Sunday, June 15, 2008

The John Sydney McCain Memorial Crappie Award

This week, George W. Bush made a serious run at another award.

In May, the Bush Administration, through the Interior Department, declared that the polar bear is an endangered species, worthy of protection. It was, perhaps, the most decent act of the Administration in its nearly 8 years of existence.

However, lest you worry that the Administration was mellowing in its dotage (a smidgen more than 7 months to go!), that same Bush Administration Interior Department issued rules that allow oil companies to "accidently" annoy or harm polar bears and Pacific walruses during their pursuit of sources of oil and natural gas.

Yup, the Bushies are saying what you think they are saying - it's ok to kill endangered species if you are an energy company looking for more profits.

I don't think that I've ever used the word "craven" to describe a Crappie Award winner, but it fits here. Yet amazingly enough, Bush didn't win this week's award.

He didn't win because of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who, in a "poetic justice" moment, wins the award for a shamelessly hypocritical reverse inward twisting bellyflop of a flip-flop during a fishing expedition.

To be completely honest, however, the fishing expedition was of the "political vendetta" variety, not the "beers and bait on a boat" variety.

Earlier this spring, Arpaio's office submitted a public records request for months worth of City of Phoenix emails, including those of Mayor Phil Gordon and Chief of Police Jack Harris. The justification given at the time of the request was that the records were necessary to an investigation into whether some of Arpaio's deputies have engaged in racial profiling.

The records were made available to some of Arpaio's deputies this week. The deputies, per City of Phoenix policy, were able to scan the documents at the City's Public Records counter, and were able to do so at no cost (unlike their own office, bastion of government transparency that it is, which charges 50 cents per page.

(On those rare occasions when they fulfill a public records request.)

Anyway, the tiff between Mayor Gordon and Sheriff Arpaio being newsworthy around these parts, the deputies' activities at the City attracted a contingent of media, including a representative of The Phoenix New Times.

Things started going south from there.

This was the same Phoenix New Times that had two of its publishers/journalists arrested by Arpaio for daring to criticize him in print.

And, in keeping with what is apparently a standing MCSO policy, the deputies soon were threatening to arrest the New Times' reporter, Ray Stern.

His alleged crime?

Trying to do the same thing that they were doing, examine public records.

The situation rapidly degenerated with a rep from the Phoenix City Attorney's office and multiple Phoenix PD officials stepping in and advising the deputies that public records are just that, *public*, and can be viewed by any member of the public.

Even those that work for the New Times.

For this breathtakingly twisted flip-flop (keeping his own public records away from the public as much as possible, while using public records laws to harass his political adversary) that created a situation that endangered a law-abiding member of the media, countless City of Phoenix employees who were just trying to do their jobs while attempting to defuse a volatile situation, and the members of the public who were also attempting to do business with the City of Phoenix that day, Joe Arpaio is awarded a particularly pungent JS McCain Crappie Award.

I do have one question, legal scholar that I'm not -

If Arpaio's office needed the records for a real investigation, why didn't they just get a search warrant? Then they would have had to deal with the inconvenience of having to conduct their examinations in public or of having the press looking over their shoulders while doing so.

Just askin'... :)

Also, be sure to visit Desert Beacon to find out the winner of the least-coveted award in the West, her Sunday Morning Deck Bass Award!

She calls it the least desired in "Northern Nevada", but she's underestimating her influence - receipt of her award is dreaded by two-faced politicos not just in her backyard, but all over the Mountain West and stretching all the way to D.C.

More background -

The New Times has a copy of an internal MCSO memo on the incident. It can best be described as, ummm..."artful." If the MCSO officials involved in the incident were painted any more heroically, the memo would be the script for a Chuck Norris TV show or movie.

AZ Republic coverage of the incident here; it's a blog entry, not a news story.

No comments: