The Bird pummels the MSCO
From the beak of The Bird to the ear of Stephen Lemons
Published on March 20, 2008
The bill for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s Honduran scam is at least $157K. This avian accountant tallied up that much after the Sheriff’s Office released hourly rates for the 10 MCSO deputies involved, including the operation’s author, Chief Deputy David Hendershott.
Will the real Guy Fawkes please step forward?
Scientology protests, raids on Scottsdale bars, David Hendershott, MCSO in HondurasWhat’s galling is, that figure has got to be a lot less than the total cost of the Honduran boondoggle. The number includes $34K in RICO reimbursements, and $123K in MCSO payroll hours spent training Honduran cops, purchases of material, and shipping costs. But it doesn’t cover untold man-hours spent on planning the mission, phone calls to Honduras, or time spent last June chaperoning Honduran cops around Phoenix and introducing them to Governor Janet Napolitano for a photo op.
Still, it’s way more than the $100K the Bird had estimated (“Evil Weed,” March 6), as this wacky warbler didn’t then have the breakdown of what each deputy made. In a February presentation to the county Board of Supervisors, MCSO honchos informed the supes that the program’s total cost was $34,061.81. They craftily neglected to include payroll hours spent in Central America during the whole of 2007.
The MCSO has since released its RICO budget for the past three years. Millions of dollars are assigned to broad categories, with hundreds of thousands of dollars each year placed under the category of “other.” The budgets were approved by Jabba the Hendershott and the supes chairman at the time — in one case, Don Stapley; in another, Fulton Brock.
Per state law, County Attorney Candy Thomas’ office has oversight on RICO funds used by the MCSO. One of the RICO docs released has a stamp of approval with the signature of Deputy County Attorney Victoria Mangiapane. To date, the County Attorney’s Office has yet to respond to The Bird’s public-records request regarding its approval of RICO funds.
Recently, Channel 12’s Joe Dana showed these RICO budget docs to former County Attorney Rick Romley, who noted there was some “missing money.” Dennis Matthiesen, financial audit director for the AZ Auditor General’s Office announced on the same newscast that he was moving up a 2009 audit of the Sheriff’s Office to this spring, as a result of news reports.
Matthiesen told this mockingbird that the audit would cover only the Sheriff’s Office use of RICO funds, and it would not be a full MCSO review. Matthiesen said his office hadn’t done an audit of RICO funds since Romley was county attorney. And, back then, Romley actually asked for the audit! Hard to imagine Candy, a.k.a. “Little Joe,” asking for a similar review.
Do you reckon Attorney General Terry Goddard might be interested in investigating what is obviously malfeasance on the part of Arpaio and his deputies?
Nah. AG flack Andrea Esquer told this tweeter, “It would not be in the state’s best interest to duplicate [the state auditor's] effort.” So the AG’s going to sit on his hands and await Matthiesen’s findings. Matthiesen told The Bird his office has no real power. But if his people find evidence of lawbreaking once they get started in a couple of months, they’ll turn it over to the AG.
Should that happen, can we count on Goddard to go after Arpaio and Hendershott — and maybe even Candy, too — for rubber-stamping the whole megillah? Let’s just say this bilious bill-bearer won’t be counting those huevos before they’ve cracked.
At least the information avalanche kicked off by this kestrel forced the issue with the state auditor, and that’s something. So is the fact that Channel 12’s taken up the cudgel. Dana and the station’s news team have stayed on Arpaio’s fanny and broken new ground in this sorry saga. Dana recently revealed that the MCSO had planned a vast facial-recognition program for Honduras, instituting the expensive high-tech system at the Third World nation’s ports of entry.
Dana also uncovered tantalizing tidbits regarding Hendershott’s pitching facial-recognition software to a European Union representative, and the fact that the MCSO was awarded a $264K grant from the AZ Department of Homeland Security for the purchase of such technology to be used in Maricopa County. Dana asserted there was a friendship between Hendershott and an unnamed exec of local facial-recognition company Hummingbird Defense Systems, which has done work previously for the MCSO.
Interestingly, the office address and phone number for Hummingbird Defense Systems are actually for a company called Regus, which offers “virtual offices” for clients. Basically, it’s a place to pick up mail and messages. A source at the company informed this egret that Hummingbird stopped checking its mailbox last September. Hummingbird left no forwarding address, said the source.
Guess which business maintains an office at Hummingbird’s old Camelback Esplanade address? The Symington Group, disgraced ex-AZ Governor Fife Symington’s consulting firm. Symington was once Hummingbird’s board chairman. But he’s not had any involvement with the company for years, according to Symington spokeswoman Camilla Strongin.
What’s it all mean? Could Hendershott’s passion for facial recognition have been a pathway for personal profit? Maybe he was helping out a pal at Hummingbird? Or, perhaps, Hendershott really has the best interests of Honduras’ way-impoverished denizens in mind?
That last query was the punch line, peckerwoods. Even Hendershott’s three-tiered chin would jiggle at that one.