As Bill Montgomery was sworn in yesterday as Maricopa County Attorney, Sheriff Joe Arpaio sat glowering, Nixon-like, from the front row of the Board of Supervisors auditorium.
After the ceremony, I asked Arpaio of he was checking on his investment. You know, his half-million dollars in TV ads and mailers bashing his longtime foe, interim County Attorney Rick Romley, Montgomery's rival in the Republican primary for the C.A. spot.
Those TV ads were deemed legal. However, the mailers were not, and Arpaio garnered a 154K fine. If you include the fine, the total cost to Arpaio was close to $700K, maybe more.
As he always does, Arpaio played off the question, inviting me to do lunch sometime in the not-so distant future.
I told the sheriff I'd be happy to split a check with him. Right after MCSO Chief Deputy David Hendershott and Captain Joel Fox -- both on paid administrative leave pending Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's "investigation" of allegations of wrongdoing -- are indicted by the state AG's office or the feds.
Arpaio frowned and rolled his eyes comically. Nearby, interim Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan pulled a poker face.
Earlier, during his speech following the swearing-in, Montgomery pledged to work with the sheriff, as well as the Board of Supervisors. And he signaled (surprise, surprise) that illegal immigration is high on his agenda.
"You told me you wanted a county attorney who would enforce all of our laws in a full and fair manner," said Montgomery. "Including our laws that [address] the impact of illegal immigration, mindful of our Constitution, and respectful of the civil rights of all."
Granted, that's hardly extremist nativist rhetoric. But Montgomery has already promised to begin enforcing the "self-smuggling" interpretation of the state's coyote law, as well as cooperate with Arpaio's brown roundups, whether in the form of sweeps or raids on businesses.
Indeed, a number of nativists were in attendance, including affiliates of the nearly-defunct hate group United for a Sovereign America, and state Senate President-elect Russell Pearce's creepy cohort, state Rep. Carl Seel.
Phoenix Law Enforcement Association lobbyist Levi Bolton was also in the audience. You may recall that in a recent Bird column, I wondered if PLEA would attempt to use its influence with Montgomery to put the kibosh on the indictment of Phoenix cop Richard Chrisman in the shooting death of Daniel Rodriguez.
After the ceremony, I asked Montgomery if PLEA's endorsement of him during the campaign and its contribution to his campaign coffers would influence his actions in the Chrisman affair. He insisted that it would not.
"Anyone who supported my campaign because they thought it would result in any undue influence, or undue regard or undue favors, made a gross mistake," he told me.
I also wondered about the six assistant U.S. Attorneys who had been cross-deputized under Romley so they could investigate state crimes involving the sheriff's office. Would Montgomery move to un-deputize them?
He said that at this point, "I don't have an inclination to do that."
Montgomery continued: "My understanding is that the way that's been set up, is that it allows me to say that I have no role with the investigation. That's my concern. I want to make sure that anything that's happening involving fellow county officials is done so that there's no perception that I would have any influence one way or the other."
Finally, concerning Romley's recent announcement that PLEA (the Phoenix police union) and other Phoenix cops were under investigation both by the C.A.'s office and the PPD (an investigation the FBI's watching), will he continue that investigation?
"That investigation that was opened needs to be carried through," Montgomery explained. "So that it's done in a full and fair way. So that at the end of that, I can make a decision that's based upon the evidence in front of me, and make an objective determination."
Fair enough. I will never see eye to eye with Montgomery on how his office handles immigration. Nor am I naive as to his friends and supporters, but I'm willing to see if he can walk the walk he's talking on certain issues. After all, he will have to run again in two years time. Which may motivate him not to repeat the mistakes of ex-C.A. Andrew Thomas.
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