MaryEllen Sheppard, Longtime Sheriff's Office Employee, Gets Billboard Farewell by Lisa Allen, Arpaio's Spokeswoman

MaryEllen Sheppard's apparently one of the more likeable chiefs at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Last year's departure of two of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's top administrators, Dave Hendershott and Larry Black, was a shameful episode for Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who claimed he was "duped" by their corrupt ways.

But Sheppard, the latest deputy chief to leave Arpaio's staff, got a nice send-off via a prominent digital billboard message at the corner of 1st Avenue and Washington.

"The Outstanding MaryEllen Sheppard," reads the caption below her picture. The sign also states, "The Sheriff's Office will miss you. Good Luck at your new job with the County!"

After 28 years at the sheriff's office, working in human resources and most recently overseeing custody operations, Sheppard is moving over to county administration on Monday, taking a post as an assistant county manager. According to a recent Arizona Republic blog post, Sheppard "will oversee human resources, human services, justice systems planning, protective services and other employee benefits and programs."

We couldn't help but wonder -- did taxpayers fund this oversize farewell card?

The sheriff's office says no. Lisa Allen, Arpaio's spokeswoman, says she paid for it herself with a personal check. We assume this was done at the urging of Arpaio and other members on the staff, though -- after all, the billboard says the "sheriff's office" will miss Sheppard, not that Lisa Allen will miss her.

"Wasn't it lovely?" Allen wrote of the billboard in response to our questions. "We'll really miss her but pleased she's staying within the MC family."

Allen says Sheppard isn't retiring or receiving a pension when she begins her new job, meaning Sheppard won't be one of those "double dippers" like Hendershott, Black and Andrew Thomas' old pal, Barnett Lotstein, used to be.

Sheppard seems to be one of the few good apples on 19th floor of Arpaio's Wells Fargo building headquarters, but you can be sure she's seen some troubling things going on next to her over there. No doubt, county administrators like Sandi Wilson, deputy county manager, a former target of Arpaio's whose lawsuit against the sheriff and county is still pending.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.