Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Inner Circle Falls Apart

Two Maricopa County deputies resign after a new report reveals the posse's striking abuse of power.

By Julianne Hing May 02, 2011

Before we get to the bombshell news, the takeaway from this story first: not everyone in the Joe Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is corrupt. And in the end it was one Frank Munnell, a Maricopa County Deputy Chief, and a 63-page memo he courageously wrote last September that were the catalyst for this week’s big news from Arpaioland.

On Wednesday, Maricopa County’s Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott and Deputy Chief Larry Black handed over their resignations to their boss, the Arizona Republic reported. Their other option was to wait and get fired. Hendershott and Black were Arpaio’s chief henchmen who were deputized to run the sheriff’s office while Arpaio was out parading around town with celebrities. They’d fought back allegations of misconduct and abuse of power for years. Today we learned public suspicions were correct.

Hendershott and Black resigned amid an internal investigation ordered by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu last year. Parts of the investigation’s 1,000-page report were released to the Arizona Republic today, and detail a list of Hendershott’s offenses that are staggering for their breadth and brashness.

You name it, Hendershott did it. The documents show that Hendershott, at Arpaio’s direction, who’s been accused of leading baseless politically motivated criminal investigations of judges and public officials, especially those who were critical of Hendershott’s boss, Joe Arpaio, disregarded departmental protocol. Hendershott demanded that deputies prepare a search warrant of the Board of Supervisors’ offices even when they told him that there were not sufficient probable cause. When his deputies refused, Hendershott said he’d "machine-gun" his staffers who didn’t cooperate.

It’s not just the tactics, it’s Arpaio’s motives: he often used his bogus criminal investigations to target people who cut his department’s funding or to single out political enemies who were critical of his scapegoating of immigrants and racial profiling and cruel detention policies. (Some of those public officials are suing Arpaio now.)

Hendershott shut down an internal affairs inquiry into the MCSO’s sex-crimes department, which had been accused of performing shoddy investigations for the El Mirage Police Department. The Arizona Republic reported that Hendershott also used $18,000 in donations from the Sheriff’s Posse (that is its actual name), and a $7,000 loan from the Sheriff’s Jeep Posse or the Posse Foundation to pay for an eight-day trip for an Alaskan baseball tournament for a baseball team his son played on.

Hendershott allegedly used his connections to profit off a trip to Honduras, where he shilled for a facial-recognition technology company. The investigation eventually found that Hendershott had acted within the law, but that his dealings with Honduras were of "arguably questionable utility" to the residents of Arizona, who he actually was employed to serve. Babeu’s investigation cleared him of a couple dozen other offenses, the ones he was found guilty of were enough to lead to his termination.

But back to where it all began, with Frank Munnell. It turns out he penned his 63-page memo to Arpaio last year because, according to the Phoenix Sun Times, he feared retaliation from Hendershott for cooperating with a separate and ongoing FBI investigation into the MCSO’s potential civil rights violations. Hendershott had suggested to Munnell that he be fired. Munnell is a 30-year veteran of the sheriff’s office.

Today, Munnell’s still got his job, but Hendershott doesn’t. There is talk, too, that the report could lead to a criminal investigation of Hendershott.

In his resignation to Arpaio, Hendershott remained ever faithful to his boss, the Arizona Republic reported. "My biggest regret will be that I no longer will work with you," he wrote. "You are a gentleman that is wise, cunning and probably the most honest and dedicated politician I have ever know(n)."

He can buy a box of tissues for himself to cry on. And with a pension estimated at over $200,000, he can afford it.