Sheriff Joe Arpaio's financial disclosure forms for his re-election campaign show an ocean of greenbacks flowing into the coffers of Summit Consulting, the firm owned by local Republican consultant Chad Willems.
Willems is one of the political geniuses who ran former state Senate President Russell Pearce's disastrous 2011 recall election. I'm hoping he does as well with Joe's sixth run for sheriff.
Win or lose, though, Willems makes bank. And will continue to do so till people figure out that he's just a high-rent, North Scottsdale version of Constantin Querard.
But I digress.
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Other than the rent Arpaio pays himself on his Fountain Hills campaign headquarters and a few other expenses, most of the items listed as "expenditures" on Joe's finance forms go to Summit, with precious little explanation.
Summit is the recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars per expense, payment for generic "fundraising, consulting, adm."
One exception to this rule is Isnet Softwares, LLC, which since 2008, according to Joe's financials, has earned more than $30,000 in payments, usually for "web administration."
Isnet is owned by Rafael Smith, a former employee of Sheriff Joe's, who now works for Maricopa County's Office of Enterprise Technology as a senior programmer/analyst at a salary of $77,000 a year.
As a merit system-covered employee, Smith is required to inform the county in writing of any moonlighting.
He also is required to adhere to a scrupulous policy regarding political activity. Any political work on duty is a no-no, for various legal and ethical reasons.
For instance, the federal Hatch Act restricts certain political activities for employees of state and local governments that accept federal funds.
One of Smith's resumes listed in his personnel file states that he was "chief executive officer" of Isnet from 2000 till the beginning of 2008, just before being hired by the county's OET.
There is no written notice that he continued taking business as the head of Isnet after his hire.
I double-checked with county spokeswoman Cari Gerchick to see if Smith had some arrangement with his supervisor.
She got back to me Friday, telling me that, "According to our records, we cannot find that [Smith] gave Maricopa County any notice about his outside employment."
Has Smith been doing any Isnet work for Joe on county time? A fair question, considering that the county apparently did not know of his ongoing work for Arpaio's re-election effort.
I called Smith at his county extension and at a home number I have for him, leaving messages at both places. I also e-mailed Smith at his county e-mail address. I have yet to receive a reply or a call back.
However, Arpaio's campaign manager Chad Willems did respond to my inquiries via e-mail, telling me that, "Rafael manages the website and processes donations on his personal time."
Willems brushed off any possible conflict between Smith's employment and his work for Arpaio.
"He works for the county; not the Sheriff's office," wrote Willems. "And he or any employee can do what they want on their own time."
Smith's work history is more interesting than that of the average IT guy.
His jacket shows that from 2000 to 2007, he worked for the sheriff's office as a PC systems specialist. One of his performance reviews from his time at MCSO calls him a "key player" on "network security," and refers to him as a "valuable resource" to the agency.
"He was involved in critical data collection to help with computer crimes cases," the review states, specifically mentioning Arpaio's jihad against one-time county school's superintendent Sandra Dowling, as well as, "internal affairs investigations (undisclosed) and tracking network intruders."
In a handwritten employment application form included in his file from 2003, Smith discusses his work on a project near and dear to Sheriff Joe's tiny, ashtray-like heart.
"Sheriff Joe Arpaio wanted all inmate mug shots on the web," Smith writes. "This project required an extensive amount of technical experience."
After some computer geek jargon, he talks up his game.
"I wrote a script and a program that optimized the pictures while bringing the picture and the data together," he brags. "Over 16 million hits a day does the mugshot page take."
Guess we now know who to thank for that advance in crime-fighting technology.
Likely, the county would have to do its own internal investigation to determine if Smith was doing Isnet business on county time.
I can follow up with further public records requests, but our upcoming election day might make such research on my part moot.
See, after November 6, Isnet Softwares could have one less big-shot client to fuss over.
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