments of judges, county supervisors and others were presented.

* Retired Captain Jim Miller, a former internal affairs boss, told investigators that Arpaio suggested some of the tactics to be used in MACE investigations.

* Hendershott told investigators that Arpaio would meet with former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, then announce the targets of MACE investigations.

* Hendershott was found to have improperly ordered the arrest of Don Stapley in 2010. Hendershott claimed Arpaio ordered him to do it. (Arpaio also told the Arizona Republic he ordered the arrest, which is something Sobraske should have known.)

* Hendershott told investigators that Arpaio agreed with the idea to send deputies to Honduras in a highly criticized, costly program that didn't benefit county taxpayers.

* Hendershott told investigators that Arpaio asked him to find a position in MCSO for a former deputy county attorney under investigation, Lisa Aubuchon.

* Arpaio was apparently never asked whether he knew about alleged standing orders to deter his staff from talking directly to him.

* Investigators probed whether Hendershott took a kickback from a surveillance-equipment installer. Hendershott told investigators that the installer also put in surveillance equipment at Arpaio's home.

* Mark Goldman, a lawyer connected with the shady investigation of County Supervisor Don Stapley, was flown to a shooting range in an MCSO helicopter -- an obvious waste of county resources. Hendershott told investigators that Arpaio ordered him to have Goldman flown there.

* Arpaio witnessed an incident in which Hendershott screamed inappropriately at Lisa Allen, but has no response listed in the part of the report dealing with that allegation. He gives a short, vague response to the incident in another section.

* Larry Black, one of Arpaio's fired top aides and a friend of hockey team owner Steve Ellman, allegedly offered Lieutenant Rich Burden season tickets to Coyotes games if Burden agreed to drop assault charges on a Coyotes player. Arpaio, whose office was right next door to Burden's on the 19th floor of the downtown Wells Fargo building, was reportedly nearby when this incident occurred, but no response from him is listed in the report.

True, judging from what Gaffney says, it doesn't sound like the five-and-a-half hour interview with Arpaio produced much in the way of responses to the above examples. But Sobraske's transcript, or notes, or whatever he's got that contains a record of Arpaio's interview still ought to be made public.

"I think that the taxpaying public has a right to know how its money was spent, and what the substance of those conversations were," Cari Gerchick, a spokeswoman for Maricopa County, tells New Times. "I would agree it's a public document."

For the time being, however, the document is in private hands. When we requested it from Sheriff Babeu's office, Gaffney referred us to the private investigator.

Sobraske hasn't returned our calls or e-mails.

The allegations against Arpaio, which include abuse of power, continue to be investigated by federal prosecutors.

Below: The part in the report that mentions a response from Arpaio.

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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.