Recently, the Tribune published an in-depth investigative report that described how a dramatic shift in focus to immigrants by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has led to increased response times to emergencies and a decrease in investigations and arrests of violent crimes such as rape. The Tribune reported July 24 that county Supervisor Don Stapley has requested information from the sheriff’s office concerning these issues. He made the request only “after reading about the issue in the Tribune.”
What is wrong with this picture? This is simply unforgivable. A county supervisor’s job is to conduct the necessary oversight of all county departments. To become aware of life-threatening response times only after reading about it in the paper clearly indicates a breach of the public trust. Had Stapley been doing his job, the situation would have been addressed long before response times to life-threatening emergencies were averaging more than twice the county standard. After all, it was the Board of Supervisors who set the standard. Who was he expecting to confirm that the standard was being met, the sheriff?
It is indeed curious that Stapley pleads ignorance of deficiencies in the sheriff’s office, considering that the county entered into settlements with the Department of Justice twice. On at least four occasions, the Board of Supervisors hired consultants to review the sheriff’s office. All of the reports outlined numerous deficiencies in the sheriff’s office. But Stapley has never taken a single step to implement any of the recommendations in those reports. Only now that he has a contested election, and the glare of the media spotlight is on a huge public safety issue, is he the slightest bit concerned about doing his job.
Moreover, Stapley has blindly accepted Arpaio’s position that the Board of Supervisors has no oversight authority over his office. That’s utter nonsense, as the board controls the purse strings and is responsible for ensuring taxpayer dollars going to the sheriff’s office are spent wisely. Arizona law clearly states the powers of the Board of Supervisors include supervision of “the official conduct of all county officers … charged with disbursing the public revenues ….” Instead, Stapley and the majority of the supervisors behave as though they are subordinates of the sheriff, obediently writing checks for him while requiring no accountability whatsoever. This is why the sheriff’s office was able to get away with spending $285,000 of taxpayer funds on junkets to Honduras.
The complicity has gone on long enough. I say too little, too late. Time has come to rid the citizens of Maricopa County of the “good old boy” club perpetuated by the Board of Supervisors. Maricopa County needs strong and independent leadership — something we haven’t had in far too long.
Joel S. Sinclaire of Scottsdale is a Democratic candidate in District 2 for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.