Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman on Saturday dismissed a report that he was under investigation by the sheriff's office because of a domestic violence incident.
"I haven't been accused of anything," the mayor said at a special Town Council meeting held to discuss unrelated matters. "You guys haven't seen a police report. There's nothing to talk about."
On Friday, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office confirmed it was investigating Berman but released no other details, including the identity of a victim. On Saturday, a spokesman declined again to release further details.
Police Chief Tim Dorn said his agency learned of the incident Wednesday and turned over the investigation to the sheriff's office to avoid "any appearance of a conflict."
But in doing so, the chief appears to have handed it over to one of Berman's closest political allies, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
In fact, Berman and Arpaio, both Republicans, appear in a photo standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the mayor's re-election campaign Web site. On the same site, Berman even has a note that Arpaio penned for him declaring him "a real mayor and good for Gilbert."
So is it a conflict for sheriff's detectives to be investigating Berman?
Arpaio's opponent in upcoming sheriff's election, former Buckeye Police Chief Dan Saban, thinks so.
"I would say, on its face, it does appear to be another conflict in a long series of conflicts," Saban said. "(Arpaio) has a long history of supporting those who support him."
Saban, a Democrat, pointed to recent sheriff's investigations, such as the agency's ongoing inquiry of Democratic state Attorney General Terry Goddard, as evidence of politically-motivated cases.
And Saban, who lives in Gilbert, said the town's police chief, a former sheriff's deputy, should have asked some other agency to investigate the case.
Dorn told the Tribune on Friday he handed the domestic violence investigation to Arpaio because the sheriff's office has jurisdiction over the entire county.
But, Saban said, any police agency in the state could have handled it.
"Tim Dorn could have gone to anybody," he said. "He could have asked Flagstaff PD to investigate it if he wanted to."
The sheriff's spokesman, Capt. Paul Chagolla, said there is no conflict and even disputed the notion that Berman and the sheriff are allies.
"Politics has no place in the investigation that we're conducting," Chagolla said. "You know the sheriff does not conduct the investigation himself."
Berman, too, said he was not getting treated any differently because of his relationship with the sheriff. "I get parking tickets and speeding tickets just like everyone else," Berman said.
"Again, this is really nothing," he added. "I know that is what people expect me to say, but this really isn't anything."