The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted 2-2 on accepting a $5,000 donation from Sheriff Joe Arpaio's volunteer posse to cover the cost of sending a sheriff's deputy to Hawaii as part of Arpaio's investigation into the legitimacy of President Obama's birth certificate. Supervisor Fulton Brock was absent.
Several speakers asked the Board to reject the donation, saying Arpaio had no authority to investigate the President's birth certificate in the first place, and no authority to use taxpayer dollars on the probe and then solicit donations to reimburse the county.
Arpaio launched the investigation last year at the request of members of the Surprise Tea Party. During the first several months of the probe, Arpaio insisted that the investigation was being conducted entirely by his volunteer posse's "cold case squad" at no expense to taxpayers.
However, earlier this year, Arpaio sent the volunteer investigators to Hawaii, accompanied by a paid sheriff's deputy "for security purposes," as Arpaio said at the time. He said donations from the posse would be used to cover the cost.
After the speakers had their say at Wednesday's meeting, supervisors Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley explained their 'no' votes. Both repeated the idea that it was wrong for Arpaio to assume that it was OK to spend tax dollars and then seek reimbursement via donations.
Stapley said, "He spent county taxpayer dollars on something that none of us on this board were given the opportunity to approve or disapprove, in running down the President of the United States' birth certificate, a matter that, frankly, had been put to bed years earlier." He added, "By accepting this five thousand dollars from his posse, which he controls, to cover up the expenditure of public dollars, is wrong."
Activist Randy Parraz, who was one of those who spoke to the board, was jubilant after the vote: "They said, 'you cannot go around and pursue something outside our jurisdiction, that has no impact on crime, spend our tax dollars, and come back around to get your money.' It's not happening. So the bank is closed today."
Parraz added that accepting the donation would have set a bad precedent: "You don't want to privatize the sheriff's office. So what, someone else goes in and gives him $10,000 to go and investigate their own personal agenda?"
A representative of the Sheriff's Office told the board that the $5,000 donation would have covered some, but not all, of the cost of sending the deputy to Hawaii. "The final amount (of the deputy's expense) is yet to be determined," deputy chief David Trombi said. Specifically, he told the supervisors that the donation would likely cover the deputy's travel expense and hourly wage. However, it would not cover any overtime the deputy might have incurred, although that expense could conceivably be reimbursed through additional donations.