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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

It has been 17 years and 85 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Peter Corbett in the March 26, 2015 edition of the Arizona Republic had a story entitled “Glendale assistant city manager resigns.” Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2015/03/26/glendale-assistant-manager-resigns/70490792/ . He leads the story by saying, “A top Glendale manager resigned this week in the wake of questions about a computer contract that had been reviewed more than a year ago.”

One month after City Manager Brenda Fischer was hired she appointed Julie Frisoni as an Assistant City Manager in August of 2013. Frisoni’s husband, Jeff Shumway, is a Vice President of Insight Enterprises, Inc. the parent company of Insight Public Sector, Inc. In late 2013 after an RFP had been issued the city accepted Insight’s bid and entered into a multi-year, multi-million dollar computer contract. A year ago, in January of 2014, when Norma Alvarez was still a Glendale city councilmember she raised the question of a conflict of interest on the part of Frisoni. Michael Bailey, Glendale’s newly hired City Attorney and friend of former City Attorney Craig Tindall (Tindall and Frisoni were close friends), reviewed the allegation and according to Corbett, “City Attorney Michael Bailey reviewed six contracts with Insight and determined in February 2014 that Shumway did not sign any of the documents nor was he part of the company’s sales team.” Apparently that was the extent of Bailey’s review of the allegation of a conflict of interest. It appears to have been marginal and tailored to produce the desired result.

What does Arizona law say about conflict of interest?

8.2 The Arizona Conflict of Interest Laws. State statute provides in pertinent part:

  1. Any public officer or employee of a public agency who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any contract, sale, purchase or service to such public agency shall make known that interest in the official records of such public agency and shall refrain from voting upon or otherwise participating in any manner as an officer or employee in such contract, sale or purchase.
  2. Any public officer or employee who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any decision of a public agency shall make known such interest in the official records of such public agency and shall refrain from participating in any manner as an officer or employee in such decision.”

Arizona’s conflict of interest law centers on the concept of “substantial interest.” Substantial interest, for purposes of this law, refers only to a financial interest. In other words the public officer or employee of a public agency or relative must receive financial benefit. In strictly interpreting Arizona’s conflict of interest law, neither Frisoni nor her husband, Shumway, violated the law.

But…perception is reality often times. Julie Frisoni with her 12 years of employment with the City of Glendale wrote and reviewed many, many RFPs. She would have the knowledge required to write a successful RFP and would also have the knowledge, knowing Glendale’s financial condition, of what would be a successful dollar amount to request. Did she share that knowledge with her husband? That is your decision to make.

A successful award of the contract to Insight did not benefit Frisoni or her husband financially and therefore conflict of interest laws were not violated but were there other ways to benefit? Did Shumway benefit in greater status and clout within the company? Did the award by Glendale give him a leg up on the Insight corporate ladder that could result in a future promotion and a larger salary? Who knows? I don’t but that’s the kind of speculation that becomes rampant in this kind of situation.

What is apparent is although it appears to have been all above board it smells bad. It does raise a question. Did Frisoni sign a Conflict of Interest Disclosure? According to state law, 8.7 Disclosure of the Interest. Every political subdivision and public agency subject to A.R.S. §§ 38-501 to -511 must ‘maintain for public inspection in a special file all documents necessary to memorialize all disclosures of substantial interest made known pursuant to this article [A.R.S. §§ 38-501 to – 511].’A.R.S. § 38-509. Any public officer or employee who has a conflict of interest in any agency decision or in the award of a contract must provide written disclosure of that interest in the agency’s special conflict of interest file. A.R.S. § 38-503(A), (B). The officer or employee may either file a signed written disclosure statement fully disclosing the interest or file a copy of the official minutes of the agency which fully discloses the interest. A.R.S. §§ 38-502(3), -509.” I have filed a Public Records Request today to see if Frisoni did indeed sign such a disclosure. What if it is discovered that Frisoni did not file a signed disclosure statement? The penalty could be as severe as a class 5 or 6 felony.

Another part of state law relates to doing business with the public agency with which the person was employed and states, 8.11 Representation of Others After Leaving Public Service. State law also places restrictions on representation of others when a public officer or employee departs from state service. In particular, A.R.S. § 38-504(A) provides:

A public officer or employee shall not represent another person for compensation before a public agency by which the officer or employee is or was employed within the preceding twelve months or on which the officer or employee serves or served within the preceding twelve months concerning any matter with which such officer or employee was directly concerned and in which the officer or employee personally participated during the officer’s or employee’s employment or service by a substantial and material exercise of administrative discretion.” This sanction is clear cut. It remains rumored that Fischer and Frisoni are going to partner in their own communication agency. According to this provision neither one can do business or represent a client doing business with Glendale for 12 months. Since both were senior management it is reasonable to acknowledge that each was “directly concerned or personally participated” on every conceivable issue within the city.

So, faithful blog readers, it appears that Frisoni and her husband, Shumway did not violate the Arizona Conflict of Interest law. What about the spirit of the law?

© Joyce Clark, 2015

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During my 16 years of service to Glendale as a councilmember I would often ask questions of staff members. I suspect that I became infamous among staff for my “curious questions.”

No matter how consequential or inconsequential my question(s), it and the answers were routinely copied to the mayor and all councilmembers. I was told repeatedly that all councilmembers should have the same information and that staff was obligated to treat and inform all councilmembers equally. This was habit and practice for years before I became a councilmember and up until January of 2013.

I was quite surprised to recently receive some emails “over the transom” that violated this long standing policy. These emails make it evident that with the advent of City Manager Brenda Fischer and her handpicked crew this policy is no longer being followed.  The emails I received predated the council approval of the IceArizona arena lease agreement. It is clear from the senders and recipients that the policy of distribution to the mayor and all councilmembers was deliberately ignored in an effort to provide information to supporters of the deal and to deny the very same information to those councilmembers recognized as opposed to the deal.

One email from Julie Frisoni dated Wednesday, June 26, 2013 9:09 AM was sent to Councilmembers Martinez, Knaack and Sherwood. In it Ms. Frisoni forwarded a response from Tom Hocking on an arena operating cost question. It was not sent to Mayor Weiers or Councilmembers Hugh, Alvarez or Chavira. Apparently it was information Ms. Frisoni felt would assist those in support of the deal and was withheld from those in opposition.Frisoni 1

Yet another email from Frisoni dated Sunday, June 30, 2013 10:34 PM was sent to Councilmembers Sherwood, Chavira, Knaack and Martinez. In it Ms. Frisoni forwarded talking points on the benefits of an anchor tenant at the arena prepared by Jeff Teetsel, Credit Suisse’s Manager of Westgate. Once again the information would assist only those in favor of the deal. It was not sent to Mayor Weiers or Councilmembers Hugh or Alvarez.Frisoni 2

Ms. Frisoni is not the only current or former staff member to violate this policy. Craig Tindall, IceArizona’s Counsel and Glendale’s former City Attorney, sent an email to Councilmembers Sherwood, Knaack and Martinez dated Friday, June 28, 2013 8:04 AM which explained why the deal would no longer be a management agreement but would be a lease agreement. You would think that the city’s former Attorney would know better.Tindall 1

You can be sure there are far more emails floating through city hall that offer information to selected councilmembers in support of an issue and denied to others perceived as being in opposition. These emails are illustrative of an attitude prevalent beginning with City Manager Fischer and working down through the entire organization. It is a cancer causing distrust and divisiveness not only among elected officials but throughout the organization.  It creates  classes of “haves” and “have nots.” If there is a pattern of violating this ethic, it leads one to ask what other situational ethical tenets are being ignored?

Tenet #5 of the International City Managers Association (ICMA) states, Submit policy proposals to elected officials; provide them with facts and advice on matters of policy as a basis for making decisions and setting community goals; and uphold and implement local government policies adopted by elected officials.” It does not say to submit policy proposals to selected elected members. It does not say that all councilmembers are not equal and some deserve more information than others. There is an atmosphere of corrosiveness eating away at Glendale City Hall that City Manager Fischer has a responsibility to eradicate for she is ultimately responsible as the top manager of Glendale’s government.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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