Tim Gustafson

Tim Gustafson poses with his wife, Debbie, at World of Life Church in Mesa, where they are associate pastors.

GOLD CANYON — Tim Gustafson, a pastor running for Pinal County sheriff as a Republican, doesn’t pull any punches when discussing current Sheriff Mark Lamb.

Gustafson, 69, announced his candidacy in late October with a press release that accuses Lamb of “serious criminal behavior, including bribery, embezzlement, financial and insurance fraud as well as engaging in shocking moral depravity.”

In a phone interview with PinalCentral, Gustafson did not back away from those statements. He accused Lamb of using campaign contributions for personal gain.

While Gustafson said he has actual documentation to back up his statements, he did not provide them or disclose the contents of those documents to PinalCentral, however.

“I have documented evidence,” he said. “I’d rather not get into that,” adding he would produce the evidence at “the appropriate time.”

Gustafson also said “credible sources” have told him Lamb is under investigation by the FBI.

Attempts to get a comment from Lamb were unsuccessful.

But the criminal allegations aren’t the only issue Gustafson has with the sheriff, who was elected in November 2016 and has been in office since January 2017.

Lamb has been a fixture on TV and social media since taking office, including reality TV shows “Live PD” and “60 Days In” that he courted to Pinal County. Gustafson said Lamb is more concerned with his celebrity status and Hollywood aspirations than he is with leading the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.

“What he’s become is not what we expected to get from him when we voted for him,” said Gustafson, who calls himself a strict conservative Republican. He added he wants to “bring integrity back” to the office.

Gustafson does not have law enforcement experience, but he is a military veteran. He said he served four years in the Air Force in the 1970s, adding he never saw combat. During his Air Force stint, he was stationed in a wide-ranging area, including California, Texas and the Philippines.

A self-professed devout man of God, the Gold Canyon resident is an associate pastor at Word of Life, a nondenominational church in Mesa. Faith is a cornerstone of his life, and he said he lives by the Bible. He said the image Lamb projects about being a godly man is not consistent with his lifestyle.

In his press release, Gustafson references a website run by Lamb’s former campaign manager Greg Thornberg that describes “how Lamb has used his position as sheriff to troll women on line (sic) for sexual favors demonstrating wickedness and deceit in spite of his ‘God, Guns and Country mantra.’”

If Gustafson is elected sheriff, he said he will fight to get deputies higher pay and do more to secure the border.

Lamb also talks about the border frequently, although Pinal County is not a border county. But Gustafson said Lamb’s positions on the border are insincere. He believes the sheriff doesn’t have real concern about border issues, saying Lamb’s take on the border “upsets” him.

“We have a definite issue at the border,” he said.

Without offering specifics about why the border is such a concern, Gustafson did mention that “many drugs” come over the border and into Pinal County.

On the issue of pay, Gustafson said Lamb has made some progress on raising deputy compensation; however, he said it has come at the expense of deputies’ retirement pay. He called the issue “complex” and did not provide an explanation for how retirement funds have been affected.

Gustafson said the Sheriff’s Office has suffered from ineffective leadership not just under Lamb, but also his predecessor, Republican Paul Babeu, who was elected in 2008 and served two four-year terms.

“The people of Pinal County deserve much better than they’ve gotten the last 12 years,” he said.

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Brian Wright is the sports editor at PinalCentral. He can be reached at bwright@pinalcentral.com.

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