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Flashes

Another Poseur in the Posse
With the city abuzz over the news of an impostor inside Sheriff Joke Arpaio's sanctum, The Crime Avenger's chief spinmeister, Tom Bearup, took to the airwaves December 7 to ease the fears of an anxious public.

The highly paid "public affairs coordinator" told listeners of KTAR that the sheriff couldn't be blamed for not checking the background of David Pecard, who was given complete run of Arpaio's jails, offices, confidential files and female inmates. Since a legitimate Army officer had introduced Pecard to them, Bearup said, the sheriff could hardly be faulted for not thoroughly checking Pecard's past.

An astute listener called in and asked about Bearup's own background, and what Arpaio knew about it.

Bearup didn't mention that he had been a political hack in local Republican circles, only to be fired in 1989 by the Housing and Urban Development department after an investigation found that he had failed to make payments on a HUD-assigned mortgage while a manager at the agency.

Instead, Bearup told the listener that he was a 1981 graduate of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Academy, which entitles Bearup to a badge and other privileges. Such as run of Sheriff Joke's jails, offices, confidential files and, one assumes, inmates male and female.

The Flash doubts, however, that Sheriff Joke will bother to call the Los Angeles County Sheriff's personnel division, where staffers will gladly relate that they have no record of Tom Bearup as either academy cadet or employee.

The British Are Combing
Sheriff Joke craves the media spotlight, which has shone on him from all corners of the globe. But his novelty factor has worn off; as far-flung journalists examine his record, they discover there's a dark side to the hyperbole. Consequently, The Crime Avenger is increasingly being portrayed as an international laughingstock.

Take, for example, a November 24 cover story in Night & Day, the Sunday magazine of the London Mail. The lengthy piece is beautifully written by Robert Chalmers, who introduces our esteemed sheriff as a "small man whose bulging waistline and crass bravado make him strangely reminiscent of the more primitive British stand-up comedians."

Chalmers describes Arpaio as "[i]rrepressively communicative on the subject of his own achievements . . ." and possessing "an almost unbelievable repertoire of anecdotes illustrating his bravery in the many years he spent as a drug enforcement officer in Mexico and Turkey. When, I wondered, had he been most afraid? 'Afraid . . .' Arpaio repeated the word as if it were some half-remembered Balkan seaport where he might have earned a minor decoration. 'Well, sometimes in these gunfights you get kinda . . . excited. But I don't know about afraid. I can't remember an instance.'"

Chalmers writes that Arpaio's curriculum vitae, "which he handed me within minutes of our meeting, says that 'Arpaio spent three years (1950-53) in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.' America's Toughest Sheriff [Arpaio's autobiography] notes that he enlisted 'as the Korean Conflict exploded'. . . . So how was it in Southeast Asia? 'Actually, I didn't go to Korea,' said the sheriff, who eventually confessed to having served the nation in the more temperate environs of Metz, Northern France, where his work was 'mainly administrative.'"

Chalmers goes on to dub Arpaio the "Lion of Metz," and implies that the sheriff lied when he "told me that he had slept, unprotected, in one of the male tents" in Tent City. (New Times first reported that special units were on high alert those nights, in case Sheriff Joke needed rescuing.) That claim is immediately contradicted by a quote from a former subordinate who told Chalmers, "They had a Tactical Operations Unit observing him [Arpaio], and a canine unit within close distance. . . . They had a sharpshooter on the roof. The only tough things about Joe Arpaio are his breath and his dandruff."

Chalmers seemed especially touched by our frontier atavism when an elderly woman, "taking me for one of Arpaio's confidants, tottered over to inquire about the possibility of introducing public flogging. 'Soon,' I told her."

Two Good Things About the Republic
The Flash yearns for nothing more than to be a cultural bellwether. So The Flash was extremely pleased when Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Benson unleashed a cartoon on December 11 portraying "'Sheriff' Joke Arpaio."

And stop the presses for this: The December 10 Arizona Republic contained a fascinating op-ed piece that explored the genesis of wacky conspiracies surrounding the crash of TWA Flight 800. The authors of that op-ed piece are Jonathan Vankan and John Whalen. Whalen also happens to be editor of New Times' online publication (phoenixnewtimes.com). He and Vankan co-wrote a book, The 60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time. Their piece on Flight 800 originally ran in the New York Times Mazagine.

That's No Hobo, That's My Boss
While designing a brochure for his business, Arizona Liquor Industry Consultants, retired state Department of Public Safety liquor agent Randy Nations asked a friend to draw a "hobo" to illustrate the front of the flier.

The result, Nations insists, bears a remarkable resemblance to the organization's president, Nations himself.

The Flash thinks the man in the sketch is a dead ringer for Howard Adams, director of the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control--a man known to enjoy a cocktail or two in his time.

See for yourself.

Keep Repeating: "It's Only a Movie."
The climax of the new Tom Cruise film Jerry Maguire takes place during a Monday Night Football game in which the Arizona Cardinals are fighting for a playoff spot. At a preview of the film last week at Harkins Centerpoint 11, a few blocks from the very stadium where the game takes place, this scene got the biggest laugh of the evening. Hard to say whether the mirth arose from the idea that the Cards would be in playoff contention, or that they would be featured on Monday Night Football. Boomer Esiason, by the way, wasn't QB.

The Fifester's Mother Lode
With the passing of his richer-than-god mother, Governor J. Fife Symington III's bankruptcy charade becomes even more transparent.

Even before Martha Frick Symington died November 26 in Scottsdale, Symington was the income beneficiary of four trust funds set up by his late grandfather, Childs Frick; they are worth at least $800,000.

Those trust funds remain off-limits to creditors challenging Symington's effort to erase $26 million in debts through bankruptcy court. The $30,000 per year he derived from these trusts, however, is chump change compared to what the governor stands to inherit.

Martha Frick Symington's death triggers a flurry of transactions that will direct millions of dollars into Governor Symington's pocket. How much is anybody's guess.

"Let's just say he will be very comfortable," a source familiar with the trusts tells The Flash.

Martha Frick Symington was incapacitated by a severe stroke in the summer of 1993. She was confined to a wheelchair and unable to walk or speak the last years of her life. Her declining health may have been a factor in the governor's decision to file for bankruptcy.

Under bankruptcy rules, any money inherited within six months of a bankruptcy filing becomes part of the bankruptcy estate and can be used to pay creditors. Martha Frick Symington survived for 13 months after the governor's September 1995 bankruptcy filing.

Timing is everything.
Martha Frick Symington's death immediately transfers four additional trust funds to the governor's burgeoning estate, according to documents obtained from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

The governor and his three sisters also stand to collect the principal from another trust fund that now will be distributed to Martha Frick Symington's children. Court documents indicate there are millions of dollars in this fund alone.

"As I understand it, the trust may be springing in the form of cash to the beneficiaries when the mother finally passes away. There's a lot of money involved," Bruce Campbell, a Baltimore attorney representing Symington's sisters, states in bankruptcy filings submitted last spring in Pittsburgh.

But there's more. The Fifester also stands to inherit shares of at least 25 more trusts, depending on Martha Frick Symington's will.

If she is as beneficent in death as she was while living, the governor will be in fat city. The governor's mother and his heiress wife bankrolled his 1990 gubernatorial campaign by steering $1.4 million into his personal account. They all waltzed around state campaign finance laws by claiming they were actually lending the Fifester the money. The governor's wife has since said in sworn testimony that the money was never meant to be repaid, and it wasn't, which would seem to make her donation--how should we say it--illegal?

While the governor appears to have the inside track on tapping his mother's lode, attorneys for Martha Frick Symington's bank caution that MFS, heir to the Frick steel and railroad fortune, could have left the bulk of her money to anyone, including YOU.

"One can posit all kind of hypothetical situations, including mass disasters, that could vest Governor Symington or anybody else in the world with an interest in any of these trusts," Tom McGough, an attorney representing the Mellon Bank, states in court filings.

Another Leaked Memo
For a company created to provide comfort to the mentally ill, the folks at CommieCare sure are killjoys--especially when it comes to workplace romances. CommieCare's Code of Conduct doesn't prohibit relationships among employees, but it might as well. Whoever wrote it could use professional help.

CommieCare's Procedure VI.13 states (the parts in italics are The Flash's expert interpretations): "If a Romantic Relationship exists or develops with a person in an Employee's chain (or whip) of command . . . the Employee in the higher level position (my favorite) must disclose the existence of the relationship to any member of the Executive Council (who reserves the right to talk unmercifully about said Employees behind their backs). The other Employee involved in the relationship may make such disclosure to any member of the Executive Council (provided they are suck-ups who want to be gossiped about unmercifully). The disclosure will be reviewed (preferably on videotape) to determine what, if any, impact (whether real or perceived) the existence of the relationship may have on the company."

Employees who dare dally with a colleague face transfer, demotion or firing provided such action "is in the best interest of the company." Failure to disclose is also a firing offense.

Procedure VI.15 addresses the thorny issue of trysts between farther-flung workers: "If a Romantic Relationship exists or develops with another Employee who is not in an Employee's chain of command, the Employees involved are strongly encouraged to advise members of the Executive Council (as to how they, too, can score)."

Procedure VI.32 states: "Employees will not sleep on the job. (Especially with others.)"

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

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