A group of local government officials and activists sent a letter to U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke urging the federal government to take action against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for alleged misspending and mismanagement within the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox talks about why Arpaio should resign from office.
José Cardenas: Thank you for joining us. I'm José Cárdenas. In January, the Gila county attorney's office concluded that Maricopa County supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox would not face any criminal charges related to the investigation into charges of public corruption brought by former Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas. Recently, supervisor Wilcox has called for sheriff Joe Arpaio to resign and is part of a group that sent a letter to Arizona U.S. attorney Dennis Burke urging the federal government to take action against the sheriff for mismanagement and misspending within the Maricopa County sheriff's office. Joining me now to talk about this and other issues is Maricopa County supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. Mary Rose, welcome to "Horizonte." It's been a while.
Mary Rose Wilcox: Thank you for inviting me. A lot has happened.
José Cardenas: A lot has happened. Most recently, you've called for sheriff Joe Arpaio's resignation for receivership of his office. This was someone you had a good relationship with.
Mary Rose Wilcox: When I first got elected, he was elected at the same time. We had a very good relationship. I never appreciated some of the things he did, such as the tents and treatment. But on the whole, got along.
José Cardenas: What happened?
Mary Rose Wilcox: I think what happened is that Joe Arpaio loves publicity and when Andrew Thomas came into office, elected, we saw a change in the county's attorney's office, he basically said, you know, I will do something about illegal immigration, which wasn't a county mandate or any role of the county should be involved in that. But he did that and got massive attention. National attention. CNN, "The New York Times," and people started talking about the county attorney who was changing things in Arizona. Joe Arpaio came on to the bandwagon and embolded by Andrew Thomas and became a coalition and before we knew it, Joe Arpaio was in the community and doing raids in the town of quat loop and he's police it had for years and all of a sudden brings 50 squad cars in and massive presence and stopping people left and right and ask if they were citizens on the guise of a cracked windshield or brake lights that didn't work and stat R started --
José Cardenas: Is that part of the reasons why you were asking for the U.S. attorney to get involved and put the office into receivership?
Mary Rose Wilcox: The first part is what I mentioned. The human rights abuses in the community. And the second is the basic mismanagement of his office. When all of a sudden, we find out for eight years he's lying and giving us budgets that were signed that he was in compliance and he was in the black, and they were just all lies because what they were doing was keeping shadow books and when we found out about the shadow books a year ago and started uncovering what was happening, we found he had misused $99.9 million in detention funds, funds voted in by the voter, when we built a new jail, they gave us the opportunity to use that tax to hire detention officers to staff the jails and there was a big misuse. That should not be taken lightly and once we started seeing that, that led to what is -- what else is going on. The third thing is the report that was written by frank MANELL one of his stop deputies. That talks of abuses in the sheriff's department. Not only the shadow system but the misuse of credit cards and cars that you take home. The units put together only to terrorize people and do what I think are illegal investigations and when do you say new is enough? I think it's now. The federal government who has had grand juries impaneled looking at his abuses have been doing it for the last two years, and it's time to act and we appealed to Dennis Burke and holder at the top level, the head of the Justice Department Justice Department to say you've had enough time. Move. We need relief in our communities.
José Cardenas: At least with respect to the first and third areas you mentioned. That's the subject of an ongoing investigation and some would say, why not wait for that to run its course?
Mary Rose Wilcox: I think you cannot have of the community terrorized by sheriff Joe Arpaio and we feel there's new information and when you couple that with the fiscal irresponsibility. He was paying for the immigration squadded that raid and misusing that money from the detention. That's a violation and could be criminal in nature. So all of those things together were well -- we're a well-run county and not stand for it at the board of supervisors, and I think we owe a fiscal responsibility to the taxpayer with the civil and human rights we'll pay millions of dollars in legal costs to us. The case decided not long ago, a case of civil rights violations sets the tone for six other cases in the hopper.
José Cardenas: That was a decision from a judge saying the sheriff's office acted improperly in detaining and searching two gentlemen?
Mary Rose Wilcox: Yes. There's abuse cases coming and the whole issue of the jails and just the treatment in the jails. It's one thing after another and again, when do you say new is enough? We urge the U.S. attorney to move on these. We know he has to have a complete investigation and I'm in the saying do it prematurely, but when will you think you have enough information? It's provided. The Babeu investigation done at sheriff Arpaio's request did not whitewash the sheriff's office.
José Cardenas: You were concerned it would?
Mary Rose Wilcox: I was and that the criminal element if there's one in the investigation would be whitewashed. What I did was wrote a letter to Dennis Burke a year ago when that started and asked him to look at the criminal element in that, and Babeu agreed. The county attorney in Pinal county, Jim Walsh agreed and what -- Jim Walsh and Babeu investigated the administrative part of it and the criminal part sent to Dennis Burke. When you look at the Babeu report, there's several things that beg the question, criminal in nature? You can't hide money and use it illegally. You can't use voter funds fraudulently and that's what I think happened.
José Cardenas: On the point of the misuse of the dollars, Sheriff Joe says it's not a big deal because he could have used other dollars. He may have taken it from the wrong pot and what he spent it on was legitimate and it's a question of what pot he took it from and no harm, no fowl.
Mary Rose Wilcox: He can say that as much as he wants, but why didn't he ask for the dollars. He should have -- instead of using the funds illegally, he should have come to the board. You know why he didn't? It's not mandated public safety. Of the raids, the squad he put together for investigations of anybody who disagreed with him, those were things that he knew in his mind were wrong and he did not ask us for money to fund that. We control the purse string, the county board of supervisors, he didn't ask and the reason why, he knew this was wrong. Instead used funds illegally.
José Cardenas: Have you gotten an answer from your letter to Dennis Burke?
Mary Rose Wilcox: We have not. The wheels are turning and several others are approaching his office and asking when will this investigation be concluded and are we going to move in the forum of looking at possible indictments.
José Cardenas: With respect to other things you pointed out. Sheriff Babeu's investigation indicated that perhaps the person most responsible for the misconduct you're talking about was the chief deputy, David Hendershott, do you think that relieves sheriff Arpaio of responsibility?
Mary Rose Wilcox: No, I've been a elected official for 28 years and the decisions I've made on the city council or the board of supervisors, the buck stops with us. We're the responsible party. You cannot control a major agency and not know what's going on. If you do, you shouldn't be there. That's why I think you should resign. He had staffing problems. He's had just all kinds of problems with I.T., with the computer glitches he talks about. He had shadow books going on and now people coming out saying he knew about it. His chief financial officer recently came out on one of the local TV stations and said I told him about it through the eight years, we knew we weren't supposed to be doing that. And every time, he would say I'll take care of it. He never did. In the Babeu report, many of the deputies said he knew about it. There were people coming out recently who had been employed by him over 10 years ago, saying he knew about the things going on. So I think he knew about it. Whether he chose to ignore it or not, that begs a question, that he knew it was wrong and didn't want to bring it to light. He has to be held responsible.
José Cardenas: You indicated in your comments a big part of where we are today is the responsibility of former county Andrew Thomas. Yes. And fact, you and a number of others made claims against the county based on his conduct files lawsuits and other activities directed against you. What can you tell us about that?
Mary Rose Wilcox: I can't tell you too much about it because we're in the middle of litigation, but I felt if very necessary to do that. You should not be able to do that to anybody in the United States of America. You should not be Abe -- able to go fishing for information. I was cleared by Pima county and Sheila Polk, and leave Ms. Wilcox alone and I think it's important to make a statement and show people you cannot do that to people in the United States. We have a justice department. You know, we have rules, that must be abided and you cannot put yourself above the rule of law which I think is what Thomas did.
José Cardenas: Relationship with Thomas' successor, bill Montgomery, seem to be better, though he's also strong on immigration violation, maybe not to the same extent as Thomas, but the relationship seems to have warmed.
Mary Rose Wilcox: It's a much better relationship. We had taken the civil division from Thomas because frankly, he was hiring a lot of cronies and using it as political patronage and we were not getting good decisions at the county. When Montgomery came back, we worked with him -- we're working with him. He has come to our executive sessions more times than Thomas ever did. Thomas came in once our twice and basically when we confronted him on issues that were legal issues, he just would not answer us. Montgomery comes, we've had heated debate but we've had dialogue and because of that, we've been able to do things. Work with him. So I think it's going to be much better. I know he's strong on immigration, but at the same time, I think he'll be fair. Most recently, he gave you advice that may lead to further litigation that has to do with the new medical marijuana law and he recommended that another least for the time being, Maricopa County opt out.
José Cardenas: Do you intend to follow that advice?
Mary Rose Wilcox: I think our county attorney has opined that our employees could be arrested and we don't want to put them at risk. I think the move to have a judge declaratory action and see where it law lies is very important and I'm glad that the governor and the state attorney are moving forward with that. I do not want to go against the will of the people but I also think there's confusion going on. The letter from Dennis Burke was very strong. He did not state that employees would be arrested but did state it's still against federal law to deal in any type of marijuana use or marijuana selling. So I do think that there's a lot of confusion and I think the best course is to do that and see where we are.
José Cardenas: Mary Rose, you were recently appointed to the Mexican-American legal education fund. This is your second stint on that board?
Mary Rose Wilcox: Yes, during the late '80s and early '90s, I served on it. I've been off probably the last 15 years. Tom signs is the director. A good friend of mine, excellent attorney and one of the reasons I wanted to be on it, I so add mire them. They're defending the -- the case going against 1070 and doing a excellent job and I want to be in a position where they see that Arizona does support them on that.
José Cardenas: Where do you think that's going to end up? We have the rulings on 1070, and the governor and Tom Horne said they're going to try to get it before the Supreme Court.
Mary Rose Wilcox: It will end up before the Supreme Court and I hope that federal law prevails and that the courts do rules it the federal right to do immigration and everything associated with it that 1070 goes against. I think 1070 unfortunately, I know the borders need to be protected. I'm not against that, but I think what 1070 does is set people up for racial profiling and here in the United States I'm fourth generation Mexican American, I'll not be treated as a second class citizen or our community be treated as such.
José Cardenas: The Pearce recall. You're a supporter. Given when that election takes place, does it make sense to do that?
Mary Rose Wilcox: I think that the community mass spoken through petitions, if they're valid. Enough people are saying to Pearce, enough is enough for you. And I think he has to be judged by his voters, his constituents. If the petitions are valid and election is taken, I think it will be a good one. Russell Pearce has done horrible things in our community. I think he also, likes the federal attention, like the U.S. attention he gets all over. But in reality, José, he's hurt people. Look at our economy, it's in the tank and we've gone as the most economical viable state to now almost the last on the list and that's because of 1070 and the ramifications, I think Russell Pearce needs to think long and perhaps this will wake him up.
José Cardenas: Thank you for joining us.
Mary Rose Wilcox: Thank you for asking me.
Mary Rose Wilcox;Maricopa County Supervisor;