$200,000 settles suit against Arpaio
Dennis Wagner
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 20, 2002 12:00 AM

Maricopa County has paid $200,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former deputy who claimed that Sheriff Joe Arpaio forced him off the job because he talked to the media and went to county prosecutors with corruption allegations.

Steve Barnes, once vice president of the Deputies' Law Enforcement Association, sued Arpaio and the Sheriff's Office two years ago, saying he was harassed and demoted after he became a whistle-blower.

Among other things, Barnes went to County Attorney Rick Romley to report that sheriff's deputies were being used to wiretap Tom Bearup, a former Arpaio aide who became the sheriff's political nemesis.

Barnes also warned Romley, who has feuded with the Sheriff's Office sporadically, of rumors that he had been targeted for surveillance.

The allegations led to an investigation by the FBI, which found insufficient evidence of illegal wiretapping.

Barnes could not be reached Tuesday. His attorney, Phil Flemming, declined to discuss the case. Arpaio and his chief deputy, David Hendershott, were unavailable for comment.

In past interviews, they denied that Barnes was targeted for political reasons and said the surveillance was because Bearup's son, Patrick, had become a criminal suspect. He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to prison in connection with a shooting.

Barnes is one of several former sheriff's employees who have sued after being fired or forced out because they publicly criticized the Sheriff's Office.

Employee representatives say Arpaio and Hendershott have a history of discrediting and eliminating "dime-droppers" who speak with the media.

Like others, Barnes claims he was accused of misconduct, subjected to an internal affairs investigation, polygraphed and then transferred to an unwanted post. Barnes' lawsuit says Arpaio and Hendershott initially went after him because he told The Arizona Republic about problems in the Sheriff's Office, including a lack of deputy pay raises.

He was later investigated on suspicion of altering a crime scene, and for making comments about politically motivated surveillance.

The county denied all allegations and, according to court files, planned to counter by accusing Barnes of misconduct.

But the defendants suffered a setback in May when two active deputies gave depositions confirming that they were ordered to watch Bearup, and that they were concerned about the propriety of that assignment.

About the same time, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Rosenblatt rejected the county's motion for dismissal and ordered the case to trial.

More than 50 witnesses were scheduled to testify, including Arpaio, Romley, FBI agents, a judge, a court administrator and numerous deputies. But that prospect evaporated 10 days ago when Rosenblatt formally ended the dispute based on a settlement.

Although terms of the agreement were not public, Maricopa County spokesman Al Macias confirmed that the Board of Supervisors approved payment of $200,000 at a meeting Nov. 6.

Reach the reporter at dennis.wagner@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8874.

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