For the last two years, Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability have been on the outside looking in: The anti-Arpaio activists in the MCSA have been hassled, cut off, and even arrested at meetings of the county Board of Supervisors.
Not today. Today the group had the floor for more than hour at a meeting hosted by two county supervisors. And there was nothing the sheriff's officers could do but stand by and watch.
The meeting was the happy confluence of some unhappy incidents. In the last year, Supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox have both become targets of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas, along with several of their top aides. It's no coincidence that both supervisors are much more receptive to the MCSA than they were when the group started raising hell two years ago.
And so Stapley and Wilcox made the interesting decision to hold a "private" meeting with the group. The meeting's lack of a quorum -- Stapley said that other colleagues on the board wished to attend but decided not to, for strategic reasons -- allowed the MCSA to hold the floor far longer than the usual two minutes per person allowed for "public comment" at the end of actual meetings.
And today's powwow, if entirely ceremonial, could have real results.
For one thing, the unusual public airing of information about Arpaio's fiscal mismanagement and abuses of power drew plenty of television cameras. That's never a bad thing, and the activists used their time to detail a host of abuses and bad decisions.
For another, MCSA's Randy Parraz presented supervisors Stapley and Wilcox with a list of nine suggested "action items" for the board.
He suggested that it could take the following actions:
* request that public funding for the sheriff and county attorney's anti-corruption MACE unit cease immediately,
* order staff reductions, particularly on the command side,
* review public-safety goals to see if the Sheriff's Office's is complying,
* put the MCSO on a monthly line-item budget accounting,
* order a complete (and independent audit) of the MCSO,
* ask federal and state agencies to freeze the sheriff's RICO and Jail Enhancement funds until there's a transparent accounting,
* explore the idea of putting the Sheriff's Office under federal receivership,
* review the sheriff's budget to see if resources are allocated for felony warrants, and if not, fund one, and finally...
* adopt policies saying that "Crime Suppression Sweeps" may only be used in areas policed exclusively by the county, unless MCSO involvement has been requested.
Stapley urged the group to have patience, seeming to suggest that federal investigators may be acting soon. But Parraz pushed for more. "I don't want to wait for another election," he said. "I don't want to wait for a grand jury indictment...We're willing to walk down this road with you, but we want to see action."
At Parraz's urging, Stapley agreed to follow up with responses to the policy suggestions within 15 days.
There were plenty of highlights, including a rousing speech from attorney Chad Snow, who many commenters on this Web may be familiar with. (Yes, Snow is pretty much the only dude in town who ever posts under his own name.) We also heard from Tommy Collins, better know to New Times' readers as TommyC, who in his past life was lieutenant commander of a Colorado police department.
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We hope to have more on the meeting soon. But we can't help but note a quiet moment from its beginning. Don Stapley's father, Tom, died yesterday, and many people assumed today's meeting would be canceled as a result.
Instead, Parraz said he got a call at 6:30 a.m. from a Stapley aide, making it clear the agenda hadn't changed. To acknowledge Stapley's loss, Supervisor Wilcox opened with a request for a moment of silence.
After the moment, Stapley thanked the attendees.
"That means a lot to me," he said, seeming for a moment to choke back tears. "This is where my father would want me to be."