Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Secretly Recorded '09 Staff Meeting -- Hear It Here

The public first saw a transcript of a secret recording made of one of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's staff meetings after New Times published it online.

Last week, we noticed that Channel 5 News (KPHO-TV) had obtained the actual audio recording and aired pieces of it in a broadcast. That spurred us to get a copy, too, which we now offer it to you in its entirety.

Observers of the Sheriff's Office, whether they love or hate Arpaio, should enjoy much of this recording of the July 27, 2009 staff meeting that was made by Deputy Chief Frank Munnell, the whistle-blower who exposed the corruption in Arpaio's command staff. After Munnell's many accusations were upheld by an internal investigation, Arpaio was forced to fire two of his most trusted men, former Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott and Deputy Chief Larry Black. Arpaio still maintains -- incredibly -- that he was "duped" by Hendershott.

This recording is an hour and a half long. We've gone through it and noted the highlights, so you can utilize the embedded player and zip right to the parts that interest you. (Scroll down to get right to the recording.)

You'll hear:

* Two deputy chiefs nearly come to blows over the SCA campaign-finance scandal, a dirty scheme to raise money for a negative ad against Arpaio's 2008 Democratic opponent, Dan Saban. The scandal is apparently still being examined by the Arizona U.S. Attorney's office for possible criminal charges.

* Lisa Allen, Arpaio's longtime spokeswoman, seeming to agree with Munnell that Arpaio's targeting of Mexicans is really just about getting publicity for the sheriff.

* Arpaio feigning ignorance on the SCA scandal, when he really knows more than he's saying.

* Arpaio describing how budget battles are largely responsible for why he went to war with them.

* Chatter about how much fun they're having in their county fight, why they're doing it, Arpaio's obsession with former Mesa Police Chief George Gascon, sex with sheep and a whole lot more!

For extra reference, use the PDF we published last year of the state Attorney General's investigative report. The transcript of the recording at the meeting begins on Page 54 of the 153-page document.

The first five minutes include a whispered conversation between Munnell and Deputy Chief Scott Freeman. Both men are still top commanders under Arpaio, by the way.

At 5:48 (minutes and seconds into the recording), Freeman agrees that when Black told Arpaio's spokeswoman, Lisa Allen, to get rid of stuff on her computer that might be connected to the SCA scandal, "that is witness-tampering."

8:50 -- Allen announces to Munnell that she's sick of the SB1070 issue and how Arpaio is "walking right into" criticism. On the day of the staff meeting, Arpaio is rolling out one of his famous illegal-immigrant roundups, which he calls crime sweeps. Allen refers to something inflammatory that Russell Pearce had said the night before, and how the media was abuzz with the notion that Arpaio's office was committing racial profiling. Which, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, he certainly was.

"You know what bothers me is, why are we doing this?" Allen ponders aloud to Munnell.

"You know why they do it," Munnell replies, explaining that the real reason is for the media attention, and to "reinforce the sheriff's stance that he'll do what the fuck he wants."

"Yeah." Allen says.

Allen then agrees that she got everything off the computer that Larry Black had asked her to remove.

13:30 -- the verbal battle between Munnell and Black, which includes the part where Black says he's of the mind to put Munnell through an efff'n wall.

Munnell notes -- correctly -- that Black's excuse why former Captain Joel Fox could not reveal the names of the donors to the SCA account, which funded the Saban ad, is ludicrous.

18:30 Sheriff Joe Arpaio saunters into the meeting and acts incredulous that Munnell has claimed he donated to the SCA fund because he thought he was helping Arpaio's campaign. In the recording, as opposed to just reading the transcript, we think you'll agree that you can hear that the sheriff's expression of shock at what Munnell's telling him has a ring of falsity to it.

20:00 Larry Black compares the SCA scheme to what we've called developer Steve Ellman's "other" campaign controversy. In that plot, (which seems to us an accurate way to describe it), Ellman was accused of making a large donation to the Republican Party, which just happened to use it to attack an Ellman critic running for Scottsdale City Council.

Black isn't incorrect that the SCA scandal and 2004 Scottsdale incident are similar. But he's incorrect to think that just because the Pima County Attorney declined to prosecute in the Scottsdale case, the players in the SCA scandal -- Black, Fox, Hendershott and probably Arpaio -- shouldn't be prosecuted.

27:23 -- This has nothing to do with the SCA or the county fight, but we thought it was fascinating that Arpaio questions why certain problems with overdue reports are being documented. Why document problems, after all?

31:45 -- We enjoyed this quote from Deputy Chief Dave Trombi about that day's planned immigrant roundup in the East Valley: "Mesa's shitting themselves."

At about 45 minutes in, Arpaio treats the command staff to a long trip down Memory Lane and his various controversies.

Arpaio's cell phone rings at about 48:15, (ringtone: Frank Sinatra's "My Way.") It's Gary Grado, East Valley Tribune reporter, calling.

Arpaio lies to Grado about his obsession with Chief Gascon, saying he doesn't know his birthday or when he's leaving Mesa. In fact, Arpaio had just gotten done talking about how it was Gascon's birthday and how he was planning to leave Mesa that day.

57:00 -- Everyone has a good laugh at Hendershott's expense. Someone asks him why he needed to bring a .50-caliber handgun to the meeting.

"In case he gets attacked by a hairdresser," quips Deputy Chief Dave Trombi. He's referring to a 1998 incident in which a man tousled with Hendershott and Arpaio after Hendershott tried to intervene in a domestic dispute in front of a Scottsdale restaurant.

58:20 -- Arpaio explains how he's at war with county leadership because they want to micro-manage his budget. That leads him to ask Hendershott if he's having fun battling with the county -- Hendershott admits he is. These are the battles, of course, that have resulted in the expenditure of millions in taxpayer dollars and the recent disbarment of Arpaio's collaborator, former County Attorney Andy Thomas.

If you foolishly believe Arpaio when he claimed last May that Hendershott "duped" him, listen as Arpaio describes the theory behind Hendershott's filing of a Bar complaint against County Manager David Smith. Arpaio's very knowledgeable of Hendershott's tactics, clearly.

"Duped?" No way.

1:05:55 -- Arpaio complains that Thomas is too skittish and should be more aggressive in dealing with the county.

Gee, why should Thomas be worried about anything?

1:08:45 -- Arpaio admits Thomas has allowed him to do thing the "nutcase" former County Attorney Rick Romley had opposed.

The five-term sheriff then complains that people who get into politics become "whores" who do anything to stay elected.

He asks Lisa Allen if she's noticed that about politicians -- which is quite ironic, considering her conversation with Munnell an hour earlier about how Arpaio does the crime sweeps for publicity.

The recording continues with jokes about sheep and other fun stuff.


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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