Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Watergate: Read MCSO Deputy Chief Frank Munnell's Memo Here (w/Update)

(Please see my update on this story, here.)

Someone should consider putting Sheriff Joe Arpaio's chief deputy, David Hendershott, on a suicide watch. The damning, 63-page memo from Deputy Chief Frank Munnell, first reported on by Joe Dana of Channel 12 News, reads like an indictment of Hendershott and his henchmen, MCSO Director Larry Black and Captain Joel Fox.

And it may precede actual indictments. Munnell acknowledges in the memo that he's spoken with the U.S. Attorney's Office, the state Attorney General's Office, and the FBI about his allegations that these men have "willfully and intentionally committed criminal acts by attempting to obstruct justice, tamper with witnesses, and destroy evidence."

Not that I expect anything to come of Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's investigation of the matter. He's the guy to whom Arpaio forwarded the allegations. In his memo, Munnell requests an investigation by the Arizona Department of Public Safety and for Hendershott, Black, and Fox to be put on administrative leave.

Instead, Arpaio sent the doc to a political ally, knowing full well that Babeu will treat it about the same way he's treated the allegations surrounding Deputy Louie Puroll and his supposed "shootout" in the desert.

But if the feds and those in the state Attorney General's office do their jobs, and follow the leads of Munnell and others they've been gabbing with, then Sheriff Joe Arpaio may have finally met his Watergate.

The document goes over so much ground that not even the Arizona Republic's front page story on the memo today was able to regurgitate it all. And just having read the doc myself, I'm not going to attempt to rehash it in its entirety. However, I will do something the Republic should have done, but hasn't yet: I'm going to link to a PDF of it, here.

Suffice it to say that Munnell plays the role of White House counsel John Dean to Arpaio's President Richard Nixon. Similar to Dean, Munnell essentially informs his boss that there's a cancer on his office. And that cancer is David Hendershott.

Munnell even slips into the Watergate analogy himself at one point.

"Sheriff," he writes to Arpaio, "just as Richard Nixon did not need the help of the Watergate conspirators to win his election, you did not need the ill-advised SCA funded smear video to win yours."

That smear video was aimed at Arpaio's 2008 rival Dan Saban. It was paid for by the so-called "Sheriff's Command Association," headed up by Fox. Munnell claims he was personally asked by Hendershott to donate to the SCA through electronic deductions from his paychecks.

Once the scandal had been exposed in the media, Munnell alleges Hendershott coached him on how to respond to a criminal investigation by the state Attorney General's office. Munnell says he cooperated with the investigation to Hendershott's dismay. Hendershott supposedly told him that Munnell "would probably be the star witness against me."

Indeed, the main reason Munnell wrote the memo, according to him, was because of fear of retaliation from Hendershott. He says Hendershott proposed removing Munnell, a 30-year MCSO veteran, from his position as chief of patrol because Munnell was cooperating with the FBI probe of the MCSO. 

As I want to get this blog post up and give you a chance to read the memo, I'll post another item later hitting some of the highlights. The MCSO comes off as an agency riddled with corruption, with Hendershott leading his pack of wolves as they devour the MCSO from the inside out. 

There's plenty in the memo about how Hendershott has allegedly profited like a drug baron from his trips to Honduras (thus the picture at the top front of New Times' Web site showing Hendy, far left, in tropical shirt and hat) to pimp facial recognition technology, the posse's pink underwear money, renting out the posse as a security force, handing out plum jobs to his relatives and cronies, and on and on.

Hendershott is also apparently a tyrant and a bully who uses fear and intimidation to get his way and punish those who fail to do his bidding. Not that this depiction will raise any eyebrows.

One other thing I should note: Munnell is not the only one who has complained to Arpaio about Hendershott's misdeeds. Several other top command staff have done so as well, according to Munnell, only to be rebuffed by Arpaio. If true, the corruption reaches all the way to the top. And the question becomes almost the same as in Watergate: What did the sheriff know, and when did he know it?

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