Babeu's "Elite" Staff Overcomes Bad Behavior with Loyalty

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Richard Hank Mueller spent an October evening at the Firehouse Bar and Grill in Tempe, drinking, antagonizing security officers, and "creeping" out the ladies.

Mueller capped off his night arguing with Pierce Birkhold, a bar patron trying to stop Mueller from hitting on his girlfriend. Mueller, instead, ended up hitting Birkhold — with a closed fist to the face, a police report states.

Joshua Rudkin, the bar's general manager, told cops that Mueller was loud, disruptive, and picking fights, including with someone "much smaller than him." He also said one of his female employees, who was working the beer tub near the front door, said Mueller was "creeping her out."


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After Mueller slammed his fist into Birkhold's head, bar workers called the cops, and Mueller bolted. Security officers ran after him, and Tempe police patrolling the area on horseback joined the search for the fleeing assailant.

Mueller evaded the officers, ducking into an underground garage where he'd parked. He climbed into his vehicle, even though the police report shows he had "obvious signs . . . of being intoxicated."

Security officers caught up with Mueller and stood behind his white SUV. When Tempe officers arrived, Mueller put his arms outside his driver's side window, presumably to show that he was unarmed.

Then, the 30-year-old announced to cops: "I'm a sheriff's deputy."

Mueller told the officers that he ran "because he was in fear for his life after being chased by 20 people." Tempe police Sergeant Heather Penner, among those who chased Mueller that night, reported that he was tailed by individuals easily identifiable as security employees and cops.

Tempe police soon found out that Mueller worked for Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.

Hired less than a month after the sheriff first took office in January 2009, Mueller had worked with Babeu at the Chandler Police Department. Babeu was a patrolman, and Mueller was a civilian detention officer. Mueller's Chandler PD employee file shows that he repeatedly applied to become a cop there but was turned down each time.

After he was hired by Babeu, Mueller graduated the police academy in Coolidge in May 2009. Two months later, the sheriff praised Mueller for his work on a sexual-assault case with an official letter of commendation.

Almost immediately, Mueller was among the sheriff's "elite," as some members of Babeu's inner circle refer to themselves. In one Pinal County Sheriff's Office photo, Mueller is seen posing with Babeu; Tim Gaffney, the office's top spokesman; and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer at the Arizona State Fair in '09.

Babeu said in a press release publicizing Mueller's commendation that he was "very proud" of the "highly disciplined" Mueller.

But such discipline wasn't evident on October 12, during his off-duty rampage in Tempe. And his PCSO performance reviews show similar control problems on duty.

Mueller's supervisor noted in one evaluation that the deputy lacked "good tact, good judgment, and common sense to resolve conflict," received "quite a few" complaints in the field, and "escalated [certain situations until they were] out of control," the Arizona Republic reported.

One incident involving Mueller ended with him and another deputy busting into an apartment, searching it without a warrant, and holding residents at gunpoint. While his supervisor recommended an 80-hour suspension for Mueller's behavior in the incident, Babeu's second-in-command — also a former Chandler cop — whittled that down to 20 hours of in-house punishment.

In addition, a photograph of the deputy (who calls himself "Hank the Tank" on his MySpace page) made the rounds at the Sheriff's Office. In the picture, Mueller is lying on a couch with his eyes closed. He's wearing only silky blue boxers and both hands are shoved down the front.

Babeu had been grooming Mueller to follow in Gaffney's footsteps and become a PCSO spokesman. But after the Tempe fight, he was put on paid leave pending an investigation. He resigned on January 4 and is facing a disorderly conduct charge in Tempe Municipal Court.

About four years ago, when Babeu first was sworn in as sheriff, he assembled his own team of commanders, directors, and executive assistants. He chose Mueller and other co-workers from his days at the Chandler Police Department, as well as political allies.

On January 9, a few days after he'd started his second term in office, Babeu asked the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to broaden his authority over his command staff by allowing him to reclassify 17 staff positions — mostly lieutenants — and strip them of their civil-service status.

Point being: These individuals would become "at-will" employees serving at the sheriff's pleasure.

At-will employees can be fired at any time, for any reason, with or without cause. Individuals in covered positions have the right to appeal terminations to a county board, a body with authority to overturn the sheriff's decision and restore jobs and lost benefits.

Supervisors initially voted to postpone the matter. Then, on February 13, they voted 3-2 to grant Babeu's request, expanding his ability to fire as many as 34 employees — but also to handpick individuals for the slots without testing their qualifications or making them compete for jobs.

Babeu had told Supervisors that it was his right and duty to organize his office as he sees fit; he dismissed concerns that he would fire existing employees and replace them. He told the board that giving him more stringent command over the additional 17 employees would make them perform better.

And the sheriff got his wish by the narrow margin (one Democrat and one fellow Republican voted against him), despite an ongoing federal investigation against Babeu and his office over allegations that employees have done campaign work on the job for him.

PCSO Captain Jeffrey Karns disagreed so strongly with Babeu's push for more control over top-ranking employees that he blasted the sheriff in an e-mail sent to nearly 700 PCSO employees, and then he resigned.

Karns' job was on the list that Babeu wanted to reclassify. Karns faced a $15,000 pay cut and stated in his e-mail that the sheriff's "elite" made it clear he would be fired as soon as the Supervisors approved the measure.

Karns was no agitator. He'd once nominated Babeu for a Sheriff of the Year award and agreed with his boss' stance on gun rights. Although he declined New Times' request to explain the sudden rift, he accused the sheriff in his mass e-mail of wanting "complete control" of employees, including the right to fire those who don't "bow and accede" to Babeu's "every wish and desire."

Employee files, news accounts, and other public records show that Babeu has considered or chosen employees with blemished résumés or less-than-extensive work experience for certain positions. For such staff, loyalty was a prime qualification.

Three days into his first term, Babeu appointed Blake King as a lieutenant, which was a quick ascension for a cop with five years' experience as a patrol officer for the Chandler PD.

Later, King asked a deputy Pinal County attorney in an e-mail to try to clear the record of a previously arrested suspect and unsuccessfully sued New Times for revealing his request.

Elias Johnson, a former television reporter hired by Babeu as a spokesman under Tim Gaffney, was forced to resign after pretending to be a sworn officer and tipping off a television station about a search warrant the U.S. Marshal's Office was prepared to serve.

Babeu's chief spokesman, Gaffney, was investigated in the deletion of thousands of e-mails related to abuse-of-power allegations against his boss just as a federal investigation got under way. Gaffney wasn't charged with wrongdoing because investigators couldn't prove his intent.

Gaffney remains a subject of an ongoing federal investigation over allegations that county employees engage in at-work politicking.

Frank Jayme Valenzuela is a political ally rewarded with a top-level job. Valenzuela's favor to Babeu was throwing him Latino and Democratic votes in his first bid for sheriff. Valenzuela's payoff was getting to oversee county jails.

Valenzuela — a former PCSO deputy who resigned after he was demoted for poor job performance during Babeu's predecessor's regime — was appointed to the jails job by Babeu within days of the sheriff's first taking office.

Which was additionally odd because PCSO records state that Valenzuela couldn't ever be rehired.

New Times sought comment from Babeu, Mueller, Valenzuela, Johnson, King, and Gaffney about issues brought up in this article. PCSO Chief Deputy Steve Henry, Babeu's second-in-command, responded by defending current employees' actions and backgrounds.

Jayme Valenzuela ran for Pinal County sheriff in 2008 against then-Sheriff Chris Vasquez. After a bitter defeat to Vasquez in the Democratic primary, Valenzuela decided to throw his support to Vasquez's Republican challenger — Paul Babeu.

He soon was appointed to one of three top jobs over the jails. On its face, the move looks solid, since Valenzuela worked as a Pinal County deputy from the mid-1980s until 1999.

But Valenzuela resigned his Sheriff's Office post on the same day in April 1999 that he was demoted from detective to patrolman after a documented history of shoddy performance.

Valenzuela's employment record came up in 2002 when he applied for a job as a police officer with his hometown Superior Police Department.

During an extensive background check, Superior PD Officer Edward Siemen contacted Valenzuela's previous employers, and a PCSO internal affairs sergeant told Siemen that Valenzuela was "not eligible for rehire."

In his report, Siemen, who no longer works at the Superior department, wrote that one of Valenzuela's former PCSO supervisors told him that Valenzuela "was one of the laziest deputies I ever had." Another told him that "Valenzuela would not complete reports, [that] the few reports he did complete were inadequate, and that Valenzuela was caught numerous times performing personal business while on duty, failing to report for duty when scheduled, and refusing to follow policy."

After Siemen completed his investigation, Superior's then-police chief informed Valenzuela that he didn't pass an employment background check. The chief wrote in a letter to Valenzuela: "You are not eligible for hire by this agency."

Yet despite Babeu's campaign vow to clean up the Sheriff's Office, he brought Valenzuela back into the PCSO fold when he took over in 2009.

Valenzuela oversees jail contracts for supplies and services at an annual salary of $73,257. At his immediately previous job, as a meter reader for Arizona Public Service, he earned $34,000 a year.

Valenzuela's brief biography on the PCSO's website notes that he is a lifelong resident of Superior and received the office's Distinguished Service Award in 1995 for his "performance and dedication in the line of duty."

His past-employment records paint a much different picture.

On his June 2001 application for peace-officer certification (which he had to resubmit for after he resigned from the PCSO), Valenzuela wrote that he was attending the University of Phoenix. A school representative told Siemen that Valenzuela never registered for classes.

Valenzuela also claimed in his Superior application that he'd never been disciplined for improper conduct while a deputy, but PCSO records revealed the demotion and that he once was suspended without pay.

Siemen wrote that, in January 1995, Valenzuela was written up at the PCSO for a "continual failure to turn in weekly activity logs" and for "neglect of duty and insubordination." In 1997, Siemen discovered an instance of Valenzuela's not showing up for work when he was on call.

In March 1998, Siemen's report states, Valenzuela was called into his supervisor's office regarding missing supplemental reports for 10 of 22 cases he had been assigned to investigate; PCSO officials had found that the cases "never had any supplemental reports written . . . even though Valenzuela had dropped [them] from his active case logs."

Back then, Valenzuela explained to his sergeant that he'd been having "personal problems" that affected his work, Siemen wrote.

In 1998, Siemen found out, Valenzuela received more written reprimands and was suspended without pay for 10 days because he skipped work to spend the day in Las Vegas to umpire a junior college softball game — even though his boss had told him he couldn't go.

Valenzuela, when he was running for sheriff in 2008, criticized Pinal County's "good ol' boy" system in an Arizona Republic campaign questionnaire.

"Individuals may have received jobs or promotions they were not qualified for because of 'who they knew and not what they knew,'" Valenzuela wrote at the time. "I am committed to upholding fair and impartial hiring practices [at the PCSO]."

Likewise, Babeu was quoted in a 2008 inmaricopa.com article as pledging that he would "restore professionalism" in hiring if voters elected him sheriff.

"Imagine a Sheriff's Office where promotions are based on merit, education, and performance, rather than [on] being friends with the boss," Babeu stated to the online news site. "This old boy network . . . has corrupted the integrity of our sworn profession. I have not and will not promise jobs, promotions, and favors to anyone."

Chief Henry's response to Valenzuela's return to the Sheriff's Office: He "passed an exhaustive background investigation" and is a "valuable member of the PCSO."

Ironically, considering the Superior department's decision not to hire Valenzuela, he ran for mayor of the town during a 2011 recall election and won by 18 votes.

Valenzuela appeared in two political ads promoting Babeu during the sheriff's 2012 re-election campaign.

The videos, which featured several of Babeu's employees, including Hank Mueller, have become evidence in the ongoing investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel — which is probing whether PCSO employees conducted political work for Babeu and other county officials on the public clock.

Unlike certain other members of Babeu's "elite," Tim Gaffney is plenty experienced for his PCSO position.

He spent 16 years at the Mesa Police Department, six of it as an agency spokesman. He left the Mesa PD in 1997 after a work-related injury and went to work for the Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety until he was hired by Babeu in 2009, eventually becoming the sheriff's chief spokesman.

In the e-mail scandal, Gaffney came under fire for allegedly deleting thousands of electronic messages shortly after they were requested by the news media.

The Arizona Attorney General's Office also had requested that county officials preserve the e-mails for its investigation into claims by Jose Orozco, Babeu's Mexican ex-boyfriend, that the sheriff and his attorney threatened him. (AG Tom Horne, a political ally of the sheriff's, since has cleared Babeu of criminal wrongdoing in the Orozco matter.)

In a March 30 article, the Republic quoted Gaffney as saying, "The Pinal County Sheriff's Office has never deleted public records which have been requested, whether by media or any other entity."

Despite Gaffney's assertions that "mostly calendar entries" were deleted, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, who conducted an investigation on behalf of Pinal County, confirmed in a July 10 letter that Babeu's spokesman "removed thousands of e-mails from his personal computer archive that were responsive to . . . public-records requests and to requests from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the Arizona Attorney General."

Gaffney wasn't charged in the case because, LaWall said, there was "conflicting evidence" as to whether he knew that Pinal County's information technology department maintained duplicates of the e-mails when he wiped them from his own computer.

There is "insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Gaffney possessed the . . . intent to defraud or deceive," LaWall wrote.

According to Chief Henry, "after an exhaustive investigation" by LaWall's office "that was fraught with inaccuracies and misrepresentations, Gaffney was cleared of any wrongdoing."

Though that investigation is closed, the inquiry by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel remains open.

The federal Hatch Act prohibits partisan politicking on the job by state and local government employees working with programs financed by federal dollars, including those in law enforcement.

Alleged work by Gaffney and other PCSO employees on Babeu's campaign is at the center of the probe.

About the federal probe of Gaffney and the others, Chief Henry claims it's based on "politically motivated allegations that have no merit."

Gaffney, states the PCSO's website, is tasked with answering questions about the Sheriff's Office from the media and promoting "external and internal communication." In addition, the site says, Gaffney's public-information office "strives for excellence in public relations."

However, he's frequently refused to answer media questions and has tried to intimidate and publicly discredit journalists who write critical articles about the office.

One tactic Gaffney has employed is telling reporters that their own colleagues don't find them credible.

In June 2011, for instance, Arizona Daily Star reporters Tim Steller and Brady McComb wrote an article debunking claims that border-hawk Babeu made in the Ahwatukee Foothill News that "a significant percentage of illegal immigrants caught in Pinal County are from countries other than Mexico, including 'countries of interest' such as Yemen, Somalia, and Syria."

The Tucson newspaper reported that U.S. Department of Homeland Security data show "there's been no people from 'special interest' countries arrested in Pinal County over the last three-plus years."

At the bottom of the Daily Star's story online, Gaffney's name is on a comment claiming that Steller had "a biased agenda on this issue" and that "individuals in the media and even his own paper do not give him any credibility."

Gaffney has blocked media outlets, including New Times, from obtaining information about PCSO matters and from conducting interviews with PCSO employees.

On November 30, he refused to make available to KFYI talk-show host Barry Young a PCSO employee who'd taken a photograph of a New York City cop giving a pair of shoes to a barefoot street beggar.

The picture, posted on Facebook, went viral and made national news.

After Young's staff requested an interview, Gaffney text-messaged a producer of the show saying that if the interview was with either Jim Sharpe or Mike Broomhead, two other KFYI hosts, it would be "okay, but it's for Barry, so no."

Gaffney's refusal to let Young interview the employee turned into hours of bad publicity for the sheriff and his office on a conservative Valley talk show. The hosts were full of snarky comments and jokes about Babeu and his staff.

Young explained that his relationship with the sheriff, who'd been a "friend of the show," soured because Young and "high-ranking politicians" urged Babeu to settle rumors about his homosexuality during his run for a seat in Arizona's Fourth Congressional District — adding that Young and the others would "stand there and support" him.

Young recalled, on air, that Babeu rebuffed their offer and denied the rumors. Then, shortly after, New Times originated a story about the sheriff's Mexican ex-lover's accusing him of abuse of power. After the story broke, the talk-show host said, Babeu's supporters felt "misled and deceived."

Gaffney complained in his text to the show that Young "is always slamming my boss and our office with bogus crap. No desire to be on his show. Sorry."

As Young fumed about Gaffney's "prissy fit" over his coverage of the Sheriff's Office, a man who said he worked for Babeu — but who refused to identify himself — called the radio station on a phone line reserved for media and guests.

The show's producer said, on air, that the caller wanted a phone number for station management so he could report Young and the show for "gay bashing." Young said on the broadcast that the number was "1-800-Stick-It-Up-Your-Ass."

When asked how he got the special number, the caller said there "are no private numbers," the producer continued. Young then told listeners that the caller was a "stupid little sissy coward" for not going on the air or revealing his name.

A few minutes later, Young said he'd just gotten an "ominous" call from the same man on his personal cell phone, a number he said very few people have.

He played the voice-mail on the air: "Hey, Mr. Young. I'm the guy you just called a coward . . . I didn't get the opportunity [to speak on the air]. But, that's cool. Hey, man, I know you gotta spin your shit to make [it] sound good."

It turned out the caller was PCSO Lieutenant Blake King, identified because he'd neglected to block his cell-phone number when he placed his anonymous call to Young. The producer called the number, and King's voice message gave him away.

"I got a [Pinal County] sheriff's deputy calling my cell phone," Young said on the show. "That gives me the creeps. Man, oh, man, what the hell is going on down there?!"

Blake King and Paul Babeu were patrolmen together for the Chandler Police Department from 2002 until 2009 — they resigned on the same day to assume their new roles at the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.

As sheriff, Babeu handed King a job as a lieutenant at a salary of more than $87,000 a year — a sizable bump from his $68,000 annual pay as a Chandler cop.

The two were close enough that when Babeu, a former member of the Army National Guard, deployed for a stint in Iraq, he named King in his will, according to e-mails obtained by New Times.

King first disclosed that he was in Babeu's will to Sheriff's Office finance director Teresa Heaton while she and King were having lunch. Then, he memorialized the fact by dropping it into an August 2011 e-mail exchange with Heaton about employee time sheets.

After asking her several work-related questions, King wrote:

"Also, I have heard that you are running around saying I don't do anything, or I don't have to do anything and that I'm in the sheriff's will for life . . . The story I shared with you at lunch reflected the sheriff's goodwill and character. It was an example of what kind of man he is."

King called Heaton a "rumor monger" and said he had no idea whether he still was in Babeu's will, rebuking her to keep him out of her "daily gossip with the rest of the employees here at PCSO."

Heaton responded to King about 15 minutes later, saying she wasn't sure what he was talking about and that she doesn't start rumors.

"I also don't run around saying you don't do anything," she wrote. "I've heard other people say that comment to me, but I obviously don't get to work with you very much so I don't have an opinion around that."

But King didn't let it go. He sent another e-mail to Heaton, this time copying Babeu, flack Gaffney, and Jennifer Foster, who oversees the agency's dispatching unit:

"You are the only person I shared the will story with regarding Paul going to Iraq and putting me in his will. [It] has come back to me that you are telling people I don't do anything around here and [that] I don't have to because of my relationship with Paul."

King told her that what he'd heard was especially troubling because, like him, Heaton is "supposed to be a member of the elite 'at-will' staff."

On April 9, 2011, in another e-mail incident, King asked a then-deputy county attorney to attempt to clear a police record from an Arizona Department of Public Safety database. The record related to Ronald Keys, arrested after allegedly attacking a DPS officer and a PCSO deputy at "Camp Titties and Beer," a campsite occupied by off-duty Tucson police officers at the Country Thunder music festival.

New Times obtained, and published, a copy of the 11:20 p.m. e-mail the lieutenant sent to the former deputy county attorney on the night of the incident:

"Unfortunately, the subject booked for [aggravated] assault had been fingerprinted before I could have a chance to get him released. If you can, please attempt to have his DPS record of this cleared."

The DPS maintains many statewide databases, including one that catalogs arrests and another that maintains fingerprints. Neither the arrest record nor the fingerprints wound up getting scrubbed.

After New Times noted in an online article that it was an odd request for King to make, given that it's a felony to destroy, or delete, public records, King filed a libel lawsuit in Pinal County Superior Court against this newspaper.

On December 28, Judge Bradley Soos dismissed the case, noting that "the 'facts' alleged in the articles are based on the undisputed e-mail sent from the plaintiff to the county attorney, the undisputed events leading up to the arrest of the suspect, and the plaintiff's involvement shortly thereafter."

Keys, a former Marine and the son of retired Tucson police officers, was arrested after jumping on the back of DPS Officer Hugh C. Grant, wrapping his arm around Grant's neck, and knocking Grant to the ground, according to documents attached to a lawsuit Grant and PCSO Deputy Andrew Goode filed in Superior Court against Babeu's office and King over how they handled the aftermath of the "Camp Titties and Beer" fracas.

Keys' attack occurred after Grant arrested Keys' wife for flashing her breasts while standing on scaffolding inside the off-duty Tucson cops' festival encampment, Grant alleges.

When he pulled his gun, Grant says, Keys fled. That's when Goode — doing off-duty security work at the event, along with Grant — tried to subdue the combative suspect and severely injured his knee in the process.

The off-duty Tucson officers present that day offered conflicting statements to their department's investigators about whether Grant and Goode identified themselves as police officers, incident reports show.

Grant claims that King spoke to the off-duty Tucson officers on the day of the altercation but not to him. He contends that Babeu's lieutenant then concluded that Keys didn't know he and Goode were sworn cops and that they had made a "bad arrest."

Then, Grant maintains, King ordered that a judge be called on that Saturday night to get Keys released. Indeed, according to court records and internal investigative reports, King arranged for a PCSO deputy to pick up the judge so he could take care of the matter. Once Keys was out of jail, King and another deputy drove the assault suspect back to Country Thunder in a PCSO vehicle, Grant says.

This happened unbeknownst to Grant, who was still at the festival, he says. Goode, by that time, had been taken to the hospital for treatment of his injury.

In a report that King authored in September 2011 — five months after the incident — he blamed the festival melee on the DPS officer.

"It became clear to me that there was a strong possibility that the suspect in this aggravated assault case had no knowledge that DPS [Officer] Grant was a sworn officer acting in an official capacity," King wrote. "In fact, through [Tucson Officer Mikeal Allen's] statement, I concluded there was sufficient evidence with multiple witnesses that DPS Officer Grant had committed aggravated assault on Mikeal by pointing his gun at him."

King continued that "after . . . hearing both sides of the story, I decided to have a PCSO detention commander call the on-call judge" to have Keys released.

Says Grant in court papers, "King and PCSO administration were going to sweep this case under the rug from day one."

Chief Henry's assessment of King's actions: His conduct was "in accordance with law enforcement practices and his actions were within PCSO policies and procedures."

No charges ever were pursued against Keys in the fracas.

On a hot July day, Elias Johnson stumbled upon a surveillance operation that the U.S. Marshal's Office was conducting in his Gilbert neighborhood.

The federal officers were tracking former Phoenix Police Sergeant Justin Griffith, wanted in a scheme involving the purchase of painkillers using blank prescription pads; Griffith was accused of taking a cut of the money after the pills were sold.

Johnson, a former KPHO television reporter hired by Paul Babeu in 2011 as a PCSO spokesman, identified himself to the surveillance team as a Pinal County Sheriff's Office employee.

The introduction left the team with the impression that he was a sworn law enforcement officer, as did the red and blue police lights that Johnson had attached to his take-home county car.

Later, when Griffith showed up at his Gilbert home — and deputy marshals were ready to strike — they spotted a Fox 10 news truck on the scene.

They asked Johnson whether he'd tipped off the media to the stakeout. He denied that he had.

Nonetheless, the U.S. Marshal's Office filed a complaint with the PCSO, and Johnson was put on paid leave as the Sheriff's Office investigated.

It marked the second investigation of Johnson, who also was caught up in the federal Hatch Act probe by the federal Office of Special Counsel into whether Babeu's employees did campaign work for him on county time.

The PCSO investigators concluded that Johnson had released "sensitive information without authorization by contacting the news media, while off duty, and alerting them to an ongoing fugitive arrest-warrant operation."

Though he'd denied calling Fox 10 to the Marshal's Office, to his PCSO supervisor, and to PCSO internal affairs, his cell-phone records proved otherwise.

Johnson initially claimed that Fox 10 had called him, but he later admitted that wasn't true.

On the day of the stakeout, Johnson got caught up in his own bizarre episode of Cops. Wearing a bulletproof vest, he entered the suspect's home with the team of officers and filmed the whole thing with a county-owned video camera, a PCSO statement disclosed.

Johnson resigned in October, and Hank Mueller was among those under consideration to replace him. The Tempe police action following Mueller's alleged bad behavior at the nightclub scrubbed "The Tank" from the picture.

When Babeu spoke to the Board of Supervisors in January, requesting the authority to expand his stable of at-will employees, he told members that it would "allow the Sheriff's Office to manage to an even higher level of performance."

Babeu claimed to supervisors that he surrounds himself with "competent people who do the job" and that he wanted those in his command staff to know they are a "direct representation of me."

And, in many ways, they are — from certain rookie deputies all the way to up to Chief Henry, a former Chandler police sergeant brought to the PCSO as Babeu's second-in-command.

Henry was forced to end his own bid for Pinal County sheriff last year when Babeu's congressional campaign unraveled after New Times published his ex-boyfriend's abuse-of-power allegations and details of his maintaining an explicit online gay-dating-site profile — among other revelations.

If he couldn't be an Arizona congressman, Babeu decided, he would run for sheriff again. Babeu claimed the move was for "the continued success of our Sheriff's Office." He claimed that Henry's staying on as chief deputy and his becoming sheriff again was the only way to carry on the "important" work he'd started at the PCSO.

The impression Babeu gave was that his giving up his congressional aspirations had only to do with best serving the citizens of Pinal County. He even proffered that it was Henry's decision to drop out of contention for sheriff.

And, proving himself the ultimate loyalist among the sheriff's "elite," Henry never said a public word to the contrary.

Indeed, Henry may be a cut above certain other members of Babeu's inner circle — if for no other reason than he hasn't followed in his boss' footsteps and brought embarrassment to the office he serves.

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