Campaign Literature Raises Questions

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Publications distributed by the Gila County Sheriff's Office may have been in violation of campaigning rules, according to the Gila County Merit System Rules and Policies Manual.

The rules state that "No county offices, resources or property will be used to influence the outcome of an election."

Two pamphlets and one newsletter may have violated that rule, although no formal complaints have been filed with the county attorney's office or the county elections office.

A photo and short biography of Gila County Sheriff John Armer appeared on two different pamphlets seemingly unrelated to Armer.

One pamphlet was for the Citizen's Police Academy and the other was for an Arizona Concealed Weapons Permit. Permits for concealed weapons are only available from the Department of Public Safety -- not from the Sheriff's Office.

"It was not an attempt to campaign -- absolutely not," Armer said.

"You just can't separate yourself from the office. It's part of getting information out to the public on certain publications and it's part of making the public aware of who their public officials are. I think that's a great deal of our responsibility."

In addition to the pamphlets, the Sheriff's Office May newsletter featured an article about Armer's run for re-election.

The Sentinel is published using the office copy machine. Lu DuBois, editor, said it's part of her job to write the newsletter. The newsletter is distributed around the sheriff's office, and until recently was available to the public.

The article included information such as, "Sheriff John, along with his administration, has delivered on his promises to modernize the sheriff's office and to be a more responsive leader in the law enforcement community."

The rules state that only neutral, factual information on the election may be provided on duty or using any county resource.

The article continued, "Sheriff John has been diligent in his efforts to run the sheriff's office and detention center in a fiscally responsible manner. The Sentinel supports all his programs and wishes him well on his re-election campaign."

DuBois said she is "obviously hoping he will be elected," but the article was not meant to influence the election.

"I guess it was subconsciously, just because I really like the man," she said. "I can't come out and endorse him."

An employee of the sheriff's office, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed the violations and said there were more.

"There was a flier on the schedule board having personnel coming to John Armer's re-election campaign party to raise money for his campaign," the employee said. "And that was done inside the county building."

The employee also said that the sheriff has been campaigning in his county vehicle.

"It's incredible," the employee said. "He should have to do that in his own vehicle, just like everybody else does. And that's really the tip of the iceberg."

Armer responded by saying he has been very careful to use his own vehicle when he's doing something "purely political."

"If I come to my office today to do county business, but I stop by the Democratic headquarters on the way, I just can't separate those two," he said.

Salt River Police Lt. Kim Pound also is a candidate for Gila County Sheriff, and said the campaign should be fair for everybody.

"Everybody needs to play by the rules," Pound said.

The third candidate, Globe Police Officer Richard Shaw, said he hadn't heard about the pamphlets.

"Whatever the county deems necessary to rectify this should be done," Shaw said.

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