Wearing flip-flops, grass skirts and Hawaiian leis, with surfboards in tow and the pungent odor of sunscreen trailing behind them, around 15-to-20 members of Citizens for a Better Arizona stormed the 19th Floor of Phoenix's Wells Fargo Building this afternoon, briefly taking over the entranceway to Sheriff Joe Arpaio's tony executive offices.
The group's gripe? The fact that Sheriff Joe had dispatched one of his deputies to Hawaii as security for Mike Zullo, a top doofus from Arpaio's "cold case posse," who's still "investigating" crackpot claims that President Barack Obama's birth certificate is a phony.
You'll recall that Arpaio held a press conference in March to announce that his posse investigators had found "probable cause" that Obama's birth certificate is a forgery, despite the slew of Hawaiian officials, both Republican and Democrat, who have averred otherwise.
Arpaio has repeatedly told the press that this birther farce won't cost the taxpayers dime one, though we now know that the bill for the birther investigation so far is $40,000. Even if that dough comes from posse funds, the deputy Arpaio sent to Hawaii is on the clock, and Arpaio's office picked up the tab for Zullo and the deputy's trip.
Supposedly the posse will pay the county back for this absurd outlay of cash. Riiight. In any case, CBA and its fearless leader Randy Parraz figured they needed to hold a luau right in front of Arpaio's swank digs to protest this shameless expenditure of public funds.
"He's not running a private corporation," Parraz said at one point, referring to Arpaio. "He should send us [to Hawaii]. We're all qualified to go to Hawaii and do nothing."
Up on the 19th Floor, some demonstrators laid out beach towels and got comfy, while others sang songs and practiced their hula moves, all while Parraz jousted with a receptionist via the office intercom. He demanded that the sheriff show himself, or that one of his flunkies come out.
As we waited, Parraz fielded questions from the reporters who'd followed the demonstrators up from the ground floor.. Weren't such expenses commonplace for a sheriff's office, asked one?
"Sheriff Arpaio should be focused on public safety," said Parraz. "That whole birther thing, that's not in his jurisdiction. If he was pursuing a child molester [to Hawaii], right on. If he was pursuing a [murderer], right on. If he was pursuing smugglers, right on. But this is not the case."
And Arpaio's blather about the posse picking up the tab, and therefore it's no big deal?
"Arpaio works for us," Parraz replied. "Every time he speaks about this, every time he convenes a press conference on this issue, we're paying for it."
About that time a couple of plainclothes deputies emerged. An older one identified himself as Angelo Calderone, the vice-chair of Arpaio's security. He told Parraz that the sheriff would meet with him, but alone and with no cameras.
Parraz responded that he wanted Arpaio to come out and talk to everyone. Calderone said Arpaio wasn't going to do that.
"This is America's toughest sheriff?" Parraz exclaimed.
Calderone and his deputies amscrayed, but not before Calderone warned everyone to leave because the demonstrators were supposedly blocking the entrances to the elevators, though this did not seem to be the case.
Parraz and the other Jeff Spicoli-wannabes hung around for a while, with Parraz buzzing the receptionist periodically to demand that Arpaio appear. When it became clear this was not going to happen, Parraz and his surfer dudes and dudettes called it a day.
Back on the ground floor, I asked Parraz what he would say to folks who insist this was just a stunt and that he and his fellow CBAers were merely looking for publicity.
"I would say the stunt was sending a deputy to Hawaii," he replied. "That's the stunt. What you have here are people who paid for that stunt. We have a right to come here and air these grievances. [Arpaio] has chosen not to come out and deal with them."
And the surf boards and the leis?
"These are the tactics we've used to expose how crazy this is, how ridiculous it is," he told me. "Our taxpayer dollars are sending someone to Hawaii when we have real criminals here, crime being committed here. He's supposed to be doing his job and he's not. That's why we're here."
Sounds good to me. Arpaio needs all the mockery we can lay on him, especially in an election year, and especially when he's pulling shenanigans like this moronic birther investigation.
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