Maricopa County Craziness

Pinal County Attorney Jim Walsh Referring Abuse-of-Power Allegations Against Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu to Public Integrity Task Force

It looks like Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu -- along with allegations that he abused his power -- is headed for the PITs, a state Public Integrity Task Force, that is.

Read all about those allegations in New Times' feature story.

New Times has learned that Pinal County Attorney Jim Walsh is referring abuse-of-power allegations that Babeu, the county's embattled sheriff is facing, to the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council's Southern Arizona public-integrity task force.

Kim MacEachern, a staff attorney for the APAAC, confirmed Walsh's request.

She said that the public-integrity task force was created in 1992 to handle agency requests to look at "whether an elected official has maintained the integrity that is required of a public servant." It also handles issues involving breaches of public trust and conflicts of interest.

The task force is made up of prosecuting attorneys from Southern Arizona counties, including Cochise, Gila, and Pima counties.

MacEachern said is wasn't clear how long the inquiry would take since the organization hasn't done many of them.

Sources told New Times that Walsh said that it would be a conflict of interest for him to handle the case, so after careful consideration, he's turning everything over to APAAC, whose membership includes the Tucson City Prosecutor.

This news comes the same day at Babeu announced that he was asking the Gila County Sheriff's Office and Gila County Attorney's Office to conduct a joint investigation into the allegations leveled against him, and the "possible crimes" he claims that his ex-boyfriend may have committed against him.

It also comes after Babeu spent several days telling local and national reporters that he would not call for a probe into allegations leveled by his former boyfriend, Jose Orozco, involving threats of deportation of the Mexican migrant.

And, whoops!

In yet another twist in this ongoing and sordid saga -- moments after announcing he was reaching out to Gila County officials to investigate, another press release is issued from the Pinal County Sheriff's Office stating that Gila County officials don't have the "resources" to investigate.

Babeu's office says that instead the investigation is going to be conducted by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne. And it's worth noting that Babeu endorsed Horne's 2010 bid for Attorney General.

A PCSO spokesman says that Babeu had spoken Gila County officials earlier today regarding the investigation, and they agreed to do it.

"But after further review, they both told our office they don't have the resources to conduct it at this time," says Tim Gaffney, spokesman for the Pinal County Sheriff's Office. "Sheriff Babeu has now spoken with Attorney General Tom Horne who has agreed to take on the independent investigation."

And, of course, it wouldn't be true "county craziness" unless Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio didn't weigh into the fray.

He remarked to New Times, after learning that Gila County, er, the Arizona Attorney General's Office, was going to handle the Babeu investigation -- "I wish they had sent that investigation to my office."

Perhaps he was eager to offer Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu the same "whitewash" treatment that he got when the PCSO wrapped up last year an "investigation" into allegations of improprieties by the MCSO.