Babeu vs. Rios: speeding ticket sparks political war of words
FLORENCE, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - A politician slapped with a speeding ticket in Gila County has now turned into a war of words across the county line in Pinal. Sheriff Paul Babeu is calling out County Supervisor Pete Rios to apologize to Hayden Police. In return, Rios is calling on Babeu to stay out of it because its out of his jurisdiction.
In small town Florence, the small controversy has erupted into a big political fight.
"He's being used as a tool I suspect by the TEA Party and conservative Republicans," said Rios.
The verbal crossfire has also crossed beyond their political divide and has gotten very personal.
"I will not tolerate elected officials undermining the sacred trust we hold with the public," said Babeu.
This latest bruhaha started over a speeding ticket that was issued to Rios two weeks ago.
According to Hayden Police, Rios was clocked going 57 in a 45 mile per hour zone. The officer said Rios refused to give him his driver's license and after a third and final warning he took action by marching Rios to his police car.
Babue has now jumped in to the fray trading punches with Rios by using the media.
"If that happened in Pinal County, he should have been arrested and booked into jail," said Babeu.
In an opinion column, the sheriff is calling on rios to apologize to Hayden Police for portraying himself as a victim of police brutality.
"I think Pete Rios personally is a gentle enough person to your face but when the measure is when an elected official, when they can say one thing that they support law enforcement yet his article clearly states and gives the impression to the public that officers can't be trusted," said Babeu.
Rios denied he's promoting distrust for law enforcement.
"The sheriff are pretty good at spinning words," said Rios.
However, Rios is clinging to his claim the officer used what he described as "excessive force." For that, Rios said he will not apologize.
"Sheriff Babeu is simply making political hay,' said Rios. "He hasn't been on TV for about 3 weeks. He needs something to put him before the camera and you guys are complying."
In truth, Truth Babeu is also an elected official.
Susan Powers, a long-time resident, said she's tuned out all politics.
"We hear them then we see something totally different," said Powers.
In January, Sheriff Babeu referred a case to the Attorney General's office involving accusations that Rios submitted fraudulent travel expenses.
Rios claims Babeu would not identify the constituent who filed the claim. The story made the news. But Rios claims the AG's office has yet to contact him about the investigation.