Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu Takes Reins of MCSO Investigation, Says David Hendershott Should be Put on Leave; What About Arpaio?

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu recommends paid leave for Sheriff Joe Arpaio's chief deputy, David Hendershott, while he investigates allegations of corruption in Arpaio's office.

In a news release e-mailed this evening, Babeu brushes off the claim today by supervisors Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley that he's not the right person to conduct the investigation. Babeu says Frank Munnell, the deputy chief who penned the damning memo with the allegations, agrees that the Pinal agency can handle the case fairly.

Meantime, Babeu says he told Arpaio that Hendershott, Deputy Chief Larry Black, and Captain Joel Fox -- the key players in the SCA election scandal -- should be put on paid leave during the investigation. (Arpaio's already put Fox and Black on leave.)

According to the news release:

This leave includes no use of MCSO equipment including email and cell phones and no access to MCSO facilities. Sheriff Babeu further has asked today, that all individuals involved in the investigation be admonished. This means none of the parties involved are permitted to speak with anybody concerning this investigation with the exception of investigators or attorney's.

The Pinal County Sheriff's Office will be conducting the administrative portion of this investigation and all parties involved will be afforded complete due process. The investigation will be unbiased, professional and in the end will be based solely on facts.

To assist with this investigation, Sheriff Babeu will be hiring outside special counsel and other expert staff to assist him with this high level investigation.

Here's the problem with all this: Babeu must suspect strongly, as anyone with half a brain would, that Arpaio knew all along what Hendershott was doing. That, in turn, means Babeu must know that Arpaio's decision to send Pinal the case is suspicious.

By giving Arpaio's decisions in this matter a shred of credibility, Babeu links himself to the corrupt regime described in Munnell's memo. So what if Munnell isn't accusing Arpaio directly? Obviously, Arpaio is implicated.

Yet Babeu doesn't seem to care.

The whitewash feared by Wilcox and Stapley seems to be taking shape.

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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.

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