Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio sent one of his deputies to Hawaii to accompany an official in his volunteer posse that is investigating President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, despite earlier saying no taxpayer money was being spent on the probe.
The sheriff said Tuesday that taxpayers won’t ultimately foot the bill because the posse, which so far has used $40,000 in donations to pay for the probe, will reimburse his office for the deputy’s trip to Hawaii this week.
Arpaio said the deputy who was sent to Hawaii was there for security reasons, which the sheriff declined to discuss.
“Even if it was costing the tax payers money, we are talking about a criminal investigation into possible fraud and forgery on government documents,” the sheriff said.
The sheriff launched the investigation last summer and said in March that there was probable cause to believe Obama’s long-form birth certificate, released by the White House more than a year ago, is a computer-generated forgery and that the president’s Selective Service card was most likely a forgery.
Speculation about Obama’s birthplace has swirled among conservatives for years. So-called “birthers” maintain that Obama is ineligible to hold the country’s highest elected office because, they contend, he was born in Kenya, his father’s homeland.
Hawaii officials have repeatedly confirmed Obama’s citizenship, and Obama released a copy of his long-form birth certificate more than a year ago in an attempt to quell citizenship questions. Courts also have rebuffed lawsuits over the issue.
The Arizona Republic first reported that Arpaio had sent the deputy to Hawaii.
Democratic state Sen. Steve Gallardo, a critic of the sheriff, said Arpaio has misplaced priorities when he focuses on the president’s birth certificate, while his own office had failed to adequately investigate hundreds of sex-crimes cases over a three-year period ending in 2007.
“The cost of this trip to Hawaii ought to come out of this re-election campaign because this is politics,” Gallardo said. “It’s political grandstanding.”
Arpaio said health officials in Hawaii refused to talk to his deputy and posse investigator on Monday, though an assistant attorney general came out to talk to the investigators.
“They won’t have anything to do with us,” Arpaio said.
Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the Hawaii State Department of Health, said two men dressed in business suits from Arpaio’s department sat down with deputies from the health department and attorney general’s office in a conference room Monday.
The men identified themselves as being from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and provided their badges and business cards when asked, Okubo said.
“They said they were conducting an investigation,” Okubo said.
Okubo said the Hawaii officials told the men they had to show why they needed the information as part of ordinary business — a response similar to that given to Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett last week when he publicly pushed his request to verify Obama’s birth.
Associated Press writer Oskar Garcia in Honolulu contributed to this report.
Hawaii Department of Health page on Obama’s birth: http://hawaii.gov/health/vital-records/obama.html