FLORENCE, Ariz. — An investigation found that Pinal County Sheriff Paul
Babeu did not use his job to influence employees and others during his 2012
re-election campaign, officials said Tuesday.
Babeu was accused of violating the Hatch Act, which limits partisan political
activities for employees of a state or county executive agency. The
investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel stemmed from Babeu appearing
in uniform at events when he was running for Congress and then for sheriff. He
was also accused of coercing lower-ranking employees to campaign for Chief
Deputy Steve Henry.
“The charges were politically motivated and I’m glad they have completely
cleared me, just as I knew they would,” Babeu said in a released statement.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office said that officials were notified June 30
that the federal investigative agency was closing its two-year inquiry.
Nick Schwellenbach, a spokesman for the Office of Special Counsel, declined to
The Hatch Act makes exceptions for those whose primary employment is an elected
office, according to the letter from the agency. Elected officials such as
sheriffs are not prohibited from campaigning while in uniform, agency attorney
Treyer Mason-Gale wrote.
Investigators also determined that campaign material was erroneously posted on
the sheriff’s office website by workers who were not under Babeu’s supervision.
There was no evidence the postings came at Babeu’s request. He was also cleared
of allegations that he had offered people positions in his office in exchange
for supporting Henry, who had hoped to succeed his boss.
Henry said the allegations wouldn’t be an issue now, as demonstrated by the
Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012. The revisions allow for most state and
local government employees to run for partisan political office.
“It took 2 1/2 years to reach the reported conclusion and thousands of dollars
were spent, this was a monumental waste of time and resources,” Henry said.