Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 10, 2011


Host: Ted Simons

Report on the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office


  • Arizona Republic reporters JJ Hensley and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez provide an overview of what an investigation conducted by the Pinal County Sheriff’s office has revealed about operations at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
Guests:
  • JJ Hensley - Arizona Republic
  • Yvonne Wingett Sanchez - Arizona Republic
Category: Government

View Transcript
Ted Simons: A day after governor Jan Brewer announced plans to appeal an injunction on senate bill 1070 to the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal judge in Utah blocks a similar law in that state. The law requires police to check the immigration status of people arrested for serious crimes. Civil rights groups in Utah sued to stop the law, which they claim was modeled after Arizona's SB 1070. The judge's injunction came down earlier today just hours after the law went into effect.

Ted Simons: And state tax collections appear to be on the rise. The Associated Press is reporting a 9.4% increase during the first nine months of this fiscal year as compared to the same time frame a year ago. These numbers from the joint legislative budget committee represent 162 million dollars more are in revenue than was projected in the new state budget.

Ted Simons: The Pinal county sheriff's office spent six months investigating allegations of misconduct within the Maricopa County sheriff's office. The result, a report of more than 1,000 pages that led to the departure of several top officials. It also prompted Sheriff Joe Arpaio to announce plans to reorganize his agency. Here with more on the investigation and report are "Arizona Republic" reporters Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and J.J. Hensley. Good to see you both here.

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez: Thanks for having us.

Ted Simons: This report, why was it conducted, why was it conducted by the Pinal county sheriff?

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez: Sure. Last September one of the sheriff's top commanders, Frank Menal, frustrated with what he saw as years of mismanagement by his boss, Chief Deputy David Hendershott, and others, penned a memo, and delivered it to Joe Arpaio, and alleged years of mismanagement, years of illegal political campaign activity, years of corruption, and took to it Arpaio and said, look, boss this, is what's going on in your agency. Please do something about it. And so our Arpaio asked Paul Babeu to examine the allegations.

Ted Simons: A lot of people from the outside were like, whoa, apparently big stuff inside the department too.

J. J. Hensley: Yeah, it is. One of the things that's most significant about it is that he still works there. Because for years we've heard rumors, or innuendo about activity in the sheriff's office, but it was easily discredited because the sheriff supporters could say, this is sour grapes this, person was fired; this person no longer works here. Frank Menal still works there; he still has the job he had in September. And what we've seen in this report that you mentioned is the testimony of lots of other people who still work there. And they felt the same way about things that Frank Menal did.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Let's talk about the report's focus, was it just the three individuals who wound up -- we had Hendershott, Fox, and Black. Were they the focus of this report? What was looked at exactly?

J. J. Hensley: I think it's important to keep in mind what the focus is. It was limited to the people in the allegations specifically made in the Meanl’s memo. So the focus was did these three individuals violate sheriff office policy. This wasn't a criminal investigation, that could happen, or that could be ongoing for all we know. But the -- Babeu's investigation was did these three individuals violate office policy, was nepotism, truthfulness, code of conduct, kind of rudimentary issues that anyone who goes to work with an HR department can relate too.

Ted Simons: In general terms before we get to specifics, what did the report find?

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez: Well, it sustained all kind of allegations that Menal laid out, allegations of nepotism, allegations of lying, and allegations of abusing positions to feather one's nest. And there's still more to come. We're waiting for the next round of information on the political campaign activity to be un-redacted.

Ted Simons:Indeed. We should mention a lot of this report was redacted, and still is redacted, correct?
Yvonne Wingett Sanchez: Correct.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about Hendershott, because that seems to be the major focus, at least of what we've heard so far. What is the report saying he was doing? And why was he doing this?

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez: Well, I think the big allegation and this was one we've all been wondering and talking about for the last four years is, was he abusing his power to go after his political enemies? Was he using Arpaio's public corruption unit to go after people who he thought undermined his own power. And the result of that investigation of Babeu's investigation was a resounding yes.

Ted Simons: we should mention chief deputy David Hendershott was the second in command to Sheriff Arpaio. The report seems to suggest all sorts of things were going on here. Give us some specific examples, and I know that later on we can talk about this business of sweeping the offices for a bug. It just seems all sorts of flames of a fire here. But what were this chief deputy doing, and apparently the sheriff not knowing about this?

J.J. Hensley: Yeah, that's going to be the big question going forward, how much did Arpaio know? When did he know it? When should he have known it? But as far as what Hendershott did to get him fired, I think there were 16 allegations against him that were sustained, and one that was partially sustained. So this had to do with -- there was a story we ran in the paper today about a woman who was a friend of the family who was hired there, and had performed about 5,000 hours of work, 500 hours of work in a three-year period where they couldn't account for more than 6,000 hours. They found that he was violating office policy by berating employees that he had lied to the sheriff's office, that he had misrepresented statistics in a '90s antismoking campaign. This is how down into the details this report went. They verified that he essentially erased a number off a dry erase board and replaced it with another number at a press event in the mid '90 that's was related to an antismoking campaign. That became changing a public record. This was a sustained violation, which is one of the things that led to him being fired.

Ted Simons: Also explains why this report is a thousand pages. The supplemental stuff is what, piles high to the ceiling?

J. J Hensley: They're releasing it day by day, but 20,000 pages is what we've been told to anticipate from the interview transcript and all the other material they were able to accumulate to support their allegations.

Ted Simons: The continuing fight between the sheriff's department, county attorney, and the board of supervisors obviously is a major factor here. What did the report seem to show that Chief Deputy Hendershott's workers, the people that worked for him, the commanders, the deputies, they were being told to do it? Sounds like the report is suggesting this was just -- Hendershott was one big smear campaign after another.

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez: Yeah. In several cases detectives felt uncomfortable with the direction they were getting from Hendershott. Following county employees, staking out their houses, writing search warrants, rushing investigations, not really sharing with the entire corruption unit what's the full scope of this investigation, what are we trying to do, isolating detectives so they didn't really understand the complete scope of the investigation, calling them on their weekends, on vacations, running this thing from a makeshift war room in the sheriff's office headquarters. And at some -- in some periods secluding himself his office with Former County Prosecutor Lisa Aubuchon and coming up with a game plan and how they can execute this -- their investigation. And here we are, most of them are failed, thrown out of court, $177 million, notices of claims that had been filed against the county and the state because of this.

Ted Simons: This anticorruption unit, this was -- what was this designed originally -- is this even still intact? Is it long gone?

J.J. Hensley: It disbanded -- it was one of the first official things the new chief deputy, at the time Interim Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan did when he took over back in September, to disband officially disband that unit. I think we found that it was -- it started in '07-08, and its purpose was to target corrupt public officials in Maricopa County. And they started small, Harquahala Fire District Chief Randy Long was their lone conviction, he was convicted of selling -- of theft was the final charge in that case. After that, they kind of ratcheted up and started going after not fire chiefs, but supervisors, and school district chiefs, and things like that, and that's where things seemed to get a little messy.

Ted Simons: Without giving opinion or trying to speculate on this, from a distance it seems like you mentioned Lisa Aubuchon, when that name, when she became part of this whole investigation team, seemed like things changed. Is that what the report seems to be suggesting?

J. J. Hensley: The detectives, again, this is why we're so fascinated by this, these are the detectives that work on that unit and they still work for the sheriff's office. And their words are, yes, they could sense a change when she came in the unit, that basically it was her in the chief deputy running things, and I think one of the guys said there wasn't anything left for me to do, so I just went and get my hair cut. And this was a lieutenant who was supposed to be overseeing this anticorruption unit. Hendershott in the report, he says, I had to do these things. I was the only one who knew what was going on at the county that was in connection with the lawyers, who knew what was going on in the investigative end. So I had to be essentially the straw that stirred the drink, because no one else could make that happen in the office. And this is -- that's his defense.

Ted Simons: OK. We haven't heard much about Larry Black, and we haven't heard anything at all about the allegations against Joe Fox. What's happening there with those other two disciplined by sheriff's office?


Yvonne Wingett Sanchez: Larry Black resigned; he faced imminent termination as well. We're waiting to see the results of the -- the status, what's going to happen with Joel Fox. Paul Babeu in his press conference last week indicated he recommended termination. J.J. is a little more aware of what's going on with that. I think he has an appointment.

J.J. Hensley: Fox is a little different. We should keep in mind Chief Hendershott and Larry Black are both at-will employees. They're civilians, essentially, serving at the will of the sheriff, who could have fired them at any time in the last 10 years or so since Hendershott has retired and gone back to work as a civilian. Fox is a sworn deputy, he's got all sorts of protections that both public employees have, and law enforcement have.

Ted Simons: And thus so many of the redactions are involving him.

J.J. Hensley: Right. And what we've heard is that everything that's related to Fox has been redacted from this report, so well over a third of what we got originally is blacked out.

Ted Simons: Can this investigation be used in other investigations? Can the feds use this? Can anyone else use this? This is an internal investigation. What are the dynamics?

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez: Certainly. The U.S. attorney's office and the FBI continue with their abuse of power investigation, but this, because this was an administrative investigation, it has to go through what's called -- essentially independent attorneys need to review this report and redact anything from Hendershott, Black, and Fox. They can use other allegations others have made against these people, but they cannot use these employees' testimony against them.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, what can you tell us regarding what you've heard, what you know about these -- we keep hearing, federal investigations, abuse of power since '09. What's the latest on this?

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez: U.S. attorney's office maintains that it's ongoing. They have expanded about a year ago they expanded the investigation to include Andrew Thomas and his employees, and J.J. and I wrote a story a couple months ago now that talked about David Hendershott, and it looks like they're also investigating him and his personal finances as well. So we can't get a clear time line of what's going to happen when.
Ted Simons: Right, right.

J. J. Hensley: It's worth noting too that they were cross deputized last year, the federal prosecutors were cross deputized last year, so that they could pursue any state charges that might come up. If there was anything that arose out of all of this, that might be better prosecuted at the state level than the federal level, they have the ability to do that now.

Ted Simons: Last question here, from what the report seems to suggest, and what Sheriff Babeu seems to suggest, Sheriff Arpaio knew little if anything of what was going on here?

J.J. Hensley: You talked to Babeu last week, what was his --

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez: Babeu maintains that Arpaio knew nothing, and that he was shocked and disappointed when Babeu briefed him on his findings. But you look at the report and you talk independently to several people who were at some of the highest levels at the sheriff's office, time and again they said they went to Arpaio for help, and they told him this is what's going on, this is what Henderschott is doing, and Arpaio directed them to take their issues to Hendershott.

Ted Simons: And go ahead, please.

J.J Hensley: I was going to say on the testimony in this report, there's one really compelling piece that kind of speaks to this point, and there's a deputy who's talking about as they're filling out the search warrant for the offices of Conally Wolfswinkel whose -- the deputy says in there the sheriff asked why this wasn't included in the search warrant, said he wanted it included in the search warrant, and got up and walked out of the room. If that's found to be true, that's Arpaio's direct involvement in crafting a search warrant that went on to be a piece of one of these now discredited corruption cases. So that could be some ammunition for anyone looking to prove what he knew and when.

Ted Simons: I want to thank you both for being here. You've done exhausted work on this, it sounds like there's a heck of a lot more to go. Great work, and it's good to see you here.

Both: Thank you.

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