|By Valeria Fernández
New America Media, News Report
May 12, 2011
PHOENIX — Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox called for the resignation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, following findings of fiscal misspending by his office and an internal investigation that revealed corruption within his staff.
“Sheriff, do the right thing and resign,” Wilcox said during a press conference on Wednesday inside the Board of Supervisors’ meeting room.
Pro-immigrant rights groups and members of the Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability joined her in the call for his resignation. The group has been demanding for the last three years for a closer audit of Arpaio’s finances by the board.
Lisa Allen, a spokesperson at the sheriff’s office, said Arpaio would not comment on the calls for his resignation. During a press conference last week, when asked by a reporter if at any point he considered resigning, Arpaio said, “I’m not going to resign, as long as the people want me and elect me. Whether it’s this position or maybe another position, I’m not leaving.”
The sheriff and his agency are currently the subject of a two-year-long federal grand jury probe on alleged abuse of power as well as a civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice into allegations of racial profiling.
Arpaio’s critics are also calling on the federal government and President Barack Obma to support grand-jury indictments in the Arpaio investigation.
“We are asking the Justice Department to finish the investigation and indict Arpaio,” said Salvador Reza, a leader in the pro-immigrant PUENTE Movement.
Wilcox also called on the Department of Justice to take administrative control of Arpaio’s jails as they continue the investigation into his office.
Last week, another Maricopa County Supervisor, Don Stapley, sent a letter to the president asking for his support of grand-jury indictments in the Arpaio probe.
“I am a first-hand witness to the crimes committed,” Stapley wrote, “having been falsely charged, subjected to staged media show arrest, publicly humiliated, damaged politically and nearly ruined financially.”
Wilcox said there were three main reasons to call for Arpaio’s resignation: his abuse of human and civil rights by conducting racially motivated immigration raids; his fiscal misspending; and findings of corruption in his agency, according an internal affairs investigation.
During the last few months Arpaio has been facing increased criticism in the wake of troubling findings from several investigations.
A six-month investigation by county budget officials revealed that Arpaio’s office had misspent $99 million from two jail funds over eight years to finance unauthorized law-enforcement activities—including the sheriff’s controversial immigration sweeps.
The partial findings of an internal investigation that he commissioned to examine allegations of abuse of power by his own staff also raised concerns about corruption within his agency.
The heavily redacted 1,000-page report issued by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu stemmed from a memo written by Deputy Chief Frank Munnell and submitted to Arpaio last fall. The memo detailed years of accusations of misconduct and mismanagement by Arpaio’s former chief deputy, David Hendershott. Employees told investigators that they had informed Arpaio about some of the problems. Rather than look into the allegations, they said, Arpaio asked Hendershott about them.
The investigation resulted in the firing of Hendershott and other high officials in his agency.
“Time after time, this report justifies that his office was run in a corrupt manner,” said supervisor Wilcox.
Arpaio said during a press conference last week that he wasn’t aware of the misconduct that took place.
But several of his critics find that hard to believe.
“He’s given us a very limited amount of information,” said Chad Snow, a member of the group Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability.
Snow argued that the Munnell memo leaves out any culpability on the part of Arpaio and criticized the sheriff for assigning the internal affairs investigation to Babeu, a political ally.
“What we are seeing is a very carefully orchestrated campaign by Arpaio to throw other people under the bus,” Snow said, “when the evidence shows that he had his finger on many of those things.”
Supervisors Stapley and Wilcox said they were first-hand witnesses and victims of abuse of power by Arpaio’s agency, in what they believed was retaliation for their criticism of his office.
During the press conference, Reza of the PUENTE Movement repeated concerns about possible racial motivations for Arpaio’s immigration sweeps, pointing to evidence from a racial profiling lawsuit that found that several deputies within Arpaio’s staff had sent racially derogatory emails.
“We need to change and hold Arpaio accountable, it’s not about him firing a couple of deputies or firing his chief deputy David Hendershott. Hendershott was following orders. Whose orders? Sheriff Arpaio’s,” said Randy Parraz, the head of MCSA. “We are going to hold him accountable until he resigns. Today marks the end of Arpaio’s reign as Maricopa County Sheriff.”