Sheriff Joe Arpaio Says He'll Leave Wells Fargo Building if Taxpayers Will Save Money; Talks in Works for Move This Year
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will leave the Wells Fargo building in downtown Phoenix if doing so will save taxpayers' money, according to a statement released today.
The Board of Supervisors, though, which Arpaio has accused of engaging in a criminal conspiracy against him, may have the final word on whether to evict the Sheriff's Office, officials said. Arpaio has used the 18th and 19th floors of the building at 100 West Washington Street as his agency's headquarters since 1998.
The county leaders were responding to a letter leaked to New Times yesterday (click here for a copy) from a Wells Fargo vice president, Leo Bauman, which states that the bank is requesting the "return" of the two floors occupied by Arpaio's headquarters since 1998. Referring to previous conversations with Dennis Lindsey, county real-estate manager, Bauman states the bank "is in need of" the building's 18th and 19th floors and will waive the contracted penalty for leaving early.
Wells Fargo declined comment yesterday on the issue. It's unclear whether the bank is succumbing to the pressure of anti-Arpaio demonstrators who have held up signs and encouraged motorists to honk their horns at the corner of 1st Avenue and Washington site for more than a year -- but it certainly could be.
In his statement today, Arpaio said:
If another location can be found which meets our needs and saves taxpayer's money, then I am happy to vacate the premises. And I suspect that wherever I go, I will be
taking the open border activists with me...
I do not blame Wells Fargo for being irritated by these demonstrators. Chances are
the protests negatively impact the bank's business. But I certainly hope that Wells
Fargo management isn't responding to the pressure asserted by these protestors by
asking me to leave...
We may have jumped the gun in our headline yesterday: Wells Fargo may not be booting sheriff out -- directly, anyway. If the county wants the Sheriff's Office to stay, there's still three years on the contract.
Wells Fargo may be taking an indirect route to extracting Arpaio from the building. County management and the Board of Supervisors have been publicly at odds with Arpaio's office for more than a year (to put it mildly), and the savvy folks at Wells Fargo know that. Now, after more than a year of anti-Arpaio protests on their corner, Wells Fargo offers a major financial incentive to rid themselves of Arpaio before the contract is up. But the offer was made not to Arpaio, but to his enemies, Board of Supervisors members, who may have the final say on the matter.
Asked whether the Supervisors could force an eviction, county spokeswoman Cari Gerchick says, "that's a question we'd have to run by the lawyers."
The County Attorney's Office also rents two floors in the building, but the county says Wells Fargo hasn't expressed interest in those.
Dennis Lindsey, the real estate manager, says Wells Fargo would like the 18th and 19th floors to be vacated this year -- and sooner rather than later. Asbestos abatement has been performed on most, if not all, of the building's other floors, so the bank wants to complete the renovation before moving its employees to the space now inhabited by the sheriff and his command staff, he says.
Wells Fargo wants the space because it's "trying to consolidate" its office space to cut costs, Lindsey says.
At the same time, this is clearly a good time for the MCSO to find less-expensive digs. The county pays about $27 a square foot for the space in the Wells Fargo building. With an estimated 80 million square feet of office space available in the Valley, no doubt the county can get better deal. But will anyone actually want to rent to Arpaio now, especially knowing he'll be bringing those demonstrators? Possibly not.
Arpaio's been backed into a corner on this one, thanks to Wells Fargo's generous offer to the county. If Arpaio decides to stay after an appropriate, cheaper spot is found, he's wasting taxpayer money. If he leaves, he's kowtowing to critics. If the county Supes force him into crappy offices he doesn't want, he may have no recourse.
No, we don't feel sorry for him, either.