All too often people find themselves flip flopping on an issue, vocally cheering for rights and liberties one day and demanding government to enact radical law change to restrict those same ideas the next. Proponents for lower government spending, less intervention and more personal freedom have often found themselves at the collection dish when the fed starting handing out cash or services. I won’t even get started with civil liberties issue with military arrests or immigration. Can or will that happen with when it comes to public records and information for the people.
Arizona sheriff, Joe Arpaio has started another witch hunt, this time against public enemy #1. It is no secret that approval ratings for America’s first black president have hit hard times, but does starting months long investigations into the validity of this birth records need to happen again, and in Arizona of all places? Arpaio has a history of starting investigations into people who have opposed his strong arm strategy or have spoken out about his alleged history of racial profiling. Police officers, reporters, opposing candidates, government workers, businesses and even the mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon, has been a victim of Arpaio’s mob style intimidation tactics. When the mayor requested an investigation into the hundreds of harassment and profiling complaints against the sheriff’s department, they countered by starting their own investigation on the mayor and collected public records including phone logs, emails and calendar information to build a case. Later, the chief of police in Mesa, Arizona publicly criticized the Arpaio, only to have the Mesa city hall and library raided by dozens of county officers.
While most agencies can be challenged by the people or press by issuing a request for Arizona public records, the sheriff’s department can hide behind the law that prevents records that deal with investigations from being released. Anyone who has had the authority or power to make official requests into investigations has then later been meet by deputies, arrested and faced criminal charges, many of which were dropped within days.
The sheriff has not only costs his victims an exorbitant amount of money in legal defense fees, destroyed careers and ruined reputations, but also is sticking the bill for his personal vendettas and Hollywood style police raid to the tax payers. When the county supervisor refused an increased budget for the sheriff’s department and proposed an auditor to review the department, he found himself arrested, not once, but twice. Both times, the county attorney dropped all charges, as he has done in multiple other high profile arrests made by the sheriff’s department. Arpaio also has a long standing legal battle with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors which has already cost tax payers well over 50 million dollars and is facing charges of misappropriating another 100 million dollars in funding.
Will the public majority who may currently disapprove of the president be happy for another wild investigation that will return nothing at their own financial expense? More importantly, will those same people approve of using or extending public records power to prevent abuse by law enforcement agencies in the future and save tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars? Finally, who will the people who support Sheriff Joe Arpaio and government transparency pick if forced to choose between the two? Politics or policy. They may not have to make that choice for a while, a Federal Grand Jury may choose for them when they conclude their two year long investigation of Arpaio on abuse of power charges. But the issue still stands and they will have to choose someday in the future. I for one refuse to sacrifice public records and the giant strides we have made in informing the people, government transparency and holding public officials accountable, especially for something as silly as politics.