Adding to the investigation last week were two new 30-second television advertisements released by Babeu featuring a number of people identified only as “voters” offering testimonials to the audience about what think of Sheriff Babeu as a candidate in the Arizona District 4 Congressional campaign.
The commercials begin, “Listen to what the voters are saying about Paul Babeu.” However, almost all of the “voters” depicted in the video are actually Pinal County Sheriff’s Office employees. Those employees include:
- Cheryl Chase, PCSO community outreach director
- Jayme Valenzuela, Commander of Program Services
- Ruben Montano; Commander of Policy and Compliance
- Jason Villegas, PCSO Lieutenant
- Wayne Cashman, PCSO Lieutenant
- Hank Mueller, PCSO deputy
The new advertisements could raise even more legal trouble for the Sheriff. Babeu is already under investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel which is looking into potential violations of the Hatch Act, the unlawful use of public resources for personal campaigns and makes it illegal for certain government workers to participate in political activities.
A Sheriff’s Office spokesman has said that all of the PCSO employees “volunteered” their time for the advertisements.
But Ann O’Hanlon, a spokeswoman for the Office of Special Counsel, said featuring employees in campaign ads likely would violate the law because it could be seen as coercion.
Even if the employees volunteered, “when somebody is a subordinate, they’re a subordinate. They don’t really have free will. They do something because you’re the boss.”
By Ed Barker