PHOENIX – Days after the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office raided the Mesa Public Library and City Hall, the city’s police department is investigating whether a police commander ignored allegations that city contractors were hiring illegal immigrants as part of a janitorial crew.
Sheriff’s deputies conducted an early morning raid on the library Thursday. The raid netted three janitors at the library and deputies eventually arrested more custodial workers on suspicion of identity theft and forgery.
After the raid, the sheriff’s office released a statement that said a former Mesa employee had provided enough specific information to prompt search warrants for the operation, and that the employee had first informed Mesa police Lt. Wade Pew of the potential violation of the state’s employer-sanctions law.
Pew oversees the municipal security division, which includes issuing secure badges to contract workers and municipal employees.
According to a statement from the sheriff’s office, Pew reportedly responded that, “This isn’t Mesa police’s problem. It’s the cleaning company’s issue.”
Mesa Police Chief George Gascon requested information from the sheriff’s office to back up that allegation in a letter to Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office on Friday.
The department has already launched an administrative investigation to determine if any Mesa policies were violated, said Mike Denney, assistant chief of Mesa police.
“Our department policy is really quite simple: Anyone who makes an allegation of misconduct against any of our employees, we investigate it,” Denney said.
“We want to clear it up and find out what happened. Mesa police does not know any more about the allegations than what sheriff’s officials released to the media,” Denney said. “Which makes it difficult to say how far this investigation will stretch. Could it branch into something more? We don’t know,” Denney said.
“We don’t know what (Arpaio) knows. Once he tells us, we can begin investigating.”
Administrators from the sheriff’s office are attempting to clarify some of the information Mesa has requested, said Capt. Paul Chagolla, a sheriff’s office spokesman.
He anticipated that the sheriff’s office would cooperate with Mesa’s request.
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said neither the city nor its police department were given any warning of the sweep.
“I believe the safety of our citizens was gravely compromised,” Smith said. “I believe we had set the scene where bad things could happen … and I believe that crosses the line to what law enforcement can and should do.”
Dozens of heavily armed Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies swept into the Mesa library and City Hall at about 2 a.m. Thursday looking for undocumented workers. The raid netted three janitors at the library.
Thirteen other workers for Management Cleaning Control LLC were arrested later in the day at their homes, and deputies executed search warrants at city offices after they opened for business on Thursday.