David Hendershott's Investigation Into County Sweep for Bugs Looked, in True Paranoid Fashion, at RepublicReporter's Actions

  The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has improved its handling of requests for information and public records in the past year, but the paranoid minds over there still see some reporters as the enemy.

Example: The investigative detour into Arizona Republic reporter Yvonne Wingett that detectives took while cooking up a case against County Supervisor Andy Kunasek.

If you missed it, the Repub ran an unusual "In the Files" sidebar with its story yesterday about the targeting of Kunasek. Seems that Wingett may have barely missed out becoming an official member of the "conspiracy" that Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott believe is working against them. (She's still an unofficial member, no doubt).

While looking at Sheriff's Office reports into Kunasek's allegedly illegal link to last year's sweep of county offices for hidden listening devices, the Republic noticed a page that mentions Wingett.

Seems Arpaio's minions believe that Wingett called county officials in February 2009 to "warn" them of the pending investigation into the bug-sweep. 

The Republic insists that Wingett didn't know of the investigation until a month later -- when she was told about it, on-the-record, by Hendershott himself. Only then did Wingett call the county officials, the Repub article says.

The Sheriff's Office probably suspects a lingering loyalty among Republic staffers with former Republic writer Richard de Uriarte, who works as a county spokesman.

But Wingett's beat is the county. Asking what county officials think of an investigation launched against them -- that's called doing her job.

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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.