Maricopa County Supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox have asked the feds to consider taking control of the Sheriff's Office in light of allegations revealed in a top deputy's memo.
The supervisors, two chief targets of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's politically motivated attacks, addressed the memo by Deputy Chief Frank Munnell on Friday during a news conference at Wilcox's downtown Phoenix restaurant.
As you're no doubt already aware, the memo by Munnell, a 30-year veteran of the MCSO, focused mainly on allegations of corrupt activities by Arpaio's right-hand man, David Hendershott. Rather than deal seriously with the memo, Arpaio decided yesterday to ask his political buddy, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, to review the accusations.
Wilcox and Stapley believe that decision was a "sham." Even if Babeu attempts to remain neutral, the public won't see it that way, Wilcox noted.
"That puts the Pinal County sheriff in an unfair unethical and political dilemma," Wilcox said.
If Babeu's review of the Munnell accusations result in no action taken against Hendershott and others implicated in the scandal at the Sheriff's Office, it will be "dismissed as a political whitewash."
Conversely, Babeu might try to heap all of the blame on Hendershott -- thereby absolving Arpaio "of problems within his office."
Stapley and Wilcox insisted that the FBI review Munnell's allegations. And Wilcox stated that county officials already have asked the feds to consider putting the Sheriff's Office into temporary receivership -- in other words, stripping Arpaio of his office.
Hendershott, meantime, ought to be placed on administrative leave immediately, they said.
The Supes noted that Hendershott claims he's been on medical leave, but that they have proof that he's just working from home.
Given the allegation that Hendershott uses fear and intimidation to influence witnesses of crimes that may involve his office, it's inexcusable for Arpaio to allow Hendershott continued access to county computers and e-mails, they said.
Which is a great point, of course. And the Supes also made it clear why Arpaio seems to be protecting Hendershott: Asked if it's possible whether Arpaio didn't know exactly what his chief deputy was up to, Wilcox and Stapley answered with an emphatic, "No!"
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Stapley added that he'd been "stonewalled and lied to" by Hendershott about the infamous trips to Honduras and other possible abuses of taxpayer funds.
Seated next to the two supes at the news conference was Antonio Bustamante, who's on the board of directors of Los Abogados (Arizona's Hispanic Bar Association), civil rights activist Salvador Reza, and Lydia Guzman, president of Somos America. The three activists had harsh words for the MCSO and repeated calls for a more neutral reviewer of Munnell's claims.
"We believe [MCSO] is a criminal enterprise...hiding behind the badge of law enforcement," Bustamante said.