Stapley's the One Facing 118 Criminal Counts, but Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Got Financial Disclosure Problems of His Own


Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley now faces118 criminal counts of failing to properly disclose his real estate dealings on public disclosure forms -- but Stapley apparently isn't the only guy who forgot to disclose all his real estate transactions.

A New Times investigation reveals that Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who led the probe of Stapley (pictured), failed to disclose at least three transactions of his own.

That's our conclusion after reviewing 15 years of the sheriff's forms, and comparing them to records at the county recorder's office. The forms require county officials to disclose any real estate transactions made, as well as the "date that it occurred."

New Times' review of county records shows that Arpaio:


* Failed to disclose his acquisition of two commercial properties in April, 1995. Arpaio paid $250,000 cash and later had the court seal documents related to their acquisition. New Times writer John Dougherty first reported the acquisition in this newspaper; Arpaio never listed it on his public disclosure forms.

* Failed to disclose the sale of a rental property on Indian School Road in Phoenix in April, 1996. County records show Arpaio and his wife sold the property to a guy named Michael W. Smith for $68,000. But the sheriff never listed any such sale on his forms.  

* Failed to disclose the purchase of a Fountain Hills condo in November, 2000. County records show Arpaio paid $77,000 in cash. And though he disclosed the sale of the property one year later, in his report covering 2001, the sheriff failed to report its acquisition in the report covering his activities in 2000.

We questioned these transactions with sheriff's spokeswoman Lisa Allen MacPherson. She sent us a quick message on the sheriff's behalf: "Sheriff Arpaio says he has and is complying with regulations regarding Arizona financial disclosure statements."

 Hmmm, doesn't exactly explain away the facts we'd uncovered.

Now, we'll be the first to admit that this is pretty petty stuff. But you know what they say about people who live in glass houses ...

So we contacted County Attorney Andrew Thomas' office. Arpaio's office handled the Stapley investigation, but it was Thomas' office that took the case to the grand jury -- and apparently  recommended that Stapley be charged with felonies like "forgery" and "perjury" rather than  filing a false or incomplete financial disclosure statement, a misdemeanor.

If Thomas can charge Stapley with multiple felony counts for failing to disclose his property deals going back to 1994, why should Arpaio's mid-90s shenanigans be any different?

Alas, Thomas' spokesman, Mike Anthony Scerbo, failed to get back to us. So we have no official answer to our questions as to why the office teamed up with Arpaio to get somebody who did little worse than Arpaio himself.

But one simple explanation does occur to us: Maybe Thomas' people have already begun an investigation into Arpaio's cash-based real estate transactions. Thomas says he takes all crime very seriously. When we let Scerbo know our findings, surely, he'll say the County Attorney's office is already on it, that it's putting together a task force to look into these serious allegations!

That's got to be why they never called us back, right? Right?  -- Sarah Fenske