King of Pain


This cantankerous coot's cranium's been throbbin' with irony-overload watching Sheriff "Nickel Bag" Joe Arpaio crown himself Maricopa County's anti-corruption czar, with aid and comfort from our wing-nutty County Attorney Candy Thomas. The hypocritical hosers have formed a partnership they call MACE (Maricopa County Anti-Corruption Enforcement), which has been setting its sights on just about everyone in public office but (you guessed it) Thomas and Arpaio.

Reminds this red-bellied woodpecker of that old saw about the fox, the key, and the henhouse. It'd be funnier than Will Ferrell in Blades of Glory if Thomas and Arpaio weren't two of the nastiest varmints ever to hold elected office in Sand Land.

Those sneaky sidewinders have been using MACE to go after various not-so-high-profile misdeeds, like the supposed misuse of funds in community colleges, and alleged petition forgery on the part of Yuma Republican Russell Jones, a former state rep whose indictment was announced in a joint news conference at Thomas' office last week.

Candy alleged Jones "submitted nine petition sheets with his signature attesting to the fact that he had personally circulated them," though others apparently did so for him. All the same, Jones was defeated in a run for state Senate last November. Your guess is as good as this grouse's as to why Maricopa's C.A. is messin' with some Yuma County yokel. And Candy's proud of these tiny taters? Not only does Thomas look like 21st-century Keystone Kop Jim Dangle of Comedy Central's Reno 911!, shucks, he acts like the dim-witted deputy too.

"We will not tolerate public corruption in Maricopa County," declared Candy regarding Jones. "We will investigate corruption and prosecute the wrongdoers."

Unless the alleged chicanery is on the part of Candy or his confederates, natch.

If Candy wished to pursue purported corruption in the county he was elected to serve, he'd need look no further than his own political crony Dennis Wilenchik. Of course, he'd have to, er, probe himself too. (Ouch!) As former New Times staff writer John Dougherty reported last year ("Bully Pulpit," June 29, 2006), Candy's steered beaucoup bidness the way of the bulldog barrister — more than $326K, to be exact. Candy worked for Wilenchik's law firm before being elected CA. Also, wily Wilenchik donated money to Candy's 2004 campaign coffers, and has helped raise funds for the CA's 2008 re-election effort. Currently, Wilenchik is Arpaio's lead legal beagle, defending the ludicrous lawman and his henchmen against a lawsuit filed by past-and-future political foe Dan Saban, now the police chief of booming Buckeye. More on Saban in a sec.

Candy's hypocrisy stinks worse than a garbage-poachin' possum, but that's nothing next to the rancid odor of Arpaio's blarney. Why would anyone take seriously any investigation pursued by a sheriff whose entire career has been littered with questionable media stunts, and the torture and wrongful deaths of those in his custody? A top cop known for repeatedly violating the civil rights of this county's citizens, resulting in millions in lawsuit settlements — this is our self-proclaimed anti-corruption czar? An Idi Amin-like King of Pain is more like it.

Arpaio way outdoes Candy when it comes to headline-grabbin'. The sheriff announced this month that he's going after corruption in Valley Metro Rail, and in the offices of Attorney General Terry Goddard, though Candy's flack, Barnett Lotstein, would neither confirm nor deny the CA's participation in either probe to this down-bearer. In the Metro mess, Arpaio squawks that he's looking into the shenanigans of former manager Vicki Barron and her urging of a VMR contractor to hire a pal's firm, which resulted in Barron's October firing.

Two weeks ago, Arpaio held a news conference announcing that he and Candy — both Republicans — are investigating Attorney General (and Dem) Terry Goddard. Arpaio asserted that he and Candy, the Cagney and Lacey of the M.C., want to know if a $1.9 million payment from former State Treasurer David Petersen influenced the fact that Petersen, who stepped down in November, was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor corruption charge by the AG instead of being indicted on more serious counts.

Never mind that the $1.9 million Petersen reimbursement was required by state law, that Goddard has stated that more serious charges couldn't be proved against Petersen, that Candy's keeping mum and refusing to comment on Goddard while Arpaio shoots his mouth off, or even that there may be the perception of political skullduggery. (Both Thomas and Goddard hanker for higher office and may run against each other one day, you see.)

Contacted about the Goddard affair, erstwhile former GOP AG Grant Woods, whose name practically invokes harp music and halos in legal circles, peeped that such investigations of fellow office-holders are best "done quietly," because the charges often prove false in the end.

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