Sheriff Arpaio's Former Spokesman, Paul Chagolla, Suddenly a Crusader for Public Records Law

Paul Chagolla a champion of Arizona's public records law? Please!

Chagolla was a former top flak for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and we had to laugh after reading his comments following an opinion column by the Arizona Republic. The column suggests Arpaio should "scale back" his large records request for e-mails belonging to dozens of top county officials, and Chagolla writes a response that makes him seem like the public-records champion he most certainly is not.

"Regardless of the amount of records requested, the Sheriff's Office has exercised its lawful right to gain access to these records," Chagolla's first comment says.

The records request is a fishing expedition of epic proportions, which in itself reveals that the Sheriff's Office has no idea what it's looking for or what it might find. The county claims the request will cost taxpayers more than $900,000 to fulfill. But dammit, Chagolla seems to say, what part of public records LAW doesn't the county understand?!

Typically, Chagolla falls back on the idea that a conspiracy must be at work:

Though unfortunate, It is not surprising that the Az Republic's chummy relationship with county communications manager, former Az Republic editorialist Richard De Uiarte, affects its ability to see clearly and diminishes its ability maintain independence of the fourth estate.

Chagolla wants the Republic and, presumably, other media to rally behind the MCSO's fishing trip. But the reputation of the Sheriff's Office is so indelibly stained that it can't be trusted.

In his second comment to the Republic, Chagolla tried to explain away his past stonewalling:

Everyone wants their needs met immediately, but everybody has to stand in line and wait until records become available.

Which, in some cases, would be never. That's a lot of standing in line, Paul.

Also, as we've previously detailed, a review of Chagolla's e-mails in 2007 proved that Chagolla responded far quicker to favored members of the press.

Commented Chagolla: Regardless of who might ask for records or how many records they might ask for, government cannot refuse to provide the records because of the number of hours it takes or what it might cost to produce them.

Now it's yippee for Arizona's liberal public records law!

But did Chagolla and other members of Arpaio's media-relations team live by the words he's now spouting? No. Which makes it difficult to support to them now.

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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.
Contact: Ray Stern