On August 17, 2010, Frank D. Munnell, Deputy Chief and Patrol Bureau Commander at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), sent a 63-page memorandum to Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The memo, which was made public the following month, accused several high-ranking MCSO officials – including Chief Deputy David Hendershott, Deputy Chief Larry Black and Captain Joel Fox – of serious misconduct, some of which constituted felony offenses under Arizona state law.
The overall theme of Munnell’s memo was that Hendershott ran the MCSO like a tyrant, punishing anyone who failed to obey his orders regardless of their legality, and retaliating against anybody who dared to complain or who cooperated with any of the many investigations of the MCSO by state and federal authorities.
Another theme was that Hendershott used his control of the MCSO to place unqualified friends and relatives in command positions, where some of them acted in an unprofessional and juvenile fashion instead of taking their duties seriously. Munnell’s allegations included “malfeasance, nepotism, corruption, mismanagement, political impropriety and violations of [the MCSO’s] Code of Conduct,” as well as at least four felonies and interference with disclosure of public information.
Hendershott was accused of using public resources for campaign purposes, soliciting contributions under false pretenses, misusing overtime, retaliating against employees who disagreed with him or cooperated in investigations involving the MCSO, falsifying official documents, nepotism, and maintaining a double standard of disciplinary action in which obedient and otherwise favored employees did not face serious discipline while others were dealt with harshly.
He was portrayed as temperamental – exploding when subordinates disagreed with his orders, even if they believed them to be unlawful. He allegedly imposed himself between Sheriff Arpaio and the rest of the MCSO staff, and severely punished anyone who tried to go over his head. His method of managing the MCSO reportedly included fear instilled by abuse, bullying and retaliation.
Hendershott allegedly instructed employees not to assist the FBI and other law enforcement agencies investigating the MCSO and not to release public information even when MCSO attorneys said it should be released. He was accused of running a “black bag operation” to identify MCSO employees who supported the campaign of Sheriff candidate Dan Saban by videotaping the people entering and leaving Saban’s campaign events. Such “disloyal” employees were reportedly subjected to retaliation. He was also accused of preventing Internal Affairs investigations of employees he considered “loyal.”
This deference to loyal employees resulted in his upholding the dismissal of the MCSO’s entire SWAT team – known as MACE – when they complained about mismanagement by Captain Fox. An allegedly unqualified Fox had been placed in command of MACE by his friend, MCSO Deputy Chief Larry Black.
Fox supervised another SWAT-like team called the Special Assignment Unit (SAU). Deputies assigned to the SAU were reportedly subjected to hazing that ranged from childish to dangerous. Specifically, when he resigned so he could be hired by the Glendale Police Department, MCSO Deputy Adam Spiwak revealed that his reason for leaving was hazing and other inappropriate behavior by Deputy Al Macklin and other SAU officers.
Such behavior included horseplay, urinating on a vehicle door, threatening Spiwak with a Taser, hunting and target shooting while on duty, and sneaking up behind Spiwak in a cemetery to discharge a weapon directly behind him. Although Spiwak’s allegations were sustained, none of the deputies involved were disciplined.
Munnell alleged in his memo that Deputy Macklin stole pornographic DVDs from the evidence locker and a video camera and still camera from an arrestee, and was later allowed to return the items. He also allegedly forged his supervisor’s signature on some of his reports. Macklin received no disciplinary action and was not prosecuted even though those acts constituted felonies.
Deputy Chief Black allegedly covered up administrative investigations of favored employees, interfered in Internal Affairs investigations of “loyal” employees and, for personal reasons, tried to coerce a deputy into dropping charges against a professional hockey player who had assaulted him.
Other allegations against Hendershott included misusing his office to investigate Sheriff Arpaio’s political opponents, threatening to “machine gun” subordinates who disagreed with unlawful attempts to obtain a search warrant for all members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, directing MCSO business to his business associates, ordering questionable arrests – including those of Phoenix New Times executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larson [See: PLN, Aug. 2008, p.l2] – and taking questionable out-of-town trips at taxpayers’ expense.
Hendershott also prohibited overtime for most MCSO employees while lavishing it on favored subordinates. He was accused of engaging in various acts of financial malfeasance, including having a false letter sent to credit bureaus to obtain a favorable rate on a personal mortgage, embezzling money raised for the Posse Baseball Team by selling pink underwear and receiving kickbacks for patrol work done by the posse at private residences.
Hendershott tried to have Munnell removed from his position as head of the patrol division, and it was apparently fear of retaliation by Hendershott that led Munnell to write his damning memo.
Munnell requested an investigation by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Instead, Sheriff Arpaio placed Black and Fox on paid administrative leave and sent the investigation to a fellow Republican and political ally, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, in September 2010. Officially, Hendershott was listed as being on medical leave.
So where was Arpaio while all of this alleged corruption was occurring? The memo depicts him as a hapless and clueless official manipulated by a Machiavellian subordinate. If that is true, then Arpaio is incompetent. What is more likely is that Arpaio liked having a ruthless hatchetman as his second-in-command who could be relied upon until he outlived his usefulness. That time arrived with Munnell’s memo.
On April 22, 2011, Hendershott was fired from the MCSO. In a letter signed by Deputy Chief Mike Olson, Hendershott was informed that “Sheriff Arpaio asked Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu to conduct an administrative investigation. You are a principal in that investigation. Sheriff Arpaio’s decision to terminate your employment arises from the findings and conclusions in that administrative investigation.” Deputy Chief Larry Black also received a letter of termination, though news reports stated both Hendershott and Black were later allowed to resign effective May 3, 2011. Fox remained on paid leave.
“The report by Sheriff Babeu and the outside investigation company is unfortunately littered with hundred of flaws, misstates facts and ignores motives and conflicts,” Hendershott stated in his letter of resignation submitted to Arpaio. “I wholeheartedly do not agree with the sustained findings in the investigation.... My biggest regret will be that I no longer will work with you. You are a gentleman that is wise, cunning and probably the most honest and dedicated politician I have ever know[n].”
According to Sheriff Babeu’s investigation, which spanned six months, the MCSO failed to properly investigate over 400 sex-related crimes due to inadequate oversight and Hendershott’s efforts to protect a MCSO employee from negative publicity. As a result, the criminal sex cases, including many involving young children, as well as other serious cases such as homicides, languished. Hendershott had stymied a 2008 probe into the delayed investigations because he wanted to protect MCSO Sgt. Kim Seagraves, who was to provide testimony in a corruption case.
Babeu’s report further found that Hendershott had halted an internal affairs investigation into an MCSO captain who was accused of being involved in a domestic violence incident; that Hendershott used his position for personal gain, including using Sheriff’s posse money to pay for a trip for his son’s baseball team; that Hendershott had altered statistics related to a Sheriff’s program to help juveniles stop smoking; and that Hendershott had abused his position and authority. He was exonerated of some of the other allegations made in Munnell’s memo, though.
“We had to get firsthand accounts, not just somebody’s opinion or what they heard,” said Sheriff Babeu. “We had to get to the crux of ‘Where did this come from? Did this really happen?’ Some of them never happened, and some actually did happen and were quite alarming.”
Babeu’s findings, which he described as “substantial,” were detailed in a 1,022-page report delivered to Sheriff Arpaio, which Arpaio initially refused to make public. The Arizona Republic and 12News filed an action in Superior Court seeking disclosure of the report; the MCSO later released the report with extensive redactions. The report does not directly attribute any of the substantiated misconduct to Arpaio himself, and Babeu said the Sheriff had been “deceived” by his underlings.
Arpaio is facing other problems besides the apparent malfeasance of top MCSO officials. It was disclosed in April 2011 that the MCSO had misspent $99.5 million from a jail tax fund that was restricted for use in the county’s jail system, and from profits from jail vending machines. Arpaio claimed he was unaware of the fiscal improprieties, which he termed a “computer glitch” and “bookkeeping errors.” However, his former chief financial officer, Loretta Barkell, went on the record to the contrary.
According to Barkell, who retired in March 2011, she had warned Sheriff Arpaio and Hendershott that they could not use the restricted jail funds, but they did so anyway. “They had been told every year, several times a year [that] they could not do that,” she contended.
Arpaio’s response? “The sheriff waved his hand and said he was not allowing the bean counters to manage his operations, that the budget people, the accounting people, personnel people would have to figure it out and fix it. But he was not going to change his decisions on how he was managing his staff,” Barkell stated. She has been interviewed by state and federal investigators in connection with MCSO’s finances, and said she was also aware of Hendershott’s mistreatment of MCSO employees.
Sheriff Arpaio is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice related to race-based targeting of illegal (and legal) immigrants. The MCSO has also been investigated by the state Attorney General’s office concerning a campaign-finance scandal involving Hendershott, Black, Fox and the Sheriff’s Command Association, related to an illegal campaign contribution to the state Republican Party.
PLN has reported numerous problematic issues involving the MCSO over the years, including Arpaio’s brutal and humiliating treatment of prisoners, failure to produce public records, unconstitutional jail conditions, and lawsuits resulting in tens of millions of dollars paid to the families of prisoners who died in Arpaio’s atrocious jails. [See, e.g.: PLN, Jan. 2011, p.16; Aug. 2010, p.32; Jan. 2010, p.43; Oct. 2009, p.32; Aug. 2009, p.38; May 2009, p.28; March 2009, p.34; March 2007, p.14].
It now appears that Sheriff Arpaio hopes to use Hendershott and Black as scapegoats for the longstanding corruption in the MCSO, while disclaiming any responsibility for same. Thus, either Arpaio is lying about his involvement in and knowledge of malfeasance in the Sheriff’s Office, or he is telling the truth and thus is grossly incompetent for not being aware of the numerous problems attributed to his subordinates.
Either way, hopefully Maricopa County voters will keep this latest scandal in mind the next time Arpaio runs for Sheriff.
Sources: Phoenix New Times, Munnell memorandum dated Aug. 17, 2010, Arizona Republic, http://arizona.indymedia.org
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