Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio admitted in 2011 he was "duped" by his top aides.
He admitted in an embarrassing news conference the same year that he'd "made mistakes" in dealing with his former chief deputy, Dave Hendershott, whom he fired after evidence of corruption and mismanagement in his office surfaced. He testified last year (see video below) that he'd delegated operations and management of the sheriff's office to Hendershott, and that Hendershott wasn't even required to report to him on any matter.
Pinal County Sheriff Babeu, after completing an internal investigation of the multi-faceted scandal, told the news media that he believed Arpaio had no clue what was going on his own office, right under his nose.
We chatted with Arpaio yesterday while looking at records in his Wells Fargo building headquarters, and he told us that he has the same habit of delegating operations to his chief deputy, now Jerry Sheridan.
"Nothing has changed," he said.
It's a typical response by Arpaio, who often brags that nothing can make him change his ways.
But in this case, Arpaio's previously admitted it was a huge error to trust Hendershott so much. (We think Arpaio knew exactly what Hendershott was up to, but for a moment, let's take him at his word and assume he truly was ignorant of Hendershott's misdeeds.) If he hasn't altered the management style that even he believes led to serious problems, we asked him, won't he just end up in another pickle in a couple years, forced to admit again that he was "duped?"
Arpaio's answer: He never said he was "duped."
Sigh. If you don't believe us about the "duped" line, either, just check out this November 2011 story by JJ Hensley of the Arizona Republic.
We were forced to point out to the sheriff that his new chief deputy was one of the very people claiming he'd been duped by Hendershott. Arpaio said he didn't believe it. So we read him an excerpt from our blog post in February of 2012 about how Arpaio ratted out commanders who complained to him about Hendershott:
Arpaio's current chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan, remembered telling Arpaio that Hendershott was "running the place."
"Ah, that's bullshit -- I run this office," Arpaio told him in reply.
On other occasions, Sheridan said that he'd share his advice with Arpaio, who would "tell me I was stupid" and do the "opposite of what I said."
Sometimes Sheridan believed that he was speaking to the boss in confidence. But he learned over time that "the sheriff was not worried about protecting his source of information."
Hendershott would find out what Arpaio had heard "and then you'd get your ass kicked" by Hendershott, Sheridan complained.
"If that's true," Arpaio said after we read him the passage, "I don't think people would have made him the chief deputy."
We asked him to explain that one, but he digressed into a rambling and heated speech about how the office did "a lot of good" with Hendershott as chief deputy.
"There have been no charges of corruption," he fumed. "With all this garbage, who has gone to jail?"
He's got a point: Last year, the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office declined to charge Arpaio or his former employees with any crimes.
But the scandal with Hendershott was unquestionably serious, and Arpaio knew it -- why else would he fire Hendershott?
Oh, and in case you're wondering, Arpaio said he still has full confidence in prosecutors, too. And why shouldn't he? Just because the prosecutor with whom he worked during the tainted political-corruption investigations overseen by Hendershott was disbarred for unethical behavior in those investigations? (The mistrust should really work the other way -- that is, the new county attorney, Bill Montgomery, shouldn't trust Arpaio. But they're actually political allies.)
Arpaio told us he works 14 hours a day.
But we've heard that one before. That's the same thing he said when Hendershott was running his office.
The one saving grace in all this: Sheridan is not the rattlesnake of a chief deputy that Hendershott was.
(The video embedded above contains some highlights from Arpaio's testimony at the February 2012 Joel Fox termination appeal proceedings. If you want to see the entire, hour-plus testimony, which has never before been released to the public, click on the vids below.)
Click here to read our follow-up blog post from today about Arpaio's testimony.