DENVER – A federal grand jury is investigating Joe Arpaio – the Arizona sheriff best known for his aggressive stance on illegal immigration – for possible abuses of power in launching investigations of local officials who disagree with him, officials said Friday.
Two Maricopa County officials have been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury to testify about Arpaio’s actions against county officials since they moved to cut his budget in late 2008.
Since then Arpaio and his ally, County Attorney Andrew Thomas, have filed charges against two county supervisors, have said dozens of other county workers are under investigation and have filed a federal racketeering lawsuit accusing the entire county political structure of conspiring against them.
The investigation of Arpaio has been rumored for months, but the statements from County Manager David Smith and Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson confirming the subpoenas, issued Thursday, are the first official confirmation of the probe.
The FBI and U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix have declined to comment.
In an interview Friday, Wilson, the county’s budget chief, said a prosecutor from the U.S. attorney’s office met with her and Smith this week. “They told us that they were looking at abuses by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his office, abuses of power,” she said.
Wilson said she was not asked about Arpaio’s immigration policies. The sheriff sends officers into heavily Latino neighborhoods to ask anyone who commits a violation as minor as jaywalking about their immigration status.