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Flashes

Sheriff Raff
The remarkable affidavit of former sheriff's lieutenant Robert Wetherell continues to have repercussions after shaking up Sheriff Joke Arpaio and his favorite heavy, Dave Hendershott, director of the sheriff's office.

Wetherell blew the whistle on the dynamic duo, claiming that Hendershott in particular had rigged an internal investigation against former sergeant Mark Battilana, a onetime Arpaio favorite whom Hendershott suspected of talking to New Times.

Last week, Battilana learned that the Wetherell affidavit has breathed new life into his attempt to get his job back.

Following the Wetherell-led investigation of Battilana, who was fired in 1996, Battilana's been appealing his termination ever since, but a hearing officer with the county law enforcement merit commission recently found that the termination was justified.

In light of Wetherell's allegations that Hendershott had tampered with witnesses and documents in the Battilana investigation, the merit commission decided on December 2 to reopen Battilana's appeal. Just how much of the appeal will be reopened will be decided at the merit commission's next meeting on January 6.

In the meantime, Wetherell's accusations have led deputies into revolt. Both employee associations that represent patrol officers seem to be trying to outdo each other in denouncing Arpaio and Hendershott, and their methods.

"They've made their plan clear. You just force him out. You make up shit. You produce what you can, even when you can't, and you ruin careers all down the line. That's his [Hendershott's] m.o.," says Steve Barnes, president of the Deputies Law Enforcement Association, an upstart group whose membership has rapidly reached majority representation of Arpaio's sworn deputies. "This is the way they work. They work totally outside the law. And imagine, if they do it to their own employees, God forbid what they're doing to the public."

Ken Gerberry, meanwhile, is secretary-treasurer of the older Maricopa County Deputies Association, which had been seen as cheerleaders for the Joke and his henchmen. No more, it seems.

"I want Hendershott to go down big time," Gerberry says.

Driving Miss Donkey
The state Senate's Democrats met last week to discuss important policy matters such as emissions testing and bilingual education, but the meeting quickly degenerated into a bitch session.

Seems the Dems are offended that the majority Republicans are treating them like second-class citizens--cutting their staff numbers, giving them lousy committee assignments. Well, no duh! That's politics. If the Democrats could ever get their act together and take over the Legislature, they'd surely turn the tables and toy with the Republicans.

Now, the Flash had some sympathy for Senator Mary Hartley when she began complaining about how the Republicans kicked her off the Education Committee, a truly petty move. Hartley possesses two qualities that are anathema to the GOP leadership: She speaks her mind, and she's smart. When it comes to education issues, she's one of the Legislature's most knowledgeable members. She never should have been booted off that committee.

But Hartley lost us when she started grousing about her parking place. Apparently, the Republicans force her to park under a tree that drops little black berries onto her car, which bake in the sun and are a mess to clean up. The Flash suggests the Dems dip into their caucus budget to buy the senator some Turtle Wax.

Hartley's parking plaint devolved into a heated debate over the pros and cons of being assigned a parking spot next to a Dumpster. Yeah, it reeks, but Senator George Cunningham said he likes a spot close to the trash bin so he can toss the McDonald's wrappers he accumulates on that long drive up from Tucson. And so on.

The Flash walked away with a little insight into what issues the Democrats will pursue come January--and a lot of insight as to why they probably won't get anywhere on those issues.

Pros and Cons
If opinion outside Arizona counted, convicted murderer James Hamm might still have his job teaching two criminal justice courses at Arizona State University.

The killer turned college student turned lawyer, who spent 17 years in prison for a 1974 killing, received overwhelming support in a poll conducted by America On Line among Internet users.

To the AOL question "Should a Murderer Teach?" Hamm received more than 65 percent approval, 27 percent opposition, and less than 10 percent not sure. The interesting data are just that--this is a highly unscientific poll.

Hamm was hired by ASU to teach at the law school, but after a chorus of opposition developed, ASU reversed itself and stripped Hamm of the teaching assignment.

Hamm, however, may have something better than a classroom assignment in the offing.

He's sold his life story to Hollywood producer Alan Shapiro, and thus may become a national legend instead of just a hometown controversy.

Grilled Ruben
The Flash ventured to Tucson recently and sat in as Arizona's Latino journalists gathered for a confab on how a state so close to Mexico seems about as Mexican as Taco Bell. After wrestling with the problem of low Latino representation in Arizona newsrooms, the gathered scribes were treated to a blustery performance by the Arizona Republic's Hispanic-designate, Ruben Navarrette, who trashed bilingual education to a packed room.

Navarrette spouted slogans--belittling academic research, for example, as "anecdotal evidence with a grant"--sounding like the conservative radio host he occasionally moonlights as. On either side of him, meanwhile, professional education researchers calmly refuted his claims and cited numerous studies which indicate that bilingual education--done well--greatly benefits students with limited English ability.

Navarrette followed his performance with a November 22 Republic column that dismissed bilingual education research and trotted out a horror story meant to cast doubt on an entire "liberal" program. Readers were expected to be shocked that a young girl had been enrolled accidentally in a bilingual education class not because she spoke a word of Spanish but because she had a Spanish surname. Six years later, the girl's mother finally noticed that little Susie's homework was in some crazy foreign language, and came to the shocking revelation that her 11-year-old couldn't read!

For Navarrette, it was clear evidence that bilingual education should be dismantled. To whip up support for his side of the argument, he mentioned that a California millionaire, Ron Unz, would soon inflict on Arizona an initiative to outlaw the evil practice; the measure would be similar to one he got passed in California.

Republic editors must have been snoozing when they let Navarrette invoke Unz in his column.

Last year, Columbia Journalism Review awarded Navarrette the dubious honor of a "Dart" for a July 1997 opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times in which Navarrette pimped the Unz initiative without disclosing that he was a paid media consultant for Unz at the time.

Despite his background making money trashing bilingual education, Navarrette has written about the issue several times this year both as a reporter and columnist for the Republic, which apparently is convinced the former "consultant" is objective as can reasonably be expected.

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Charter Fight
This summer, the state Board of Charter Schools made a stupid, $39,000 mistake. Failing to understand the ABCs of its own law, the board in June threatened to revoke the charter of ABC Alternative Learning Center Incorporated. The reason: The state board said the charter belonged to ex-ABC director Carolyn Sawyer, who had been canned earlier in the year by the parents sitting on the ABC school board.

The ABC parents went to Superior Court to keep their charter, and Judge Steven Sheldon ruled in their favor earlier in the fall.

On November 25, Sheldon goosed the state again when he ordered it to pay $39,000 to the parents for their legal expenses. The board has until December 10 to contest the bill.

Feed the Flash: voice, 229-8486; fax, 340-8806; online, flash@newtimes.com

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