It has been 17 years and 171 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.
I have not only read Glendale’s motion but printed it out. Here is the link if you wish to read the motion: City of Glendale motion June 18 2015 . I have read and reread the motion several times. I suggest that you pay particular attention to the footnotes. In some aspects they are as revelatory as the emails provided in the brief.
Glendale could not have chosen a better attorney to represent its interests in its decision to cancel its contract with IceArizona and subsequent litigation. Here is a link to Cynthia Ricketts’ biography: http://sacksrickettscase.com/our-team/cynthia-a-ricketts/ . She is well respected by her peers and has extensive expertise in the area of litigation that the city requires.
If you noted in state statute A.R.S. § 38-511 it refers to any person “significantly involved in initiating, negotiating, securing, drafting or creating of documents.” Many have focused on the word “negotiating” especially with reference to Julie Frisoni. Please go to Frisoni’s PR website (http://www.frisonipr.com/whoweare/). This is a direct quote from her site, “Crisis communications, including NHL Coyotes negotiations and the near bankruptcy of a city.” It appears that Ms. Frisoni can’t have it both ways. There seems to be a conflict (no pun intended) between her claim on her website citing experience in “NHL Coyotes negotiations” and her recent public denials that she was merely a Communications Director.
Based upon my personal experience as a councilmember from 2000 through 2012 Ms. Frisoni was a close confidant of Ed Beasley, former City Manager, and Craig Tindall, former City Attorney. I did not have a great deal of interaction with Ms. Frisoni for I lacked trust in her. While she may or may not have had a hand in direct, face-to-face negotiations of the currently cancelled contract it appears quite evident that she played an essential role in securing (and insuring) council approval of the contract.
Prior to the contract’s approval by city council, on June 26, 2013, she sent talking points in support of the contract to Councilmember Chavira. In fact, Councilmember Chavira, one of only 2 council votes (the other being Sherwood) that did not support the recent vote to cancel the contract, is using many of those same talking points in his current Glendale Today show on Glendale’s Channel 11. Frisoni also sent an email on June 30, 2013, to the four councilmembers in support of the contract with IceArizona: Councilmembers Sherwood, Chavira, Knaack and Martinez. She seems to have deliberately omitted those that did not support it. In that email she passes on Jeff Teetsel’s (Westgate manager) arguments supporting passage of the contract.
I am quite unhappy with the alleged actions of former city attorney Craig Tindall. When city council originally hired him I was quite pleased. He appeared to be competent and articulate. In 2011 I began to hear rumors that he was supportive of an outside group interested in buying the Coyotes. Back then no one could or would tell me who the group was. Reading the emails between him and Anthony LeBlanc, one of the current Coyotes owners, I was unaware of their obviously close relationship dating back to at least 2010. Little did anyone know they were meeting at their “usual starbucks.” It is now very difficult to accept the current parsing of words in an effort to minimize Tindall’s involvement in negotiating the IceArizona contract. It appears he was involved up to his lips.
It made me recall an incident at the end of 2012. The city was in the process of negotiation with a Coyotes team purchaser, Greg Jamison. I called Mr. Tindall with some technical questions about the deal. Cryptically, at the end of our telephonic conversation he remarked that if the Jamison deal didn’t make there was another group waiting in the wings. When I asked who, he refused to respond. In hindsight it now makes perfect sense but it raises more questions for me. I remember Interim City Manager Horatio Skeete telling me that Tindall appeared to be stalling and would hold Jamison documents on his desk for days. Skeete would make repeated requests for them which eventually would be fulfilled. Did Tindall deliberately sabotage the Jamison deal in an attempt to make available the opportunity for LeBlanc, et. al.? I honestly don’t know. You will have to decide for yourselves.
Tindall’s seeming self dealing is quite disappointing. As far back as April of 2010 in an email exchange between Daryl Jones of Ice Edge (precursor to IceArizona) Jones says they enjoyed working with Tindall and Tindall responds with “Now that’s an offer.” Was that Tindall’s subtle signal that he was angling for a job with them? Who knows? You decide. Or what about Tindall’s March, 2011, email exchange with LeBlanc urging LeBlanc to take a look at investing in a local medical device company? That action would seem to reinforce the notion that they had a close relationship. Or how about LeBlanc’s asking Tindall in October of 2011 if it was time to have a “confidential chat with Ed” (Beasley) as well as an email exchange between Tindall and LeBlanc about LeBlanc’s May, 2010 meeting with Steve E(llman)? What were these all about? We now know that LeBlanc wanted to buy the Coyotes even before the Jamison offer. We now know through more emails of Tindall’s effort to break a roadblock on July 26, 2013 (after the contract is approved) regarding the city’s paying IceArizona’s lenders directly? He emailed the newly hired City Manager (now former City Manager) Brenda Fischer apparently asserting that it was a simple administrative matter and appears to be urging her to take action.
The email exchange between former Mayor Scruggs and former City Manager Beasley are revealing as well. It appears as if the mayor was determined to get LeBlanc’s Lakehead Yale Sports Holding LLC “Plan B” before the city council in March of 2012. Once again Tindall’s name comes up when she says, “I have checked with Craig Tindall and Mr. LeBlanc’s letter is eligible for discussion under the items as posted.” Tindall seemed to be advocating for any LeBlanc deal.
The emails provided in the city’s motion to modify the Temporary Restraining Order are troubling. They are facts. They are the words of the principals involved. They are damning and not easily explained away.
I end with excepts from an email memo to the entire city council dated June 25, 2013 (a few weeks before council approval) from then Interim City Manager Dick Bowers:
- “Contrary to what might appear in the papers I don’t see this as a ‘done deal’. Far from it. Discussions continued over the weekend and we have come only slightly closer to comfortable than before. Gary B(irnbaum) has helped to illustrate to the Renaissance group’s (eventually IceArizona) attorney the concerns we have. I suspect this has given them a degree of discomfort.”
- “Glendale cannot afford a failure. The potential of failure exists as a dark shadow in the absence of the investors standing by their own numbers with confidence enough to simply take them for themselves and do the deal for 6.5.”
- “While there are many ways to describe the Renaissance’s reluctance I keep coming back to that same discomfort of Glendale having all the risk in this deal. My concerns could mean nothing or they could represent an existential question that must be considered. Will this work for the benefit of the City of Glendale and what makes us firmly believe that it will?”
Mr. Bowers’ crystal ball was certainly working that day yet a few weeks later, 4 councilmembers, Yvonne Knaack, Manny Martinez, Gary Sherwood and Sammy Chavira voted in favor of the IceArizona lease management deal. I can understand Sherwood and Chavira’s approval votes. They appear to have been blindly joined at the hip with each other as well as IceArizona. The pro votes of Knaack and Martinez are not so easily understood. Each cited the well being of Westgate as a motivator for their decisions. It is troubling that they appear to have put the well being of Westgate over the well being of the City of Glendale. Why did they not heed the words of Interim City Manager Bowers?
No matter. What’s done is done. The discovery of Tindall’s and Frisoni’s actions provide the city with an opportunity to rectify one source of its annual bleeding…whether one uses $15M or $8.7M a year as the loss figure for the city. Many point to the annual debt payment for the Camelback Ranch Spring Training Facility (CRSTF). They say why focus on the arena when CRSTF is just as much of a financial drain. It is. I suspect in due time that financial albatross will be addressed. Development that should have occurred surrounding this facility never materialized as a result of the national recession. Without any promise of current economic development it is an issue the city must address in light of the fact that this council continues to fail to rein in city expenditures.
The pity of it all is the devastation caused to the coaches and players of the Coyotes team. They have been through so much since Moyes declared bankruptcy in 2009. None of it was of their making. They have become undeserved collateral damage. I hope and pray that their futures will once again become whole and they can take pride in playing under the Coyotes banner.
© Joyce Clark, 2015
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