On May 20, the Republic reported that Babeu’s office requested and received more than $7 million worth of surplus military equipment including eight Humvees, fire trucks, guns, defibrillators, barber chairs, underwear, thermal imaging scopes, computers, motor scooters and other items through the DLA which provides excess military property free to crime-fighting agencies through its Law Enforcement Services Office (LESO).
The article alleged that Babeu had improperly distributed some of the equipment to nonpolice agencies throughout Arizona, with critics maintaining that it was done to curry political favor for Babeu.
At that time, a Babeu spokesman quickly came to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office defense by issuing a statement confirming that “our office has acquired over $7 million worth of surplus and demilitarized equipment,” but went on to say “According to the Department of Defense and Logistics the cost savings to tax payers alone in Pinal County during 2011 was $3,792,425.04.”
Shortly thereafter, the Republic obtained emails showing that Babeu’s office had been directed to collect all military surplus that had been loaned out, according to Wagner’s article.
A May 23, 2012, email from Tom Gaupel, an employee of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office who also is assistant director of the state military surplus program, to Babeu and other officials stated that he had been advised by the state coordinator that LESO wanted him to take possession of all of the loaned equipment until decisions were made.
“I was hoping,” Gaupel said in the email, “that you could send deputies in your region to pick up the items.”
Wagner reports the order was placed on hold one day later. Although Babeu’s office maintained at the time that the decision was reversed because of “misleading information” given out by The Republic, Michelle McCaskill, spokesperson for the DLA, told Wagner “No, that was not the case.” She also told him that orders to gather up all of the equipment had been re-issued and that the retrieval of property is still underway.
Last week’s Republic article also reports the Defense Department has temporarily suspended the distribution of surplus firearms and other combat gear “while it examined and tightened inventorycontrol procedures.”
McCaskill said the suspension has been lifted and the agency is rewriting national regulations and contracts to clarify that loans of property are not allowed.
By Betty Swanson