It has been 17 years and 307 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

On November 3, 2015 the voters of the Sahuaro district dealt a political death blow to Councilmember Gary Sherwood by voting for Ray Malnar to replace him. The unofficial vote total has Ray Malnar winning with 53.61%. There is no doubt that Sherwood caused his own demise. How?

Sherwood was elected in November of 2012. For three years his actions and votes have raised questions. One of the major centerpieces of his campaign was his strong opposition to the Tohono O’odham casino in Glendale. As a result of his position the anti-casino forces paid for independent expenditures supporting his run. He also ran pledging fiscal conservatism in managing the city’s arena. It didn’t take him long to renege on both elements of his platform.

Within a year of his first term he reversed his position on the casino and became its strongest advocate. When asked why, his answers were consistently vague and seemed to center around learning “new information.” When queried on what information and from whom, he never offered a clear and convincing explanation. There was also the nagging assumption by many that he had swapped his positive vote of support for the casino with Councilmember Chavira’s positive vote of support for the IceArizona arena management deal.

Sherwood ran supporting his constituency’s opposition to continuing the practice of exorbitant financial payments to operate the city’s arena. Inexplicitly he advocated for the IceArizona management deal at a cost of $15 million a year. His actions in connection to this support gave rise to an alleged complaint (eventually dismissed) to the Arizona Attorney General’s office regarding his divulging of executive session information. He seemed to have developed a pattern of deliberately supporting big money interests over the voices of his constituents. It was a pattern soon to be repeated.

In the matter of Becker Billboards Sherwood was a prime advocate for their interests while he once again ignored his constituency. It left a bitter taste with his constituents and now they were becoming alarmed about his lack of support for their views. His failure to connect with his constituency became an issue of contention with the proposal to sell the Foothills Branch Library. He failed to notify them of meetings on the issue usually until the day before a scheduled public meeting. He bragged about a luncheon meeting he had arranged with the Kathleen Goeppinger, President of Midwestern University, proposed buyer of the library.

He seemed to be very proud when he declared in a council workshop meeting he had met privately with one candidate under consideration as Glendale’s new city manager, Brenda Fischer. Many people were astounded that he would have done such a thing. He was her strong advocate and after she was hired he seemed to receive preferential treatment not only from Fischer but from her inner circle, including soon-to-be Assistant City Manager Julie Frisoni. It was seemingly obvious that Sherwood and his coalition of councilmembers had the ear of Fischer and her inner circle while those who opposed Sherwood and his positions were frozen out.

Sherwood appeared to be needy…he wanted to be recognized as a “major player,” locally and regionally.  He seemed to revel in the attention he received from Anthony LeBlanc,, when they were seeking approval of their arena contract. After the management contract was signed he was observed lurking about at Coyote Town Hall meetings trying to catch LeBlanc’s attention until he was recognized and praised. Did he know observers reported members of IceArizona not only ignored him after securing the contract but apparently they ridiculed him as well?

When it came to Becker billboards that stakeholder group had contributed significantly to Sherwood’s campaign and so, he seemed to reciprocate by advocating for them. Again, Sherwood seemed to ignore his constituency’s overwhelming opposition to the billboards in favor of those who generously contributed to his campaign coffers. Then there are the countless recitations by many on the 4th floor of city hall who heard Sherwood’s declarations that he was the “real” mayor of Glendale. Many city employees thought he was arrogant and dismissive of them.

The nail in the proverbial coffin was his apparent belief that he was above the law. He accumulated at least 6 driving citations in a relatively short time period and then failed to follow through in fulfilling his responsibilities for those actions eventually leading to a state-wide warrant for Failure to Appear. This issue was resolved only after it was publicly reported that he was caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. In a recent press release he admitted to using city funds to rent a vehicle while driving on a suspended license and pledged to reimburse the city.

After all of his purported foibles, who wanted Sherwood to remain in office? The largest supporter of keeping Sherwood in office was Phoenix Firefighters Local 493 Fire PAC Committee (responding to the bidding of its sister Glendale union) having contributed $14,000 to an Independent PAC called Citizens for Safety and Education run by a long time fire union activist, Mike Colletto. Between October 2 and October 14, 2015 the independent committee spent $11,412.96 advocating for Sherwood’s retention. By the way, per usual, Sherwood was late in filing his latest campaign expense report. He raised nearly $40,000 ($39,810.30). Of note, that’s twice the amount that his opponent, Ray Malnar, raised ($18, 800). Sherwood’s big money contributors were: Mark Becker – $3,000 on 9/9/15; the Tohono O’odham – $6,250 on 10/8/15; Nick Wood (an attorney for IceArizona) – $1,500 on 10/8/15; Jason and Jordan Rose (Becker billboards was/is a client) – $1,000 on 10/17/15; and members of the Molera Alvarez political consulting group – $1,000 on 10/21/15 and 10/22/15. Let’s not forget PAC contributions, much of it union money, totaling $28,000:

  • Arizona Pipe Trades               $10,000                             9/11/15
  • IBEW Local 640                        1,000                              9/15/15
  • Republic Services, Inc.                 500                              9/15/15
  • Iron Workers Local 75               2,000                              9/16/15
  • Phoenix Firefighters
  • Local 493 Fire PAC                    1,000                               9/16/15
  • Surprise PRO Firefighters
  • PAC                                         2,000 (cumulative)            9/16/15
  • United West Valley
  • Firefighters                               2,500 (cumulative)           9/16/15
  • Pinnacle West PAC                        500                              9/21/15
  • Gilbert Firefighters                    4,000 (cumulative)           10/14/15
  • United Mesa
  • Firefighters                               4,500 (cumulative)           10/14/15

Why has Gary Sherwood become the first councilmember ever successfully recalled in Glendale’s history? Despite the tremendous fire union financial and manpower support as well as the financial support of “big money” interests, Sherwood ignored the voices of his constituency and demonstrated that he was apparently more willing to support the interests of those who contributed generously to his campaigns. You can be sure Sherwood will place the blame on “outside interests” such as casino opponents but Sherwood was the architect of his own political demise by making choices that seemingly benefitted him in the short term while ignoring long term consequences. He died politically by a thousand, tiny cuts self inflicted as he made choices that seemed to benefit only himself. Sherwood has no one to blame but Sherwood. He made his choices and has been made accountable for them by his district’s voters. In commenting on his loss Sherwood said he plans to run again in November of 2016. Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Sometimes…every once in awhile…the good guys do win…

© Joyce Clark, 2015


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