The news just keeps getting worse for Sheriff Joke Arpaio. Besides the $8.25 million settlement with the Norberg family over Scott Norberg's death, the Crime Avenger is still the subject of several criminal investigations and civil lawsuits.
Meanwhile, his deputies are in revolt over internal affairs pogroms by Arpaio and his right-hand man, David Hendershott.
What better way to get above all the bickering over the Crime Avenger's cartoonish law-and-orderin' than to ensconce himself in an ivory tower?
In December, the Jokester quietly moved his offices to the 18th and 19th floors of the Wells Fargo Building at First Avenue and Washington. The Board of Supervisors approved the move in September; other floors will be used by divisions of the county attorney. Rick Romley himself, however, will remain in his present office in a county building at Third Avenue and Jefferson.
The Joke moved himself and his top brass. His spokeswoman Lisa Allen says the total remodeling bill hasn't come in yet because the remodeling isn't done.
"It's not looking nice, yet. A lot of people are a little slow at getting their shit together over here," she says.
Deputies say they've noticed that the sheriff has further insulated himself from the rank and file in his new upscale digs.
Steve Barnes, head of the Deputies Law Enforcement Association, says it's no accident that Arpaio made himself more remote from his employees.
"In light of the drastic morale problem, the sheriff has not only distanced himself, he's become an absolute stranger," Barnes says.
Will the huge settlement in the Norberg case finally prompt Republican leaders to rein in their rogue sheriff and call for reforms in his office?
Don't count on it. At least, don't expect any public statements.
After the payout to the Norberg family was announced, county Supervisor Jan Brewer, a Republican, told the Arizona Republic, "I think the Sheriff's Office and the detention officers over there are professional people, and from my point of view they are well trained and do the very best job they can do."
She was singing a different tune at a ceremony last week where the governor and other state elected officials took their oaths.
After the ceremony, Brewer was chatting with a group of people on the Capitol Mall and was overheard to say that Arpaio had become a "financial liability"--an apparent reference to the slew of lawsuits the county faces because of Arpaio's jail policies. She compared the Norberg case to the disastrous Temple Murders case, in which the county paid $4 million to people who were arrested and coerced into false confessions. That little snafu doomed then-incumbent sheriff Tom Agnos, opening the door for a former DEA secret agent/travel agent named Arpaio.
Republican U.S. Representative John Shadegg was also on the mall, and he groused that Arpaio "doesn't deserve the support of the party."
Of course he doesn't. He doesn't deserve the support of orthopedic hose.
But when a politician has had an approval rating in the neighborhood of 80 percent, as Arpaio has (it will be interesting to see whether the Norberg fiasco will change that), his peers are loath to offend him.
So count on Republicans to continue to cower and kiss Joke's butt--with one notable exception: County Attorney Richard Romley, who's had the good sense (and backbone) to lambaste Arpaio's reckless policies. The County Attorney's Office is still conducting a criminal investigation into Norberg's killing, and the cover-up that followed.
A Kinder, Gentler Dan
Lagging far behind the pack in his relentless dream to become President of the United States, former Vice President and current Paradise Valley golf pro Dan Quayle seems to have decided to join 'em rather than fight 'em.
Mindful that Texas Governor George W. Bush has a huge lead over all other wanna-bes, Indiana's gift to Arizona has joined up with Bush's "conservatism with compassion" doctrine--but with a small me-too variation from Quayle.
In a recent speech, Quayle thought he might've topped Bush by proclaiming this bit of neo-eloquence: "Conservatism is compassionate."
Does this mean Dan will finally start paying decent tips to his caddies? He's known as a tightwad who tells off-color jokes on the links.
So far, the new Quayle credo shows no boost in his single-digit popularity among Republicans.
A Potential Pen Pal
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to decide soon former governor J. Fife Symington III's appeal of his conviction on six counts of bank and wire fraud. If the court lets the verdict stand, Symington will report to a federal prison near Las Vegas.
At least the Fifester could take comfort in knowing he's not the only onetime state executive so confined.
Just after Christmas, former Rhode Island governor Edward D. DiPrete began a one-year prison sentence for steering state contracts to political donors. DiPrete, a Republican, governed Rhode Island from 1985 to 1991. He pleaded guilty to 18 crimes relating to his efforts to steer state contracts to companies and people in return for contributions. His son was fined $1,000 for playing the middleman for his father.
The Fifester was known for similar shenanigans. Although Symington was never prosecuted for bid-rigging, one of his former aides, George Leckie, was acquitted in federal court after being accused of steering a state contract to Symington's personal and business accounting firm, Coopers & Lybrand. The case against Leckie faltered after a key player in the bid-rigging, John Yeoman, head of Coopers & Lybrand's Phoenix office, was killed in a car accident in April 1996.
Prior to the federal trial, Coopers & Lybrand and Leckie both paid fines, and in exchange the Attorney General's Office dropped a criminal investigation of them.
Leckie died last year of cancer.
Symington was convicted in September 1997 of bank and wire fraud in connection with development deals, and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Free while his appeal is being considered, he has traveled out of the country and is enrolled in a culinary-arts school.
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