While Pinal County “Sheriff Underpants” Paul Babeu has been out on the campaign trail touting gubernatorial candidate and “forensic accountant” Christine Jones, Pinal County Jail employees have been sweating bullets worrying about whether or not they’re going to have a job. All that thanks to the long running dispute between their boss and the federal government over the cost to house federal prisoners in the county jail and any number of other Babeu made up reasons to bad mouth the feds.
It’s no surprise after being slammed and attacked by Babeu the feds decided to not renew their multi-million dollar contract with the county that funded jobs and pumped millions into Pinal County coffers for years. The bottom line — the feds probably got fed up with Babeu’s constant badmouthing them and publicity stunts and they went out and found a cheaper place to house prisoners, thus saving you and me money.
Pinal County drew a line in the sand and the feds didn’t take the bait and now the 52 jobs are being eliminated and $5 million is being slashed from the sheriff’s budget. That’s a lot of “pink slips” for Babeu to sign — pink slips that might have not been necessary had the sheriff not made a political career out of badmouthing the feds publicly all the while taking a quarter-million bucks a month in jail fees and millions of dollars in grant money from Uncle Sam.
To hear Babeu tell it, the United States government and Washington, D. C. are the enemies and not the vast cast of homegrown criminals that call Pinal County home.
While the sheriff was out running down the feds at campaign events, endless fundraisers, in the paper, on Fox News and on right wing radio, Babeu was focused on himself and his own political future all the while spending tax money on an array of questionable projects that by all appearances were more about publicity than keeping the residents of Pinal County safe and his employees' jobs secure.
Whatever happened to the used helicopter taxpayers bought him? Oh yeah, it crashed and hundreds of thousands of dollars went down the toilet.
Now the Pinal County Board of Supervisors has to slash the sheriff’s budget in order to make up for the lost revenue and the sheriff’s sometimes-questionable spending practices. More cuts could be on the way. I guess that will mean more layoffs too.
Questions have been raised about Babeu’s focus on the problem. It’s hard to run a sheriff’s office when you’re constantly calculating your next political move. Too bad Babeu didn’t call on Jones' “forensic accounting” skills to help him save dozens of jobs.
The time has come for the board to conduct a microscopic examination of the sheriff’s office expenditures and what the sheriff has been doing with county, state and federal tax dollars. Is it time for the board to look at privatizing the jail to save money? Should the board consider “Home Rule” and get away from electing a sheriff and hiring a qualified and experienced professional to police the county?
The board definitely has a mess on their hands and Babeu has his fingerprints allover it.
“Sheriff Underpants” may be an elected Constitutional officer, but it’s the board of supervisors that signs the checks and balances the checkbook.