by Yvonne Wingett Sanchez – Dec. 12, 2011 09:37 PM
The Arizona Republic
Critics of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio say they will pack the chambers of the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday to try to persuade the politicians to ask for the sheriff’s resignation over botched sex-crime investigations.
Members of Citizens for a Better Arizona said they will descend on the five supervisors during their regularly scheduled formal meeting to challenge them about their own “threshold for incompetence.”
“People want to go to the Board of Supervisors to make public their position on what they think about these uninvestigated sex crimes under Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s watch,” said Randy Parraz, president of the group. “We want to ask them, ‘What’s your number?’ If 400 is not enough for you, Supervisor (Max) Wilson, Supervisor (Andy) Kunasek, Supervisor (Don) Stapley, Supervisor (Fulton) Brock, what is your number? Is it 800, 1,000? This is about elected officials holding other elected officials accountable.”
Parraz, whose group is usually politically in line with Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, did not mention her name.
The Board of Supervisors only oversee Arpaio’s budget, and because he is an elected official, they cannot fire him.
The Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last week, state Reps. Ruben Gallego and Katie Hobbs, both Phoenix Democrats, called for Arpaio’s resignation, two days after U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz, said Arpaio should resign over the bungled cases.
The calls for Arpaio’s resignation have come after national media outlets recently began to report about hundreds of sex-crime cases the Sheriff’s Office mishandled from 2005 to 2007.
Valley media outlets reported last spring that the Sheriff’s Office failed to adequately investigate more than 400 sex-crime cases, including dozens in El Mirage, over two years because of poor oversight and former Chief Deputy David Hendershott’s desire to protect a key investigator from bad publicity.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, detectives reactivated 432 sex-crime cases from throughout the Valley after concerns about the cases were raised, making 19 arrests. Of the remainder, 115 were determined to be unfounded, 67 were classified as “cold cases” and 221 were “exceptionally” cleared without arrest.
An additional 10 were deemed still viable.
Last week, some members of the Board of Supervisors began to receive complaints from residents about the bungled sex-crime cases. The Arizona Republic obtained some of written complaints through a public-records request.
For example, on Sunday, Steve Yockey e-mailed all five board members complaining about Arpaio. The subject line read: “Force Sheriff Joe Arpaio to resign.”
“He will not go willingly, and he no longer deserves anyone’s trust,” Yockey wrote. “He’s under federal investigation. He has cost the county about $50million in lawsuits. He has ‘misspent’ $100million in taxpayer dollars. He neglected to handle over 400 cases of rape and child molestation while he was busy racially profiling legal citizens with brown skin.”
Other complaints have followed, including one from James Etro, directed to Supervisor Wilson, whose district includes El Mirage.
“Because Mr. Joseph M. Arpaio is elected to do such job, and if his attempt to do such job proves to have failed the city of El Mirage; what say you, sir?” Etro wrote. “Will you continue to support his current professional involvement with the County of Maricopa as sheriff?”
In recent years, many of the same critics have routinely used the supervisor meetings as forums to speak out about Arpaio’s mismanagement of public money, immigration enforcement, emergency-response times and settlements paid out to families of jailed inmates who alleged they were wronged.
Parraz, a vocal critic of Arpaio, led many of those protests. Although he has not been successful in his effort to oust Arpaio, he played an integral role in the effort to recall former state lawmaker Russell Pearce of Mesa, a political ally of the sheriff.
Parraz said protesters Wednesday will attempt to gauge the supervisors’ attitudes about Arpaio now that the botched sex-crime investigations have garnered national attention.
“We’ll see what their attitude is, and if they don’t change their attitudes, we’ll continue to show up,” he said.
Reach the reporter at yvonne.wingett@arizonarepublic com or 602-444-4712.