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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

It has been 17 years and 214 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

On July 24, 2015 at a special voting meeting the Glendale City Council unanimously passed Ordinance 2949 and the First Amendment to AMULA Final. With these actions the city and Ice Arizona agreed to dismiss all lawsuits and also settled the issue of the million dollars sitting around in a special escrow account as a result of the 2009 bankruptcy filing.

Before the Kumbaya vote Anthony LeBlanc, spokesperson for the ownership group said, “We’re not going to renegotiate…never, never, never.” Oops. The afternoon of the fateful vote in a radio interview with Roc & Manuch, LeBlanc was heard to say, “We haven’t been open with them (the city).”And, “We haven’t been good communicators.” And, “They’ve done well for the taxpayers. They’ve got a win.” When asked if Ice Arizona would consider buying the city’s arena, LeBlanc said about arena ownership, “That’s not the business we’re in.” Should we believe him in light of his long history of “erroneous” statements?

Councilmember Gary Sherwood, IceArizona’s staunch advocate, in an earlier, same day radio interview (July 24, 2015) with Roc & Manuch, said that he had publicly staked out a position that “he was not going to vote.” We can assume his action was to be a public display of disapproval for council’s treatment of his good friends, the IceArizona owners. In his traditional flip-flop fashion, he reversed himself with a little help from his friends. He revealed that the night before the vote “he had discussions with ownership” (presumably Anthony LeBlanc). His remark is interesting in and of itself for the only meeting council had prior to the vote was an executive session on July 20, 2015.  Did he share the conversations and results of that executive session with his good friend LeBlanc? Sherwood went on to say that “ownership wanted a 7-0 vote in support of the new deal.” Always willing to oblige his friends, Sherwood did a 180 and not only voted but voted in favor and made sure his pal, Councilmember Sammy Chavira did as well.

There has been considerable opining in the news media and on social media as to whether this is a good deal…for anybody. I contend that it is a good deal for Glendale if for no other reason than a $197 million dollar liability is gone…poof! That action should warm the hearts of the bond rating agencies. That figure represents the annual lease payments for the balance of the original lease management agreement.

The city gained in reducing the management fee to $6.5M from the original $15M annually. The actual language is: “10.1. Management Fee. Commencing on the Amendment Effective Date, and during the remainder of the Term, in consideration of the Arena Manager’s agreement to perform the management and other services set forth in this Agreement to pay all operating and maintenance costs associated with the Arena Facility (other than capital costs as provided herein), provided there is no breach by the Team Owner of the obligations under the Non-Relocation Agreement or a material breach by the Arena Manager of its obligations under this Agreement, the City shall pay to the Arena Manager, by wire transfer of immediately available funds to an account specified by the Arena Manager, the annual Management Fee in the amount of Six Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($6, 500,000), paid in quarterly (on a three calendar month basis) installments in arrears on or before each October 1st, January 1st, April 1st and July 1st during the Term.” The city was losing an estimated $8+M a year under the original lease agreement even with the shared revenue it received. This management fee is budgeted within the city budget for Fiscal Year 2015-16.

The city also won two important concessions. It now has its own “out” clause with this agreement which ends in two years, in 2017 with recognition that “19. Termination Date means June 30, 2017.”  It now has the freedom to choose its own arena manager in a year’s time as stated, “46. Change of Manager. Notwithstanding what may otherwise be proved in this Agreement or in this Amendment, the City shall have the option to replace the Arena Manager at any time after June 30, 2016…” Everyone hopes the city will craft an RFP immediately and put it out on the street in a time frame appropriate to exercising that option.

The city achieved what can be considered as payback. IceArizona will no longer use former City Attorney Craig Tindall or former Assistant City Manager Julie Frisoni in any capacity including as a consultant. It is in #4 of the Settlement Agreement which states, “No Other City Employee Involved with Arena Agreement. The Parties represent and warrant that, as of the Effective Date, to the best of their individual and collective knowledge, information, and belief, no other former employees of the City, other than Craig Tindall or Julie Frisoni, have become consultants to or employees of IceArizona, in any capacity, since July 8, 2013. Ice Arizona represents and warrants that neither Tindall nor Frisoni has, in any way and to any extent, no matter how substantial or insubstantial, been involved in initiating, negotiating, creating, drafting, or securing the First Amendment. In reliance on these representations and warranties and those in Section 6, the City, City Council, City Manager, and City Attorney, collectively and individually, represent and warrant that they will never in the future seek to cancel or void the Arena Agreement of the First Amendment based o the involvement of Tindall or Frisoni, no matter how substantial or insubstantial, in initiating, negotiating, crating, drafting, or securing the Arena Agreement or the First Amendment on behalf of Glendale, so long as Tindall and Frisoni are not employed or retained as a consultant by IceArizona or any of its affiliates, divisions, parent entities, or subsidiaries.” The language is quite specific. That is just plain Karma for Tindall and Frisoni.

Did IceArizona get anything out of the deal? It stopped a lawsuit in which ultimately the city would have prevailed. Note that the new deal contains a lot of verbiage enjoining the city from suing IceArizona, ever, for any reason, regarding Tindall and Frisoni. The major gain was that it bought IceArizona time…time to decide its future. If the owners cannot put a decent team on the ice this year their future is bleak and they know it. It’s not a matter of distance that fans must travel to a game. That rationale has been over used. When teams win people will eagerly travel long distances to watch the winner. A team that is a contender also fills seats in suites and attracts more expensive advertising dollars…the lifeblood of any team. Each extra playoff game earns in the neighborhood of a million dollars and can spell the difference between a bottom line in the black and a bottom line in the red.

Another important issue finally resolved is that of distribution of the bankruptcy Operating Reserve Account as follows: “10. The Parties acknowledge and understand that in the Bankruptcy Settlement, subject to approval by the Court, the Bankruptcy Lawsuit (the “Bankruptcy Court”), the Operating Reserve Account shall be distributed as follows: $350,000 to the City, $10,000 to the David Reaves, Chapter 7 Trustee of the Arena Management Group, L.L.C., and $640,000 to Ice Arizona.”

In the same radio interviews, Sherwood stated that he wants “to see a new contract (with IceArizona) in 6 to 9 months, by April of 2016.”  LeBlanc stated IceArizona “wants a contract extension immediately” to bring “certainty.” Obviously it is an option both parties will need to pursue. Let us hope they can be successful in crafting a lease extension that is not build on the backs of Glendale’s taxpayers. No one can object to a lease agreement that is fair and equitable.

Be advised it doesn’t matter what the action or situation is, municipal governments do not move quickly. While an immediate contract extension is IceArizona’s goal, the caution is to not become frustrated if the action is not completed quickly. I learned this lesson the hard way. When I first joined city council I had ideas for projects in my district. I mistakenly thought they could be accomplished instantly. Not so. I became satisfied if a project could be completed within a year. It’s the very nature of government. All action is slow, overly deliberate, and far more complicated than it often needs to be.

Everyone appears to be relieved the issue is resolved for now. Let’s hope this positive action leads to further positive outcomes for both parties.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

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.

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

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.

It has been 17 years and 162 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Unless you have been comatose by now you know that on June 10, 2015 the Glendale City Council voted 5 -2 to cancel its Lease Management Agreement with IceArizona for the city owned arena. Two days later, June 12, 2015 Ice Arizona successfully secured a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).

Just think about it. The council vote was 5 -2 with Councilmember Jamie Aldama breaking ranks with Councilmembers Sherwood and Chavira. In his remarks he said that while he is pro business he felt compelled to uphold the integrity of the process.

Just think about it. The five councilmembers who voted to void the contract have divergent backgrounds in terms of educational levels, incomes, ethnicity, time served on city council yet collectively they found the facts available to them (and not to the public to date) compelling enough to move forward with voiding the contract.

Just think about it. This council has been characterized as being idiots, fools and all manner of the devil. They knew there would be an extraordinarily violent reaction yet they held fast and voted their consciences. Only senior management and the council know the facts relating to state statute § 38-511. They knew that IceArizona would sue; they knew there would be legal fees; they knew the fan base would come unglued; they knew the media, in its search for fresh red meat, would berate them. They knew…yet they still voted to cancel the contract. Didn’t any of these groups pause for just a nanosecond to consider that the city’s allegations could be quite legitimate?

Just think about it. The 5 members of city council that voted to cancel the contract must stay the course. They took an oath to uphold the law. They have a fiduciary responsibility to every Glendale taxpayer. If an opportunity for further dialogue with the Coyotes presents itself they should take advantage of that opportunity. If it brings no resolution then they must follow through on cancellation of the contract.

Just think about it. Many question why now? Quite frankly, it is irrelevant. The makeup of the city council changed with this past election. The original 4 councilmembers that approved the contract dwindled to 2 creating an environment that allowed the facts as known to the city to be considered and acted upon.

Just think about it. The greater question is what has happened to civil society?  America is great because one of its bedrock values is freedom of speech. Everyone, on either side of this issue, has the freedom to express an opinion but it should be tempered speech based on the facts. It is acknowledged that the Coyotes fans are stunned and angered by the recent city action. In their anger some have allowed emotion to override common decency.

Just think about it. One action that is stark in its viciousness was that of Ms. Rhonda Pierson on the night of the special voting meeting. Ms. Pierson expressed the beliefs of some Coyotes fans and she had the right to do so but the vindictiveness of her speech was out of bounds. Social media has turned her into a heroine of some sort despite the ugliness of her delivery. I didn’t catch it if she announced it but did she acknowledge that she was (or may still be) an employee of the Coyotes organization?

Just think about it. Then today, June 13, 2015, Mayor Weiers who had announced that he was willing to be tazed to raise money for the 100 Club (mission: support of law enforcement families) was tazed by Ms. Pierson. The event was intended to be a great gesture in support of law enforcement recently vilified nationwide. By choosing Ms. Pierson as the designated person to taze the mayor it turned into a distasteful event that made many people uncomfortable. It wasn’t done in the spirit in which it was originally intended but rather turned into a symbolic expression of vindictiveness for the city’s recent vote to void the contract. Those behind the choosing of Ms. Pierson to perform the act have sunk to a new low and are no better than those within the city they currently choose to hate. It was petty and mean spirited.

Just think about it. Social media is a platform that creates a herd mentality and its anoninimity emboldens some to exceed the bounds of common civility. It encourages an atmosphere that causes mass salivation of others’ perceived misfortunes or misdeeds and often reactions are based on raw emotion in the absence of any fact. The level of vituprativeness and ugliness of some folks’ speech has risen to an unprecented level not just locally but on issues throughout the country.

Just think about it. There are probably about 100 local fans that use social media on a regular basis. They have been whipped into frenzy, in part, by the comments made by Anthony LeBlanc as he recently made the media rounds. Did anyone bother to take note that he had to walk back some of his misstatements? Such as, they were never asked by the city to consider renegotiation or Tindall was the only former Glendale employee ever connected to the Coyotes.

Just think about it. There are about 239,000 residents of Glendale. The arena holds slightly north of 17,000. If everyone of the 17,000 was a Glendale resident that would be one twelfth of Glendale right now. In a survey done by one of the TV stations it was reported that 59% of the Glendale residents surveyed supported the cancelling of the IceArizona contract.

Just think about it. If some wish to boycott Glendale’s businesses in protest, that is their right. If some wish to mount recall petitions against every Glendale councilmember, that is their right but ugly expressions of anger directed to the city are not right if one respects the bounds of common decency.

Just think about it. The media has reported that in the next few days IceArizona and city personnel will meet. Let us hope that a long and costly court battle can be avoided. Let us hope that they can work out their differences regarding the contract. I really would like to see the Coyotes stay in Glendale but not at the current rate of taxpayer subsidization.

Just think about it. If nothing comes of their meeting I wish the Coyotes well, perhaps playing in Phoenix. The only nagging question that comes to mind is who is going to pay the Coyotes $15 million a year to play in their facility? The City of Phoenix? Or Robert Sarver?

© Joyce Clark, 2015

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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