Arpaio's 2011 Trip to Iowa, and the County's iRecord Purchase

There was no love lost for Sheriff Joe in Salem, Oregon on June 27 as he paid a visit at the invitation of the Beaver State GOP.

According to Salem's daily Statesman Journal, Arpaio drew about 100 supporters to a rally on the steps of the Oregon state capitol, and "three times as many" protesters.

Videos of the event shows a large, enraged crowd's disrupting Arpaio's speech, forcing him to raise his voice more than once and address their presence. 

Later, Arpaio approached the demonstrators, who hurled streams of invective at him, calling him a "racist motherfucker" and telling him, "Go home. We hate you!"

Joe lapped it up, as usual. Hate, love, it's all the same as long as the local press covers him.

And this it did, extensively, likely helping Joe garner more of those out-of-state donations he relies on so heavily on for re-election.

Arpaio routinely ventures out of state on such excursions, shamelessly expanding and bolstering his "brand."

But it's a trip to Anamosa, Iowa in 2011 that intrigues me, largely because of an internal MCSO document, a letter to Joe, that recently fell into my hands. 

The letter, dated September 20, 2011 is from Doug Miller, a salesman for a digital video recording system called iRecord, made by the company Word Systems Inc., headquartered in Indianapolis.
Miller, former co-chair of the Republican Party in Jones County, Iowa, thanks Arpaio for traveling to Anamosa the weekend before to stump for Republican Rick LaMere, who was running for sheriff of that county. 

After thanking and praising Arpaio, Miller reminds Arpaio that during the trip, which was paid for by the LaMere for Sheriff campaign, he and Arpaio discussed the iRecord system, which he describes as a "revolutionary product . . . developed for law enforcement people by law enforcement people" for use in video and audio-taping interrogation rooms. 

Miller mentions that he has been working with MCSO Lieutenant Fred Aldorasi (now a captain), and offers to set up a demonstration of the system, which has been purchased by other law enforcement agencies in the Valley.

In the right hand corner of the letter, Arpaio has written in his distinctive scrawl a note to his Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan: "Have someone handle this."

Joe also instructs his secretary to draft a "letter to Doug that my staff is looking into his info and request."

About a year later, the Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of the system at a total of $288,000 from the general fund to cover "hardware, software, installation and training," with continuing costs "estimated to be about $9,000 per year," according to a BOS agenda item. 

The recording system was "above and beyond the sheriff's office normal operating base appropriation and cannot be procured without contingency funding," the item states.

I'm told by various sources that there had been internal discussions at MCSO about how to purchase the system.

The use of RICO funds was ruled out, as was a suggestion that there be a request for proposal, with bids submitted by at least three different vendors to replace the MCSO's old system.

"We didn't go out to an RfP on this," MCSO spokeswoman Lisa Allen admitted when I called for comment. "It would have taken way too long."

The older equipment had begun to fail, she said, and the MCSO could not afford to be in a position where it could not properly record interviews.

She denied that there was anything untoward about the purchase.

"Political favoritism?" she asked rhetorically. "Absolutely not. Arpaio didn't have anything to do with it whatsoever. Aldorasi was already looking into this system long before Arpaio went to wherever the heck he went."

What about the scrawl at the top of the letter? According to Allen, that's standard operating procedure for her boss when responding to correspondence.

"FYI, every time the sheriff gets something on his desk from somebody, his typical m.o., all the time, is [to write] to whoever he wants to handle it, `please handle this,'" Allen told me. "It doesn't mean anything [more than] `just deal with it.'"

Reached via phone at his home in Iowa, Miller denied that there was any favoritism shown to him or the product he was selling. 

"There is no quid pro quo here," Miller told me of his letter. "I was just thanking him for coming out."

Miller said the initial contact with the MCSO was through his cold-calling, though he eventually was referred to Aldorasi, with whom he was working prior to Arpaio's trip.

In 2011, Miller was the de facto campaign manager for LaMere, a former agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. The idea of asking Arpaio to stump for LaMere was Miller's, he says, a way to inject some excitement into the campaign. 

He admits, as is plain in the letter, that he discussed iRecord with Arpaio while the latter was in Iowa, but that it was "just a casual thing," and that Arpaio knew nothing of the system.

The sheriff asked Miller whom he was dealing with, and Miller told him that it was Aldorasi.

"I never asked for any favor, he never gave me any favor," Miller claimed. "There was no effort on my part at all to pressure [the sheriff] in any way."

Told about the note Arpaio wrote on the letter, Miller said he didn't know about that, but he didn't think it made any difference.

"Whether [the sheriff] had been involved or not, I would have gotten the deal," he said with confidence.

The purchase was made through an approved county reseller. The county's deputy procurement officer James Foley tells me that in that case, an RfP would not be required of the agency.

Ultimately, according to a 2014 letter from Aldorasi to Word Systems, eight county buildings were outfitted with the iRecord system.

In the letter, Aldorasi claims to have received "nothing but positive feedback" from MCSO detectives and supervisors on the system. He praises Miller's assistance in making the order "easy and methodical."

Miller laments that he did not make much money from the deal.

"On my end," he complained to me, "the effort, in my opinion, wasn't covered by the income I made on it. But that's sales."

I have left messages with two Word Systems execs, asking to speak with them about the MCSO's contract, but have received no reply.

As for Arpaio's trip to Iowa, it seemed to do more for Arpaio's ego than candidate LaMere.

The trip spawned several articles in the local media, quoting Arpaio on his usual shtick: immigration, pink underwear, Tent City, etc.

During one speech, Arpaio said that he and LaMere had met once during Arpaio's time at the DEA.

"Everybody wants me to come out and help with campaigns," local TV station KCRG quotes Arpaio as bragging.

"So why would I not want to come out and help a fellow DEA?"

But for LaMere, Joe's efforts were for naught.

LaMere was crushed in an October 2011 special election by non-affiliated candidate Greg Graver, who garnered 3,487 votes to LaMere's 711.

Email [email protected].

On Twitter @stephenlemons.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons