The bill for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office's Honduran scam is at least $157K. This avian accountant tallied up that much after the Sheriff's Office released hourly rates for the 10 MCSO deputies involved, including the operation's author, Chief Deputy David Hendershott.
What's galling is, that figure has got to be a lot less than the total cost of the Honduran boondoggle. The number includes $34K in RICO reimbursements, and $123K in MCSO payroll hours spent training Honduran cops, purchases of material, and shipping costs. But it doesn't cover untold man-hours spent on planning the mission, phone calls to Honduras, or time spent last June chaperoning Honduran cops around Phoenix and introducing them to Governor Janet Napolitano for a photo op.
Still, it's way more than the $100K the Bird had estimated ("Evil Weed," March 6), as this wacky warbler didn't then have the breakdown of what each deputy made. In a February presentation to the county Board of Supervisors, MCSO honchos informed the supes that the program's total cost was $34,061.81. They craftily neglected to include payroll hours spent in Central America during the whole of 2007.
The MCSO has since released its RICO budget for the past three years. Millions of dollars are assigned to broad categories, with hundreds of thousands of dollars each year placed under the category of "other." The budgets were approved by Jabba the Hendershott and the supes chairman at the time — in one case, Don Stapley; in another, Fulton Brock.
Per state law, County Attorney Candy Thomas' office has oversight on RICO funds used by the MCSO. One of the RICO docs released has a stamp of approval with the signature of Deputy County Attorney Victoria Mangiapane. To date, the County Attorney's Office has yet to respond to The Bird's public-records request regarding its approval of RICO funds.
Recently, Channel 12's Joe Dana showed these RICO budget docs to former County Attorney Rick Romley, who noted there was some "missing money." Dennis Matthiesen, financial audit director for the AZ Auditor General's Office announced on the same newscast that he was moving up a 2009 audit of the Sheriff's Office to this spring, as a result of news reports.
Matthiesen told this mockingbird that the audit would cover only the Sheriff's Office use of RICO funds, and it would not be a full MCSO review. Matthiesen said his office hadn't done an audit of RICO funds since Romley was county attorney. And, back then, Romley actually asked for the audit! Hard to imagine Candy, a.k.a. "Little Joe," asking for a similar review.
Do you reckon Attorney General Terry Goddard might be interested in investigating what is obviously malfeasance on the part of Arpaio and his deputies?
Nah. AG flack Andrea Esquer told this tweeter, "It would not be in the state's best interest to duplicate [the state auditor's] effort." So the AG's going to sit on his hands and await Matthiesen's findings. Matthiesen told The Bird his office has no real power. But if his people find evidence of lawbreaking once they get started in a couple of months, they'll turn it over to the AG.
Should that happen, can we count on Goddard to go after Arpaio and Hendershott — and maybe even Candy, too — for rubber-stamping the whole megillah? Let's just say this bilious bill-bearer won't be counting those huevos before they've cracked.
At least the information avalanche kicked off by this kestrel forced the issue with the state auditor, and that's something. So is the fact that Channel 12's taken up the cudgel. Dana and the station's news team have stayed on Arpaio's fanny and broken new ground in this sorry saga. Dana recently revealed that the MCSO had planned a vast facial-recognition program for Honduras, instituting the expensive high-tech system at the Third World nation's ports of entry.
Dana also uncovered tantalizing tidbits regarding Hendershott's pitching facial-recognition software to a European Union representative, and the fact that the MCSO was awarded a $264K grant from the AZ Department of Homeland Security for the purchase of such technology to be used in Maricopa County. Dana asserted there was a friendship between Hendershott and an unnamed exec of local facial-recognition company Hummingbird Defense Systems, which has done work previously for the MCSO.
Interestingly, the office address and phone number for Hummingbird Defense Systems are actually for a company called Regus, which offers "virtual offices" for clients. Basically, it's a place to pick up mail and messages. A source at the company informed this egret that Hummingbird stopped checking its mailbox last September. Hummingbird left no forwarding address, said the source.
Guess which business maintains an office at Hummingbird's old Camelback Esplanade address? The Symington Group, disgraced ex-AZ Governor Fife Symington's consulting firm. Symington was once Hummingbird's board chairman. But he's not had any involvement with the company for years, according to Symington spokeswoman Camilla Strongin.
What's it all mean? Could Hendershott's passion for facial recognition have been a pathway for personal profit? Maybe he was helping out a pal at Hummingbird? Or, perhaps, Hendershott really has the best interests of Honduras' way-impoverished denizens in mind?
That last query was the punch line, peckerwoods. Even Hendershott's three-tiered chin would jiggle at that one.
The Scottsdale Police Department has been making loads of bar arrests lately. Not for drunken fisticuffs or other rowdy shenanigans. Nope, Scottsdale's finest have been arresting whole bars of patrons, usually at the busiest times of the week for a slew of south Scottsdale drinkaterias.
Typically, the po-po show up on a Friday or Saturday after midnight, sometimes six to a dozen strong. They ask to speak with the owner, and inspect the joint's liquor license, employee log, fake ID log, and other records. They run through a checklist of liquor-related issues. And they prevent anyone from entering or exiting the premises. Sometimes the cops check customers' IDs, running them for warrants.
So far, this beaker's identified five establishments raided in the past month: Longshot Bar and Grill, The Rogue, Chasers Bar and Nightclub, Flicka's Baja Cantina, and Club Mardi Gras. Most bar owners, citing fear of reprisals, would not talk to The Bird on the record.
Club Mardi Gras owner Jeffrey Chazen was the one exception. Chazen described how the bulls raided his saloon about 1 a.m. Sunday, March 9, during a performance by geezer rocker Barry "The Fish" Melton of Country Joe and the Fish fame.
"Why did they stop me from doing business and hold my people hostage?" wondered Chazen, adding, "The more I think about it, the more it rubs me the wrong way. I mean, if I held my customers for an hour, wouldn't that be kidnapping?"
To borrow a line from that flick Team America: World Police, "Fuck yeah!" But apparently some Valley law enforcement agencies feel they can screw over the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.
Chazen's establishment passed inspection. Other bars had minor problems. Chasers didn't have signs warning against fetal alcohol syndrome. The Rogue was over-capacity. One person at Longshot had an outstanding warrant. None of this justifies raids reminiscent of Prohibition-era clampdowns on speakeasies.
Plus, the folks this finch chatted with about the raids complained that the cops acted like class-A pricks.
DJ William Fucking Reed recalled how the Rogue was raided during the three-year anniversary party of his club night Shake! by a dozen coppers wearing Kevlar vests.
"They were essentially holding everyone hostage for an hour," said Reed. "It was insane!"
One club proprietor squawked that nothing like this had ever before happened to him during the many years he'd been in business: "It wasn't routine. Not even close. It looked like a warrant roundup."
Yet Sergeant Mark Clark, the Scottsdale PD's spokesman, insisted such "bar checks" are routine, and not part of some crackdown on booze barns. He asserted the PD is permitted to do this under Title Four of the Arizona Revised Statutes, which allows peace officers to inspect bars "during the hours in which the premises are occupied."
As for the reports of customers being detained by Scottsdale cops, Clark equivocated in classic cop flack-ese.
"A typical bar check does not include the detention or seizure of any patrons," Clark claimed. "However, the officers may restrict customers from entering based on articulable officer safety concerns or in the furtherance of an investigation."
The AZ ACLU's legal director, Dan Pochoda, thinks differently.
"It's a Fourth Amendment violation of unreasonable seizure," said Pochoda. "Seizure is defined as when a person unreasonably isn't permitted to leave pursuant to the orders of law enforcement. That's exactly what's going on here."
Why Five-O's doing this is a matter of speculation. Some say it's Mayor Mary Manross' latest crusade. (Scottsdale flack Mike Phillips denied this was true.) Others say it's an attempt to rein in underage drinking, sparked by a raid on the Mondrian Hotel's Skybar in February, which netted 24 underage cocktail-snorters.
Whatever the reason, the Scottsdale PD needs to stop pretending it operates in some police state paradise where it can bully local businesses and patrons sans consequence. Be forewarned, flatfeet: A lawsuit by a pissed-off patron will surely be around the bend if you keep up this b.s.
So who expected the voice of reason to be a Scientologist's? Not this cynical starling, who still thinks Scientology's full of hooey. But that's what church spokesman Sanford Block sounded like the other day when describing the secretive anti-Scientology group Anonymous.
Speaking of Anonymous' March 15 protest before the Church of Scientology's PHX HQ on Seventh Street just south of Indian School Road, Block acknowledged of the Internet-savvy horde, "This is sort of their way of taking things out of virtual reality."
Indeed, the majority of 50 or 60 individuals who made the scene for the largely peaceful protest, two days after the birthday of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, were 20-something Net-obsessed geeks who'd watched V for Vendetta and Fight Club one too many times.
Guy Fawkes masks from V for Vendetta were all the rage, as were signs ripping Scientologists Tom Cruise and John Travolta. One cherub-faced protester wore a giant hat inspired by The Nightmare Before Christmas. Another, dressed as a penguin, toted a "Fuck Scientology" sign.
The protest was part of a worldwide Anonymous demonstration, following up on Anonymous' successful February 10 demos, which also included the PHX ("Hubbard Haters," March 13). This time, Anons taunted folks standing outside the entrance to the church's Phoenix offices, assuming they were Scientologists. Problem is, most of them were actually the employees of a local telemarketing firm, which works in the same building.
"There are maybe two or three people in the Scientology office," telemarketer Greg Guilford told The Bird. "The rest is us. So they're not really doing anything but bothering us."
Old-school Scientology critic Jeff Jacobsen, whom New Times journo Tony Ortega profiled back in the day ("Picket Fencing," January 21, 1999), was also on the scene and defended the actions of the mostly younger protesters.
"We have freedom of speech in the United States," argued Jacobsen. "I'm not going to give that up. If it bothers people once in a while, that's too bad."
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Via phone, Scientology spokesman Block insisted that the church had no problem with most of the mask-wearers and sign-wavers. It's when hacktivists pulled down Scientology Web sites or threatened Scientology venues that the church objected.
Block cited an incident in January, one verified by Phoenix Police Department PIO Stacie Derge, in which anti-Scientology fliers were posted to the windows of the church building in Phoenix, and a dead cat was left on its doorstep. The fliers featured the eerie motto: "We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget."
Kaput kitties aside, Scientology may be getting a taste of its own medicine, as it has tried jerking down anti-Scientology info off the Net before, and the church is notorious for harassing critics through lawsuits and its own picketing.
Still, The Bird wishes Anonymous would focus on protesting real evils here in Sand Land, not just fools who believe in stuff that has no basis in fact. The Bird's saying, why not protest Methodists or Mormons, if you're going to go after Scientologists? Ripping off the weak-minded is what religion's all about.