MCSO Deputy's Damning Memo Fleshes Out SCA Scandal; Joel Fox, David Hendershott Accused of Crimes
Joel Fox lied to cover for Hendershott, Larry Black, Steve Ellman, and others involved in the scandal.
SCA contributors knew from the beginning that funds collected by the SCA would be used to help Sheriff Joe Arpaio's 2008 re-election campaign, not to bolster the reputation of average deputies.
The above educated guesses were made by New Times over the last couple of years -- and have now been echoed in the damning memo penned by one of the SCA contributors and a high-ranking deputy, Frank Munnell.
The 63-page memo (here's a link), if you haven't read it already, does an outstanding job of fleshing out the scandal and filling in details where before we only had speculation.
We won't outline the entire SCA debacle here (please feel free to read our past articles, including the one linked in the first sentence of this post).
In a nutshell, top sheriff's commanders and a few millionaires seem to have tried a secret end-run around election laws -- but got caught. But don't think Arpaio was in the dark about what was going on in his office..
It all started a few weeks before the 2008 election, when a six-figure donation to the state Republican Party was made without listing the donors' names, as required.
The violation of election rules meant the party had to give the money back -- but first it spent it on sleazy TV ads attacking Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas' opponents, the ads were soon pulled off the air, and Captain Joel Fox (the SCA's frontman) named the donors only after he was threatened with a $315,000 sanction.
State Attorney General Terry Goddard has been looking into the case for possible criminal charges. (Don't hold your breath until he does something.)
Here are a few highlights of Munnell's accusations, as they relate to the SCA players:
* Captain Joel Fox, SCA frontman, is a problem employee at the Sheriff's Office who gets frequent protection from his buddy, Hendershott.
For instance, Munnell notes that in early 2008, a deputy filed a complaint against another deputy, Tony Navarra, for alleged sexual misconduct with a boy "associated with" the church that both Navarra and Fox attend. Navarra was placed on administrative leave while an investigation took place. But Fox, Navarra's immediate supervisor, "surprisingly" allowed Navarra to retain his take-home vehicle during the leave. Navarra used the car's computer to e-mail with Fox, Munnell wrote.
Navarra is "openly gay," and when investigators reviewed the e-mails to Fox, Munnell stated, they saw messages with phrases like "kisses," "love ya" and "hugs," which suggested a "possible romantic relationship between Navarra and Fox.
The hypothesized relationship seemed to mean job benefits for Navarra, according to Munnell.
Another e-mail from Fox to Navarra suggested that the subordinate had nothing to fear from the misconduct investigation because Navarra was "protected."
Hendershott refused to allow Fox to be directly interviewed by internal affairs investigators, Munnell alleges. (As for Navarra: He was charged with two felonies for misusing his computer. Superior Court records show he pleaded guilty last year to one misdemeanor count of unauthorized access of criminal-history records. He was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation and 30 hours of community service.)
* Munnell claims he was asked to contribute to the SCA by Hendershott, who told him to contact Deputy Chief Larry Black for help with the paycheck deduction.
Hendershott described the fund as a political action committee to help Arpaio's re-election bid , Munnell says -- not something that would help street-level deputies, which was the cover story Fox later told to the news media.
As the county election department and the news media scrutinized the SCA donation, Munnell says he knew darned well that Fox was lying to the media and investigators.
* In April of last year, Hendershott met with Munnell, prefacing his talk with the phrase, "this conversation never happened."
Munnell says Hendershott proceeded to tell him that investigators might want to talk to him about the SCA and that he shouldn't mention how much money he contributed. Fox would be claiming that he was the only person involved in the SCA affair, Munnell says he was told.
When a criminal investigator with the state Attorney General's office dropped off a card at Munnell's home later that night, Munnell writes that he suddenly understood the context of Hendershott's shady advice.
Ticked off, Munnell says he immediately phoned the AG's office and answered all of their questions truthfully.
A few months later, in July, Hendershott wanted to know what Munnell had told the "AG guys."
When Munnell told him, Hendershott replied that Munnell's testimony to the AG's office would be "stuck up our butt," Munnell's memo states. Hendershott tried to coach Munnell on how to cover for him and Fox, but Munnell would have none of it.
Hendershott's suggestions constituted criminal witness-tampering and obstruction of justice, in Munnell's opinion.
* The publication of then-New Times staff writer Sarah Fenske's July 23, 2009 article about the SCA scandal nearly caused a fistfight between Munnell and Larry Black.
On that day, Munnell relates, he was chatting about the article, "which features Joel Fox as a puppet on the cover," with Black and Arpaio's longtime flak, Lisa Allen. Munnell told Black he wasn't happy with the way he and Fox handled the SCA situation.
When Munnell wouldn't apologize for his criticism, Black reportedly told him, "Nice fuckin' job."
At that point, "Black threatened me by stating that he wouldn't put me through a fuckin' wall right now only because we were up in this office," Munnell writes. "Black then challenged me to go downstairs to fight him, adding that I 'was a piece of shit.'"
That's when Arpaio strolled into the office.
"When you asked what was going on," Munnell writes to Arpaio in his memo, "I tried to discuss my donations to the SCA fund with you. You denied that the donations were made to benefit you, made a statement that you had never had a conversation about SCA with me, and promptly left the office."
Sounds like Arpaio took some of Hendershott's coaching to heart, doesn't it?
* Munnell asked for and received a refund for the money he had contributed to the SCA.
A few days after the confrontation with Black, Fox sent Munnell a letter with a check for $2,400 enclosed.
Munnell says he called the AG's office to ask whether he could cash it, or if it would be considered evidence for the investigaton. The AG's office told him to cash it -- but send them a copy first.
The AG's office is still reviewing the case for possible charges. With Munnell as the probable "star witness" feared by Hendershott, the SCA scandal appears to be ripe for numerous criminal charges.