Maricopa County Craziness

Wells Fargo Booting Sheriff Joe Arpaio Out of Its Downtown Phoenix Building, Source Says

Wells Fargo informed Maricopa County in a recent letter that it wants the Sheriff's Office to vacate the office space it has inhabited in the bank's downtown Phoenix building since 1998.

One of our trusted sources read us the letter this evening -- we don't have it yet, but we'll post it here as soon as we do. Here's what we can tell you in the meantime:

The letter to Dennis Lindsey, county real estate manager, from a Wells Fargo vice president, Leo Bauman, states that the bank needs the space for its own use, says our source. We're not sure of the timeline -- the letter refers vaguely to details already discussed -- but Bauman says the bank will waive the contract's penalty fee of 12 months' worth of rent for early termination. Ain't that sweet of them?

The five-year contract, which was renewed two years ago, should have run through September 30, 2013. But the bank's been the target of protests for more than a year: Anti-Arpaio demonstrators have been staking out the corner of 1st Avenue and Jefferson in earnest since September of 2008.

Looks like Wells Fargo finally caved. It seems like a significant blow to Arpaio, marketing-wise, and the sheriff's supporters aren't likely to be amused. Why does Wells Fargo need all that space, all of a sudden, anyway?

When we contacted the bank this evening, here's what we heard from spokeswoman Marjorie Rice:

We do not discuss in any detail our relationships with businesses or organizations that may lease space from us.

We've requested public records related to the bank's recent dealings with the county on this issue; we're expecting more details later.

UPDATE: Please click here for the latest. Also, we tweaked the headline and first sentence of this article since it was published yesterday -- as usual, the story is slightly more complicated than it appeared at first blush.

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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