Sheriff's Captain Argues Mysterious Donors to Republican Party Not a Political Committee; Says Unnamed Donors Would "Suffer" Under Media Glare

Captain Joel Fox of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office continued to play martyr during an administrative hearing on Wednesday, still unwilling to give up the names of the people behind a $105,000 campaign donation to the Republican Party that has been deemed illegal.

Today's hearing, which we told you about in this blog a couple of weeks ago, turned out to be just a "pre-hearing," and not the actual hearing to cover all the evidence and various sides of the issue. That hearing was canceled, we learned, and today's hearing set in its place. The full hearing will now occur on March 31, said Thomas Shedden, a judge with the state Office of Administrative Hearings.

Fox, though clearly annoyed at the media attention, was cordial enough during the hearing and afterwards, when he stuck around for 15 minutes and gave a long interview to print and TV reporters. See the post with the video by clicking here.

We asked Fox a few questions, including whether he's asked any members of the "Sheriff's Command Association" if they would mind having their names disclosed. As we understand it, the $315,000 fine and the whole shebang would disappear instantly if he did that.

Now, we understand the value of a source who doesn't want his or her name printed. But that's not necessarily the case here. Fox told us "it's not up to them" to disclose or not disclose their names -- "it's up to me."

Still, we wondered: Have any of the SCA members offered to let Fox disclose their names, or has he asked any of them if disclosure is really a problem?

"I'm not going to talk about that," Fox said.

Fox did say he thought the SCA members would "suffer" if their names were made public, because some people might associated them with the controversial political ads that were apparently funded by the SCA's donation. Fox also denied he or any SCA member knew the Republican Party would use the donation to fund the ads.

Fox turned lawyer during the hearing, arguing that a separate hearing should have taken place before the fine was levied to determine if the SCA was really a political committee under the law.

As County Recorder Helen Purcell and county elections director Karen Osborne watched from the viewing area, the county's out-sourced attorney in the matter, Jeffrey Messing, put forth a complex counter-argument. We won't bore with you the details here (and frankly, we'd have to study our notes for an hour before we could tell you exactly what Messing's legal position was), but Messing obviously wasn't thrilled with Fox's opinion.

Messing also seemed frustrated with Shedden -- the judge made it clear seem by his questioning of Messing that this is not going to be a slam-dunk case for the county.

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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.