Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Boys Larry Black and Joel Fox on Administrative Leave, Lisa Aubuchon Kisses the Mat, and More

If the feds cannot find some indictments out of the mess that is Maricopa County, they should pack their Samsonites and head to Rio to sell real estate.

The latest news in the wake of the release of Deputy Chief Frank Munnell's memo outlining the many alleged misdeeds of Chief Deputy David Hendershott, is that MCSO Director Larry Black and Captain Joel Fox are on administrative leave. Paid, of course.

In a related item, Lisa Aubuchon, former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas' go-to prosecutor for political vendettas is facing the firing squad. She's been on leave pending the result of an investigation ordered by interim County Attorney Rick Romley.

Last week she received a pre-termination letter. Today could be her last day in the county's employ.

Regarding the Black and Fox dismissals, the Arizona Republic is playing them like a vindication of Munnell and his memo. According to the Rep's narrative, Munnell enters stage left, sword in hand, ready to slay the villains.

In the Rep's latest, Munnell is quoted as approving of the MCSO's putting Black and Fox on leave pending the outcome of an investigation to be overseen by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, Arpaio's mini-me.

Munnell also backs the decision to give the investigation to Babeu, a man whose lust for publicity nearly rivals Sheriff Joe's. Munnell sounds like he's already assumed Hendershott's mantle, though Hendershott is officially still on medical leave.

Sources tell me Hendershott's undergone operations to replace one or both of his kneecaps. If true, he won't be kneeling to his master Joe Arpaio anytime soon.

Which brings me to another point. The Republic is following the MCSO's lead on this story, painting Arpaio as a clueless exec undermined by a nefarious underling.

Arizona's paper of record even quotes Arpaio's top flack Lisa Allen on the Black/Fox leave decision. She states that such decisions are made on a "case-by-case" basis, taking into account "truthfulness issues and the gravity of the allegations involved."

When Allen, Arpaio's spinmeister of many years, becomes your story's moral compass, you know you've veered off course.

Channel 12's Joe Dana and the Republic apparently scored their copies of the Munnell memo separately. Reporters are not known for sharing, even in newsrooms joined under the same corporate umbrella.

You should also note that the Republic has access to Arpaio and the MCSO's talking heads, unlike Dana, who is despised by MCSO higher-ups.

Cui bono? That's the question we should all be asking. Who benefits from the memo and its release?

Certainly Munnell does. He comes out smelling like a candy confectioner, even though, by his own admission, he only sent Joe the memo after Hendershott threatened to remove him from his post as Patrol Bureau Commander.

Munnell's pal Jerry Sheridan, MCSO's Chief of Custody, does as well. Already he is "interim Chief Deputy" in Hendershott's absence. Either Sheridan or Munnell could score the gig full time if Hendershott's pushed out of the frame.

MCSO honchos Allen, Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre, and Finance Director Loretta Barkell also earn halos in Munnell memo for having complained about Hendershott to Arpaio. I won't opine on Barkell, but anyone who's followed the Sheriff Joe saga knows that MacIntyre and Allen aren't dancing on the head of some pin together.

Arpaio is depicted as out-of-the-loop, to some degree, supposedly ignorant of Hendershott's major transgressions. Munnell even states that Hendershott lied to Arpaio initially about the 2007 arrests of my bosses, Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey and VVM CEO Jim Larkin.

Hendershott ultimately took responsibility for the arrests. But Munnell says Hendershott initially told Arpaio that former special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik ordered the collars.

Sorry, but I don't buy the line that Arpaio is so clueless. It's a little too convenient with a federal grand jury still on the hunt for MCSO quarry, and with multiple criminal and civil investigations from the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice and the state Attorney General still in swing.

Just about everyone on the 19th Floor of the Wells Fargo Building, where Arpaio maintains his pasha-like headquarters, has to worry about these investigations and the possibility of indictments.

If Arpaio is indicted and is somehow forced to step down, and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors picks a replacement sheriff, all of those well-paid Deputy Chiefs are looking at early retirement or worse.

For them, Arpaio must remain in power. And if Hendershott, Black and Fox shoulder the guilt, in the press at least, Arpaio could be saved.

True, what's in the Munnell memo jibes with much of what we already know or have presumed about the MCSO. The agency's muck-a-mucks could shame the House of Borgia, according to the document.

And Hendershott certainly deserves his role as the heavy. But he serves at the pleasure of Sheriff Joe, who has gained in numerous ways from his Chief Deputy's machinations.

Which is to say that Arpaio is the Godfather, not Hendershott. Though the feds should hurry up and indict the latter. Because that's the route to indicting Joe himself.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons

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