Read Joel Fox's Attempts to Defend Job; Former Captain Under Sheriff Arpaio was Fired for "Egregious" Ethical Lapses
In the end, Joel Fox couldn't make his bosses believe he wasn't lying.
The former Maricopa County Sheriff's Office captain, who was fired in October for "egregious" ethical violations related to his work on a secret campaign-fundraising scheme on behalf of Sheriff Arpaio, tried out nearly all of his illogical explanations as his office debated what to do with him.
New Times obtained Fox's notice of termination and letters of appeal from court records this week, piggybacking on another media outlet's lawsuit against the county.
Phoenix Newspapers Inc., as we reported Wednesday, succeeded in its suit to force the release of thousands of pages of documents that were generated during an investigation into corruption and malfeasance in the command staff of Sheriff Arpaio's office. That investigative report and its supplemental documents, said to total about 18,000 pages, was compiled after a months-long probe initiated by Arpaio and conducted by his political ally, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who hired private investigator Keith Sobraske to do most of the work.
When the huge report was released in May, about one-third -- the parts dealing with Fox -- were blacked out. That's because state law says that internal investigations into "merited" government employees can stay secret until their disciplinary appeal process is complete. (Arpaio's former top aides Dave Hendershott and Larry Black, who were fired by Arpaio after the so-called Babeu report, were employed at the whim of Arpaio, and therefore weren't protected by the same secrecy rules.)
We'll keep you posted as to when that massive records release will be complete.
In the meantime, we want to offer you the chance to read the October 20, 2011 notice of termination Fox received that resulted in his firing, plus Fox's response letters.
David Bodney, local lawyer and former Phoenix New Times editor, convinced a judge this week that sheriff's office documents related to Joel Fox must be released to the public.
The Arizona Republic's JJ Hensley received the latter documents earlier this month, released by Maricopa County's Human Resources department. However, the county refused to release them to anyone else after the Republic got them, saying that the release had violated a June court order that the Fox docs must remain blacked out until Fox's appeal was done.
County officials confirmed for New Times this week that a staff member in the HR department received a letter of reprimand for releasing those documents (the ones we're publishing in this blog post). We're still working on finding out who was reprimanded.
As PNI lawyer (and former New Times editor) David Bodney told Superior Court Judge John Buttrick this week, Fox indirectly waived his right to keep secret the parts of the Babeu report that dealt with him.
Bodney noted that Fox had filed an $8 million claim against the county that alleged he was being unfairly treated. And that he'd referred repeatedly to the portions of the Babeu report that discussed him in his appeal-of-termination letters to the county, which had subsequently been made public. Finally, Bodney argued, Fox had demanded a "public determination" of the facts in the report.
Judge Buttrick agreed that all of that constituted a waiver and ordered the full, unredacted Babeu report to be released within two weeks.
In making his case, Bodney attached Fox's letters and the notice of termination as an exhibit to his motion to reconsider the June decision, which we've published for your convenience below.
For full context of the campaign finance case that we call the SCA scandal, (SCA being the name of the shadowy group of donors), read our comprehensive April article, "Love Connection."
Instances of Fox's bad behavior in the SCA scandal are the first things noted by the sheriff's office's director of detention, Mike Olson, in the October 20 letter of termination to Fox.
Olson sums it up well early in his letter in the part sub-titled, "You Committed Egregious Integrity Violations."
In attempting to perpetuate the falsehood that Fox acted alone in the fundraising scheme:
... you provided false and misleading facts to the public, (state AG's office) investigators, (Pinal County Sheriff's Office) investigators, and an administrative law judge. You specifically provided false and misleading information regarding David Hendershott, Larry Black and Chris Baker's (a Republican Party operative) involvement with the SCA fund. You also provided false and misleading information regarding the corporate and LLC dollars that were included in the SCA fund. Each of these integrity violations, separately and independently, warrants termination of your MCSO employment.
Here's an additional preview of what you'll find when you read these fascinating documents:
* Fox claimed to investigators he never saw Hendershott at a restaurant where he met his good friend Larry Black and Republican Party operative Chris Baker. Of course, Hendershott, being well over 300 pounds, is pretty hard to miss wherever he goes.
* Fox argues that Black wasn't involved in his decision to send two checks totaling $105,000 to the Republican Party. (The money, as you'll recall, was primarily used to fund a smear ad against Arpaio's opponent in the 2008 race, Dan Saban. As our April story relates, there's plenty of evidence that this donation was an illegal earmark under state law.) Olson refers to the copious evidence that Black was intimately involved. He leaves a lot out on this subject; you can learn even more from our April article.
* Fox's blogging on the New Times Web site helped get him in trouble, as you always knew it would. Olson points out a whopper of a lie: Fox's claim in one comment in a February 2009 blog post that neither Hendershott nor corporations donated to the Republic Party. We mentioned that as well in a July 2009 post.
* Fox quibbles over the meaning of basic words like "involved" and "participate."
* He claims that he didn't notice the "LLC" on one check he signed and deposited.
Those looking for direct evidence of Arpaio's involvement in the scheme won't find it here. As for us, we continue to believe there's plenty of indirect evidence he was involved -- for instance, as our April article mentions -- Black and Hendershott were his top advisors, and they were up to their gills in SCA involvement. Jimmy Miller, who was the head of MCSO's internal affairs in 2007 and 2008, told the AG's investigators that the SCA account and the plan to use the money to attack Arpaio's 2008 opponent, Dan Saban, was a much-talked-about rumor around the office.
The apparent corruption extended beyond the sheriff's office to the Arizona Republican Party and its officials, and to former state Speaker of the House Jim Weiers.
The AG's office investigation all but confirmed the theory that the party's chairman in 2008, Randy Pullen, illegally promised to earmark the SCA money for a slimy TV ad targeting Saban. The then-executive director of the state party, Sean McCaffery, as our April article revealed, suspiciously didn't question the huge SCA checks he received.
Baker, the Republican strategist who acted as a liaison between the party and the SCA's de facto officers, (Hendershott, Black and Fox), is apparently still considered a target in the criminal investigation of the SCA sceme, which is now being handled (slowly) by the feds.
Baker told the AG's criminal investigators that Weiers had hooked him up with the sheriff's men, specifically telling Baker that they were "interested in becoming involved in county races." (Which is another apparent piece of evidence that the SCA money was illegally designated, or earmarked, for a precise purpose.)
Weiers is keeping his mouth shut on the whole issue.
One thing Olson did not list as a reason for firing Fox: The former captain's inappropriate relationship with Black.
As our previous articles have detailed, the AG's office investigation revealed e-mails in which Fox and Black professed "love" for each other.
Interviews of sheriff's personnel by investigators found that rumors about the pair's relationship were rampant around the office. Black denied to investigators that the pair had a homosexual relationship. Both men are married with children. But the evidence shows how the supervisor-subordinate relationship had evolved beyond professional, and possibly violated a sheriff's office policy against such closeness.
Steve Ellman, Valley developer and sheriff's office groupie, was among the wealthy contributors who wrote big checks to the SCA fund.
The strong bond between Black and Fox, as our April article speculates, make for one handy explanation for why Fox hid the involvement of his fellow SCA operatives and the donors for so long -- in part, he was protecting the man he loved. It also helps explain why Fox was so willing to go along with the SCA plan that was arguably coordinated by Black and Hendershott.
In addition to the damning stuff about the SCA, Olson's letter notes Fox's unethical behavior in covering up for subordinates, including one deputy accused of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old boy. Deputy Chief Frank Munnell noted these allegations in his bombshell memo, as we related in a blog post last year.
Among the problems with the way Fox handled the Navarra case was that he talked to Navarra about it, a policy no-no, while Navarra was on administrative leave. In Olson's letter, Fox claimed to investigators that he shouldn't be disciplined for that contact because he was acting as a clergyman and Navarra's "spiritual advisor."
Olson told him that the excuse "makes a mockery of the clergy exception."
Okay, without further ado, here are the docs: