Who will pick up the tab for Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's investigation into the allegations made in MCSO Deputy Chief Frank Munnell's memo? And should Maricopa County pay for any of it, particularly considering the PCSO's past record concerning internal investigations, specifically the mysterious "wounding" of PCSO Deputy Louie Puroll?
These questions are pertinent because, according to e-mails between Maricopa and Pinal County officials that I've obtained, Pinal wants Maricopa to fund at least part of the investigation.
Last week, Babeu's spokesman Tim Gaffney informed me that the MCSO and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office had agreed to foot the bill for the Munnell memo inquiry.
However, MCAO spokesman Bill Fitzgerald related that the C.A. has agreed to reimburse Pinal County Attorney Jim Walsh just for civil legal advice related to the investigation, and nothing else.
What about the MCSO, which sent the investigation to the PCSO, rather than an agency better equipped to handle it, like the Arizona Department of Public Safety? Will the MCSO cough up the moolah necessary out of its own embattled budget?
According to an e-mail sent to Pinal County Manager Terry Doolittle by deputy Maricopa County Manager Sandi Wilson, the MCSO doesn't want to pay.
"I have also had several conversations with our County Attorney Rick Romley and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Interim Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan," Wilson wrote on Thursday. "The Sheriff's Office does not want to pay for the costs and the County Attorney has stated that he will pay for cost of the civil advice component only."
Doolittle was looking for Maricopa County to agree to fund the investigation, at least partially, according to his e-mails to the county.
In a message Doolittle sent to Babeu and forwarded to Maricopa County Manager David Smith, he explains what he wants from Maricopa County.
"I discussed today with David Smith, Maricopa County Manager, the process to request Maricopa County pay for any expenses relating to non legal advice," Doolittle tells Babeu. "Mr. Smith requested the expense request be reviewed by Maricopa County prior to engaging services (i.e. investigator, etc.) to determine if Maricopa County will pay for the service."
Concerning this request, Smith writes to Wilson, "This is about pre-clearing any out of pocket investigation expenses to reimburse Pinal. I believe they will absorb in-house staff costs."
Thing is, I don't think the county should pay dime one for this sham investigation. Not only is Babeu an ally of Sheriff Arpaio, if you read my colleague Paul Rubin's account of the PCSO's inquiry into the Puroll incident, the PCSO's credibility on that investigation is in serious doubt.
For instance, PCSO did not send Puroll's shirt to the DPS crime lab to be analyzed for gunshot residue, which forensics experts say would have helped determine if Puroll shot himself.
(Note: According to a breaking news story, the PCSO will now send the shirt to DPS, because of Rubin's report. Which suggests that they should do the same with the Munnell matter: Send it to DPS.)
Did the PCSO and Babeu really want to get to the bottom of the Puroll matter? And does anyone really think Babeu wants to follow the investigation of the Munnell memo all the way to Arpaio himself?
"Certainly the findings in the Puroll investigation raise some issues about transparency," Maricopa County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick explained. "I think Maricopa County would take that into consideration.
Gerchick said the Board of Supervisors would have to vote on the matter if it involves an Intergovernmental Agreement, even if the MCSO offered to pay for the inquiry out of its own budget.
Doolittle was not available for comment. But Pinal County spokeswoman Heather Murphy told me that Pinal has its own budget woes to consider.
"It's not uncommon for governments to help each other out," she said. "In these tough times we've got to figure out what services we're required to provide, and then the extra we can take on."
If I were a taxpayer in Pinal County, I'd be ticked if I thought Pinal County coffers were going to be raided for Babeu's personal favor to Arpaio.
And considering Babeu's office's performance in the Puroll probe, Maricopa County taxpayers should be equally ticked at the prospect of paying Babeu to do a sham investigation of the MCSO.