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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

It has been 18 years and 163 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

PLEASE CHECK OUT THE TWO SAMMY CHAVIRA VIDEOS TO THE LEFT OF THIS COLUMN.537e4d22979c7.image

Before beginning today’s blog let us all take a moment to remember all armed service active duty and veterans for their service and their sacrifice. A bit of trivia…did you know that 1% of America’s population is responsible for preserving the freedoms that 99% of us enjoy? Our debt is enormous.Memorial-Day-Graphic

Light rail continues to remain contentious. In its city council meeting of April 24, 2016 city council split on a 4-3 vote approving its route and mode of transit. Voting for light rail were Councilmembers Tolmachoff, Turner, Aldama and Chavira. Voting against, while citing the need for an investigation of the alternatives, were Mayor Weiers, Vice Mayor Hugh and Councilmember Malnar.

This issue will come before city council once again, probably in January of 2017. At that time city council will be asked to commit formally to financing and approving the final route. At that time they will still have the option to approve or deny funding for light rail.

There are many angry people out there who are opposed to light rail for many reasons and they are not going to go away. The wisest action this city council could take would be to call for a special election and allow the citizens of Glendale to decide this issue for once and for all. After all, the last vote taken about light rail was 15 years ago and in that time we have seen many things change. It’s time to formally reassess the will of the people of Glendale.

City hall damage and the fall out just will not go away. In Paul Giblin’s story of May 24, 2016, the city acknowledges that nearly $50,000 (not the $30,000 I had cited previously) of damage had been done. Here is the link :  http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2016/05/24/vandals-cause-50000-damage-glendale-city-hall/84557320/ .

 In a second Public Information Request I again asked for the following:

  1. “I request Councilmembers Aldama and Chavira to obtain information from Barrio Breakthru about expenses covered by their donation of $5,000 of taxpayer money.
  2. 2. I request copies of any and all licenses and proof of insurance on file for this event provided to the city by Barrio Breakthru.”

The city’s response was, “The City has reviewed its records and has provided documents on file that are responsive to this request. There were no responsive documents for item #1.” None of the documents I previously received from the city show any licenses or proof of insurance on file with the city. Yet Ordinance 2975 specifically contains these specific requirements.

There is another way to skin this cat. On September 2, 2014 city council took up the question of council guidelines and specifically the issue of councilmember donations to non-profits. Here is the link: http://glendale-az.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=2838c6fe-32f9-11e4-bdc2-00219ba2f017&meta_id=7296  .  No consensus was achieved by council to prohibit councilmember donations to non-profits but there were a series of staff recommendations that, by council  consensus, were adopted on that date. They were as follows:

  1. “Requests for an expenditure of council discretionary funds for purposes of a donation of $5,000 or above must be submitted to the City Council for approval.
  2. “Each request for the use of council discretionary funds will require the completion of a new uniform standard request form.
  3. “Council discretionary fund recipients will agree that the City of Glendale and its authorized representatives shall have the right to examine and audit all financial and related records related to the acceptance and expending of the discretionary funding.”

I call upon City Manager Kevin Phelps to perform an audit of Barrio Breakthru and its acceptance of and its spending of the discretionary funding provide by Councilmember Chavira in the amount of $2,500 and Councilmember Aldama in the amount of $2,500. This audit should be publicly released for it involves $5,000 taxpayer dollars. I further call upon City Manager Kevin Phelps to amend Ordinance 2975 making it clear that if these requirements are not met, no permit will obtained. There is also an opportunity to review policies for special events to ensure that all organizations are being treated equally and that city property is protected properly.

City Manager Phelps said, “ Breakthru Productions carries insurance, so city officials will approach the organization’s executives to seek reimbursement for the damaged equipment.” If that is the case, why was I not provided with that information when I made my PIR? None of the documents I received included any proof of insurance despite a specific request for such information.

Why does it seem that Barrio Breakthru is being given a pass by city hall officials? Is it because two councilmembers, Chavira and Aldama donated to Barrio Breakthru?

© Joyce Clark, 2016

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It has been 18 years and 25 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Let’s talk about Glendale’s neighborhoods. Some are great. I live in a great neighborhood. Some Glendale residents do not live in a great neighborhood. Marginal neighborhoods are most generally to be found in Glendale’s Cactus, Ocotillo and Yucca districts…southeast, south and southwest.

When I was elected as the first Yucca district councilmember in 1992 (the first year of full implementation of the district system in Glendale) one of my very first actions was to invite the City Manager Dr. Vanacour, Assistant City Manager Pam Kavanaugh, and senior management (especially department directors) on a van tour of my district ending with a picnic lunch at O’Neil Park. I heard a lot of “oh mys” during the tour and when we reached O’Neil Park some needed to use its restrooms. I never saw so many people do such a quick about face opting to wait until they returned to City Hall.

My reason for this tour was that I recognized that while city resources had been used exclusively in north Glendale to support the development of the Arrowhead area it was done at the expense of the rest of the city. That figure has been pegged as north of $80 million dollars. I wanted Glendale’s senior management to refocus and to appreciate the desperate needs of some of Glendale’s oldest, long ignored neighborhoods.

Most people have heard, at one time or another, of the Broken Windows Theory.  Roughly it states that problems, if not dealt with as soon as they occur, become much worse. That is what was occurring not only in my district but in the Ocotillo and Cactus districts as well. I believed it was time for senior staff to redirect resources to stop the decay created by years of ignoring problems.

As a result of that tour then City Manager Dr. Vanacour and Assistant City Manager Kavanaugh championed my cause and developed plans to refocus on older neighborhoods. So was born the Neighborhood Partnership Program including Neighborhood Partnership Grants. It was not all that I envisioned but it was a start and committed the city’s agenda to redressing conditions in distressed neighborhoods.

As a councilmember I was often the bane of existence for the city’s Code Compliance Department. It was not uncommon for me to drive around neighborhoods making lists of code violations. I often took my council assistant with me so that she could write down addresses and violations at a jackhammer pace. I would turn my lists into Code Compliance and request periodic reports on the disposition of violations. I took the time to ride herd on the department and to require accountability.

Are there any current councilmembers that do this kind of proactive work in their district neighborhoods? I suspect not. There is a new breed of councilmember these days. At workshops and council meetings a smattering of questions sometimes surface but they are superficial at best. Once in awhile a genuinely insightful question will surface, usually from Councilmembers Turner, Tolmachoff or now, Malnar. Councilmembers Aldama’s and Chavira’s shtick is to thank everybody and his brother for everything. Vice Mayor Hugh and Mayor Weiers are often silent. Do any bother to research or do their homework on issues coming before them? Probably not…unless it’s a major public issue like the billboard controversy. Do they have neighborhood meetings…not once or twice a year district meetings but neighborhood meetings of 15, 20 people from a neighborhood where city issues are explained and neighborhood problems emerge? Probably not.

Genuine service to the community seems to be a thing of the past and when it is requested it is performed by a council assistant…not a councilmember. One of Councilmember Aldama’s constituents has been sharing the problems of her older neighborhood with me for the past year. She requested Aldama’s assistance. He was non-responsive and passed her off to others. When she directly requested assistance from Code Compliance she finally received some help. Was it all that she expected? No but it was a start. If Aldama had taken the time to intervene the assistance she received might have been even more robust.

This new crop of council assistants have no historical memory of Glendale, may not even live in our community and seem to have no investment in working with neighborhoods. Their focus seems to be political rather than service oriented.

We appear to have a council that attends requisite meetings and generally accepts all recommendations from staff; attends ribbon cuttings and events; goes to League of Cities and Towns meetings; and remains distant from the residents they serve.

The city also had a scalloped street program that used resources to finish partial streets and to add curb, gutter and sidewalks in areas where the streets had been ignored for years. Then the Great National Recession hit and all disappeared…the scalloped streets program, the Neighborhood grants program and the Neighborhood Partnership Program became toothless. Neighborhoods are once again ignored in the city’s quest to regain financial stability. That is understandable…to a point. Now the city is on the road to economic recovery. While the focus is on Glendale’s finances it can no longer be used as a rationale to ignore the basic issues confronting neighborhoods. I challenge senior staff and the city council to once again make neighborhoods a priority. Remember Broken Windows. If a problem in a neighborhood is ignored it will only get worse. Any city, even Glendale, is only as great as its meanest neighborhoods. Ignore them at your peril.

© Joyce Clark, 2016

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Yesterday, February 12, 2015 Glendale City Manager Brenda Fischer submitted her resignation. What happens now? Fischer and the city council will meet in Executive Session to negotiate a mutually agreeable date for her departure. City Council will then appoint an Acting City Manager while a search is done for a replacement.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? A cut and dried process but when politics are involved things are never quite that simple. The city council is split with Hugh-Turner-Tolmachoff vs. Sherwood-Chavira-Aldama. Mayor Weiers is the deciding vote. There is a dearth of talent at city hall these days with many able administrators either having left or having been forced out. Why not think outside the proverbial box? Why not borrow a talented administrator from another Valley community? Glendale has done it before when it asked Dick Bowers, former Scottsdale City Manager, to assume the role of Acting City Manager. The first name that comes to mind is Charlie McClendon, former City Manager of Avondale. Charlie worked for Glendale many years ago, possesses Glendale historical memory and has an outstanding record as Avondale’s City Manager. I was gently reminded that Charlie is now in Cathedral City, California. Despite that I would still consider him.

Don’t expect council to appoint either Assistant City Managers Jennifer Campbell or Julie Frisoni as Acting City Manager. Rumor has it that Assistant City Manager Julie Frisoni may not be around much longer now that she has lost her protector and mentor, Fischer. The city Finance Director, Tom Duensing’s and the city Attorney, Michael Bailey’s, names are floating out there as possible choices for Acting City Manager. Each has baggage and is identified as part of the Fischer “team.”

Many were surprised to learn of Fischer’s resignation. They should not have been. Take a look at her work history. She worked in Henderson and North Las Vegas, Nevada for about 15 years primarily in media relations but not as a City Manager. When she rose to greater positions of authority as a Deputy City Manager in Glendora, California and City Manager in Maricopa, Arizona it appears that she never remained in those positions for more than 2 years.

An April 11, 2011 post was discovered commenting on her leaving Glendora from someone called “Mother-In-Law” (Brenda’s mother-in-law? Who knows?) saying, “Brenda and I talked about her problems with certain officals (sic) or a (sic) least that’s what they call themselves that, we concluded it was a dead end job in Glendora, Ca. city hall.” Fischer left after 2 years. In Maricopa, Arizona, Fischer initiated an investigation for alleged harassment against a Maricopa councilmember and left that employment within 2 years.

Issues seem to arise when she is employed in an upper management position. Will that be the case in Glendale?  As reported by Darrell Jackson in the Glendale Star of February 12, 2015 Fischer made a FOIA for all of the emails of three councilmembers: Hugh, Turner and Tolmachoff from November 5, 2014 to February 10, 2015. This is highly outrageous and exceedingly unusual. Fischer serves at the pleasure of the city council. She is appointed by them. Requesting the emails of one’s employers may have been the last straw. That should have been enough of a reason to cause her firing.

There appears to have been a slew of other “last straws” lately. Her performance as a leader of the City of Glendale was lacking when she displayed a temper tantrum at the CEO of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce publicly at the Yard House restaurant. She bears the responsibility for the “Library War” debacle. Even if she did not initiate the idea (the jury is still out) of a proposed sale of the library, she allowed it to move forward. Councilmember Gary Sherwood was largely responsible for her hire. He inserted himself into the hiring process by meeting privately with her and advocating for her at a council workshop. His current problems with an ongoing AG’s investigation about alleged Open Meeting Law violations and a renewed effort to recall him may have created difficulties for her.

Did she find something within her email request that spooked her or did council learn that she was looking for something to use against them? After all, she appears to have only requested emails from the three councilmembers she perceived as her enemies. Her annual performance review would have been in a few months. Was she concerned that she would be fired? Did Mayor Weiers drop a hint that he had the four votes necessary to cause her firing? Did she decide that resignation was face saving as opposed to firing?

This is a story unfinished. There is more to discover. You can bet that the media will continue to pursue the real reason for Fischer’s sudden but not surprising resignation.

© 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.

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

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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.

On January 15, 2013 the new Glendale city council had its first official meeting. It brought new players and new dynamics to Glendale’s power base. It is only fitting that after their year’s performance we take a look back and give each of them a grade. The big issues such as the Arena Management contract and the external audit as well as the small issues such as council guidelines saw shifting alliances. No one has emerged as the majority leader although there are some who believe that they are.

It takes some time to learn the ropes of their new roles. Brighter people get it within 3 to 6 months; others take longer – up to a year or more to figure it all out.

What criteria make for a good elected official? Having “been there, done that,” here’s my list in no order of importance:

Representation of one’s constituency. Some have taken the time to learn of or to seek the opinions of their citizens; others rely on a Ouija Board and think they know.

Outreach to citizens. Some host district meetings and attend neighborhood meetings; others do not. Being visible and accessible to citizens is not only good politics but provides good service.

Understanding the issues. To be effective an elected official has got to read and to understand material on an issue in advance of discussion, follow up with questions if necessary, do independent research if warranted. Some do not read their material until they open their council books at a workshop or meeting.

Representation of city at local, regional and national venues. Some embrace opportunities offered whether it is a local tree dedication or reading to school children to service on a regional/national board. It causes that official to listen to voices other than his/her own and offers an opportunity to learn and to network.

Follow city policies/procedures and council guidelines. Some elected officials are assiduous in adhering to formal and informal policies; others are not. Playing fast and loose by practicing personal interpretation of these strictures causes questionable issues such as giving your taxpayer dollars to non-profit organizations.

Representation of city policy. An elected official may have advocated for a position under council consideration prior to the policy being formally adopted by council. After the council has approved a position on an issue it is incumbent upon an official to publicly uphold the city position. An elected official’s personal position in opposition to a council approved policy should not use city resources to advocate for that personal opposition.

The siren song of elected officialdom. There is no question that an elected official receives perks and is treated differently. The trouble is that after awhile, some elected officials believe that they are special and that it is their due. Some believe their own press and expect special treatment from staff and citizens.

Lead or follow. This is an age-old debate. Does an elected official follow the dictates of his or her constituency? Or does he or she lead by establishing a different position and then working to educate the constituency to accept a different point of view?

Respect. An elected official must treat everyone with respect. I often witnessed elected officials smirk, raise eyebrows or treat a citizen without respect because he or she expressed an opinion differing from that of the elected official. We reap what we sow.  Disrespect earns disrespect.

Honesty, Integrity, Ethics and Values. This is the bedrock of character for everyone. An elected official must not violate basic ethical values and remember always that the money he or she spends or decides how to spend is taxpayer money. A reputation of honesty and integrity once lost is never regained.

That’s quite a list! Based upon the criteria above there is no shining star on Glendale’s city council.  No one earns a grade higher than a “C” and some have earned failing grades of “F” due to lack of performance in several areas.

It is one thing to run on a definitive platform of issues expressed repeatedly to the electorate. It is quite another to deliver on those promises after being elected. Some have not delivered on those promises. An example is that the Mayor and Council all took strong positions on the issue of arena management prior to or during the last election cycle in 2012. Some reneged on their positions. Yet another example is that all publicly recognized Glendale’s financial troubles and promised a new era of fiscal responsibility yet they repeatedly spent money that Glendale didn’t have on new issues. What happened to their pledges to be fiscally responsible?

For some, Councilmembers Ian Hugh, Gary Sherwood, Sammy Chavira and Mayor Jerry Weiers, it is their first year in office. Others, Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack, Councilmembers Manny Martinez and Norma Alvarez, have served for at least one term. Yet all can and should do a better job of articulating and following through on insuring Glendale’s future. Someone needs to lead. Instead we seem to have a group of people putting their fingers to the wind and choosing popularity over principle. The grades for each are below along with at least one reason for that grade. This is admittedly subjective and I expect opinions about individuals to bounce all over the place. Everyone tends to grade their representative higher and take a more jaundiced view of the others.

Mayor Jerry Weiers – C.  He demonstrates a lack of clear leadership. Instead he relies upon his experience in the State House not realizing what worked there may not work on a local level.

Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack – C.  Spends her time trying to appease everyone and favors downtown Glendale (where her business is located) over the priorities of her district (Barrel).

Councilmember Manny Martinez – C.  Unfortunately his age has caught up with him and there are times when he has difficulty understanding.

Councilmember Gary Sherwood – C.  His aggrandizement of power is quite obvious and his abilities to connect with and to understand the needs of the average citizen are lacking.

Councilmember Ian Hugh – C.  His silence is deafening. He fails to communicate his thoughts or his positions on the issues until asked directly to contribute.

Councilmember Norma Alvarez  — F.  She displays a real failure in her ability to understand the issues, is obstructionist and cannot get past the Ocotillo district’s rap as a “poor” district.

Councilmember Sammy Chavira – F.  He has shown himself to be unprincipled as witnessed by his flip flop on the arena management agreement and his failure to live up to his pledge to be fiscally conservative.

Lastly, this tidbit came from the 4th floor of City Hall recently. It appears that Vice Mayor Knaack will not run for another term. Perhaps she has decided that in 2 years, if she decides to run for Mayor, she will have distanced herself from some very unpopular council decisions yet to come. Word is that she will endorse Bill Toops, owner of the local newspaper, the Glendale Star, for her Barrel district seat. Hmmm…that could be difficult for Carolyn Dryer, the editor of the Star, when Mr. Toops takes a position on an issue not welcomed by the Star.

© Joyce Clark, 2013

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Mayor Weiers has called for an Executive Session at 5 PM today, September 24, 2013 according to Paul Giblin’s story in the Arizona Republic. When the half million dollar external audit was finalized it included a legal analysis. While the audit was released to the public, the legal analysis was discussed in a previous Esession but was not released publicly. Councilmembers Sherwood and Martinez confirmed its “authenticity” to the Republic after it obtained a copy. This Esession is to provide Weiers an opportunity to remind councilmembers what information discussed during an Esession is and is not permissible to reveal.

Weiers’ problem is more than councilmembers talking “out of school” about Esession material. It signals his greater problem – a leadership vacuum. Each councilmember is vying for that position. In their eyes, what better way to achieve that goal than getting one’s name in front of the public as often as possible?  Sherwood led the charge on the Coyotes deal. He was out there publicly and often as long as it was a news story. Complaints were made by Alvarez citing conflicts of interest by some councilmembers. Then Alvarez and Hugh released Esession information about the Beacon bids and they became the next set of targets. Sherwood and Martinez confirmed the legal analysis portion of the external audit. These people are off the reservation. Can Weiers get them back on? They’ve already learned that they will suffer no consequences, at least from the Attorney General’s Office. After all, don’t forget that the City Attorney’s clients are each and every councilmember. He is charged with representing them and defending their interests. The letters he sent to the AG’s office were designed to do exactly that. Is it any wonder that the AG found no reason to charge any of them? Councilmembers, under Council Guidelines, can publicly censure one another but don’t look for that to occur either.

Today’s Esession will turn out to be an exercise in futility. Every time Alvarez doesn’t like a majority council position on an issue, leaks will occur. Every time one of them believes that leaking will enhance their position, leaks will continue. Weiers’ attempt to get them back on the reservation will only happen when he stops “leading from behind” and gets out in front of the issues before the others try to do so. Right now councilmembers are off the reservation and will only get back on when they are roped in.

©Joyce Clark, 2013

FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those 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, democracy, 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 Lawwho 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.

RESULTS

My previous blogs reviewed the cast of characters, the items under investigation, the city hall atmosphere, and the how, why and what was done. Now its time to look at the results that the external audit produced. The following recommendations are relatively easy to implement and some have already occurred. Frankly, that’s the easy part. These recommendations will enforce and safeguard sound, fiscal policy positions for the city.

  • The City of Glendale should implement an anti-fraud program that would include the following:
  • Conduct a fraud risk assessment to identify areas that are vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse and/or employee misconduct;
  • The City should implement a code of conduct and provide training for that code;
  • Create an ethics hotline where callers could be allowed to provide information anonymously. The calls should be investigated (by whom? At the very least, a third party, neutral, should be used. Perhaps it’s time to create an Employee Ombudsman) thoroughly and immediately with reports provided at least quarterly to the City;
  • Implementation of the ethics/antifraud program should be communicated to all levels of employees.
  • Retention policy for emails/server information should be reconsidered. Sixty days for email backup is not adequate for litigation and investigative purposes. The minimum should be one year.
  • Decisions on significant programs, such as the ERP, should be supported by sound financial analysis and supporting documentation discussing both the short-term impact, and potential long-term impact of the program. It should also document City Management’s consideration and reasoning for recommending or implementing such a program.
  • Have Risk Management and Workers’ Compensation trust fund boards meet more frequently than once a year. (Already implemented before I left as Chairperson)
  • City should evaluate its current policies and guidance as to required authorization for transfers and revise if necessary. These policies should be assessed by City attorneys for consistence with applicable statutes, regulations and ordinances. (The City Attorney Office’s oversight has been nothing short of abysmal)
  • Revise charter/ordinances to require the notification and/or involvement of the City Attorney over all significant transactions.
  • To the extent that budget appropriations transfers are a practical necessity during the year, update or revise the policies to clearly set out what is and is not permitted, as well as what transfers and when those transfers must go for City Council approval.
  • To the extent that the City desires to pay certain administrative costs and salaries related to the appropriate trust fund purposes [as with other cities] -ordinance or amendment to governing documents should be considered and approved by City Council to authorize these expenditures. (Had been proposed to Council but not yet implemented)
  • Premium levels charged to City departments are subject to the recommendations and the discretion of the City Management. Premiums should be based on sound long-term evaluations rather than by short-term cash needs.
  • Significant changes in trust fund premiums (e.g. >20%) paid by City departments should be authorized to the City Council in advance.
  • City Auditor should report directly to the City Council rather than the City Manager. This recommendation has already been made implemented.
  • The City’s external auditor should be engaged to perform at least an annual audit of internal controls.

REPERCUSSIONS

This is not an easy topic nor are there any easy fixes. Today’s City Hall environment is positively toxic. Hopefully the new City Manager will make it her priority to reverse this situation. Obviously politics is not confined to politicians. It’s pervasive throughout this city organization and can be found in every other city. It’s not an aberration confined only to Glendale. When Beasley came on board as City Manager, if nothing else, his control of the organization was absolute and during his tenure political intrigue simmered under the surface but never erupted into outright warfare.

When he left all hell broke loose. Two staffers, Assistant City Manager Horatio Skeete and City Attorney Craig Tindall, were within shouting distance of grabbing ultimate power, that of Interim City Manager. Both probably felt that an outstanding performance could land them the job permanently. Each had their supporters and detractors but vied for the job in dramatically different ways. Craig Tindall’s supporters, were rumored to include among others, Jim Colson, Economic Development Director; Julie Frisoni, Communications and Marketing Director; Fire Chief Mark Burdick and City Auditor Candace Macleod. It is assumed that they knew or at the very least had suspicions of or had heard rumors about the ramifications of the ERP before its eventual disclosure. If they knew and said nothing until disclosure became useful then they are complicit in the cover up. They finally released information about the Trust Fund transfers and the Employee Benefit Program in an effort to smear Skeete. There was no mention of the City Attorney Office’s failure to provide oversight over the ERP. We’ve all heard the phrase that ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law.

This information was released despite the fact that these decisions were Beasley’s, not Skeete’s. After all, Pam Kavanaugh as Assistant City Manager began the implementation and then retired. When Skeete assumed that role, he was tasked with continuing the implementation. I once asked Skeete why he didn’t play the same game and he told me that was not how he wanted to get the job. There were no monkeys on Skeete’s desk. Council chose Skeete as Interim City Manager and rejected the tactics employed by the Tindall faction.

If council had been informed of the facts when the ERP was first implemented different direction would have been given to the City Manager. To say we were not informed by city management is an understatement. Many of the allegations came to light after Beasley had retired. If the Workmens Compensation and Risk Management Trust Fund Boards had been told the truth reforms could have been instituted.

Now there is a new regime in city management with a new City Manager and soon, presumably a new City Attorney. Heads are rolling with Bolton, Goke, Schurhammer and Skeete placed on administrative leave. It is a strong signal that poor decision making based on a lack of integrity will not be tolerated. The first appointments by City Manager Brenda Fischer are Frisoni as Acting Assistant City Manager and Macleod as Interim Finance Director both of whom appeared to have been actively embroiled in the Interim City Manager warfare. What about Jamsheed Mehta, Stuart Kent, Jon Froke and Erik Strunk who kept their noses clean, hunkered down and did their jobs? What kind of signal has been sent through the organization? House cleaning of a selected few while others suffer no retribution for their actions or lack of disclosure until it became useful does not bode well.

AND THERE’S MORE

The call for an external audit was Norma Alvarez’ baby aided and abetted by a newspaper, the Glendale Star, that appears to have become the mouthpiece for her agenda. She obviously hoped for two outcomes from the audit: finding a pot of gold that somehow had been overlooked; and placing blame directly on former councilmembers. Neither outcome was achieved but it has made her vindictiveness apparent for all to see. She had publicly stated that after the external audit became public she would resign. To date that has not happened but it should. Her contributions to Glendale governance are non-existent. Now she says she will not run again in 2014 but reneging on her promise to resign now signals that she may change her mind as it gets closer to the time to declare reelection intent.

AND THERE’S MORE STILL…MUCH, MUCH MORE

Then there is the question of former mayor Scruggs. Was she involved? That is your decision to make. She has many supporters to this day who will reject the notion of any involvement. I am not a supporter having worked with her for 16 years. Many inside and outside of City Hall were quite aware of her ambitions and her modus operandi. We were never personal friends and for many years were often diametrically opposed on policy issues. Various staffers would often remark privately that there was nothing that went on in Glendale that she did not know about and either approved or disapproved.  In retrospect it appears that this assertion by those staffers seems to be quite accurate.

Below you will see 2 emails that require some explanation.  A Glendale resident, a very intelligent gentleman, now deceased, who had been CEO of several well known national corporations, became concerned about the bonds being issued by Glendale for construction of the arena and surrounding infrastructure. He made a series of Freedom of Information queries. During the course of his inquiries he often updated his progress via email. These are but two of many. The first email forwarded to me relates to the former mayor’s treatment of this gentleman after he spoke publicly about his concerns. The second email on which I was copied, confirms her extensive knowledge of arena finances and her need to know everything. The names of individuals and the topic raised at the time are not pertinent to the illustrations being used to offer some insight into her behavior.

First email********************

From: XXXXX

To: XXXXXX

Sent: Monday, April 17, 2006 6:05 PM

Subject: Re: FOI items for Friday

I included the entire exchange because this XXXX gentleman (XXXXX) is asking Glendale some critical questions about the Arena deal. They aren’t answering. He went to Council, waited until the end and stepped up with his questions. Elaine took him aside and berated him for saying these things on Glendale TV. She “doesn’t want the sort of thing out there for the citizens who don’t understand to see”. Scroll down to the last message he sent me. Elaine listened in on a conference call this man had with the financial people of Glendale. She is hiding something…he is close to it….

Second email******************

From: XXXXXX

To: XXXXXXXXX

Cc: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Sent: Monday, April 17, 2006 6:37 AM

Subject: Re: FOI items for Friday

Hi! I called Mr. Schuey (sp.?) at nine am on Friday, as planned, for an hour. I said that I expected to talk primarily to Steve Szymanski because he is closest to the data I desire. He said Steve’s boss would be taking his place instead. I asked who was on the line with him. He said that Steve’s boss, Art Lynch, Mr. Perkins (sp.) and Mayor Scruggs were also there!!!! I wasn’t surprised. I couldn’t tell who was doing the talking, but at least the Mayor kept silent (an amazing act of constraint). With such a large cast of characters, I didn’t expect much. They did clarify some things. 

For example, they said that 4 bond issues were for infrastructure only ($30Million), so not with the Taxable, Tax exempt and a small issue associated with the Arena. All together, the total bond amount is $180Million (Arena plus infrastructure). “They” said that I should only be concerned with the Arena bonds, even though in the budgets all six were together. They said that two of the smaller bonds had been dedicated to other purposes via ordinances passed some time ago. In summary they seemed to be defensive on this small issue. I said that I would concentrate on the two Arena bonds and one small one ($150Million), which is my main interest.

 

They went on about their AAA rating and that Mr. Perkins was their expert, etc, etc. and that they had sculptured the Bond allocation to make it easier to keep the early years payments lower so that their payments would not be too tough at first.

 

This was said because I had previously told Art that the distribution used caused a lot of excess Interest. They don’t like criticism.

So, not much accomplished.

Regards, XXXXXXX

These emails are illustrative of the belief by some people that the former mayor was involved in the slightest minutia of Glendale operations and especially when the issue was a “hot topic.”  What did she know about the Early Retirement Program (ERP) and when did she know it? According the findings of the external audit report the ERP was initiated in March of 2009. At the end of the same month (March, 2009) at the first FY 2010 council budget workshop it is now evident that she had knowledge, not readily available or shared with the councilmembers, of the program’s costs as can be seen from the questions and statements she made relative to the issue. Her actions raise more questions that remain unanswered. Many readers of this blog have knowledge of or examples that attest to her intense and perhaps sometimes, inappropriate, involvement in city affairs. If anyone cares to share please send an email to clarkjv@aol.com. Your information will be handled discreetly.

There you have it – the players, the City Hall climate, the actions taken and the repercussions. It’s not a pretty picture. If you are as angry and disgusted as I, you have every right to feel that way. It’s a bitter chapter in the history of Glendale that occurred on the watch of former City Manager Ed Beasley (retired 2012)/Interim City Manager Horatio Skeete (on administrative leave, 2014) and former Mayor Elaine Scruggs (retired 2013). The mushrooms were former Vice Mayor Steve Frate (retired 2013) and Councilmembers Clark (me, retired 2013), Martinez, Lieberman, Knaack and Goulette (former Ocotillo CM prior to 2010)/ Alvarez (current Ocotillo CM from 2010 to present).

The reforms and controls that will be adopted will help to restore confidence in a financial system run amok. Could it happen again, if not in Glendale, somewhere else? Yes because we are all fallible and can make disastrous decisions. You cannot legislate good character, morality or integrity.

©Joyce Clark, 2013

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Coalition 1 photo

Glendale City Council
(Alvarez absent)

Lately there has been a rash of media stories about the Attorney General’s office receiving complaints about the now infamous meeting between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly, Renaissance Sports and Entertainment (RSE) principals and Glendale City Councilmembers on May 28, 2013. Immediately following that event I posted about the now famous concept of a “walk around.” The media picked up on it followed by official complaints. Of course we see the fine hand of Councilmember Alvarez aided and abetted by Reverend Maupin in this blame game.

The “walk around” has been a procedure whereby an applicant/ developer of a land parcel met with one, two or three councilmembers at a time. The planned project was explained and the councilmember(s) offered commentary. Usually the applicant was not in the final stages of a project and wanted feedback prior to developing a final proposal.  It was also used by staff to brief councilmembers on a variety of items. In either case the staff person or applicant was seeking further refinements or clarification from councilmembers on a project or item before proceeding.

The first question to ask about the May 28 2013 meeting was why didn’t the city call for an executive session? Did it not have enough time (24 hours) to post such a meeting? Who knows? In hindsight an executive session would have been far more preferable as this contract and its deal points was Hot Topic #1 in Glendale and across the Valley. All of the councilmembers would have heard exactly the same information about the RSE deal at the same time. All would have had an opportunity to comment.

As for this particular “walk around” being no more than a “meet and greet” opportunity it would have been essentially unproductive and a waste of time. Mayor Weiers, at one point, told the media that only the broad outlines of the deal were offered—in other words, generalities, not specifics. Even if that were the case, it stretches incredulity to believe that there was no reaction to the generalities from councilmembers. Now Interim City Attorney DiPiazza is tasked with defending poor judgment. Do you think anyone is going to admit to having deal point discussions? Not on your life if it can lead to fines or even removal from office.

Neither side will be unscathed in this latest debacle. There have also been complaints lodged with the AG’s office against Councilmembers Alvarez and Hugh for violating executive session by discussing the Beacon bids publicly at the July 2nd council meeting. What I find fascinating is that Ken Jones, an avid Alvarez cabal member, leaves council chambers BEFORE either Alvarez or Hugh speaks about the Beacon bids and reveals information about several of the bids to the media. How could he have possibly have had that information unless someone who attended the executive session where it was discussed gave it to him?

The old crystal ball says the complaint against the entire council (sans Alvarez who refused to be in the same room with hockey people) will go nowhere. Unless someone is willing to ‘fess up there will be no substantiating proof for the complaint. On the other hand, council meetings are taped and one can go to the city website and view the July 2, 2013 meeting in question and see Ken Jones leave prior to Alvarez’ and Hugh’s comments about the Beacon bids. There, on video, for all to see is the proof required. How it is interpreted by the AG’s office will surely determine their fate.

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Coyotes logoThe entire Coyotes ownership saga began with the Glendale city council’s decision to accept Steve Ellman’s proposal for a sports and entertainment district that included the construction of an arena for the express purpose of having the Coyotes as its anchor tenant. Their first game was played in the new arena in 2003. The original lease management agreement did not require a payment to the manager of the arena. That concept died with the Moyes’ bankruptcy in 2009. I was part of the drama until January 15, 2013 as a councilmember. I speak for myself and not for any Glendale elected officials, past or present.

homework 1During my 16 year service on Glendale City Council one of my imperatives was to make decisions that were fully informed. As a councilmember one does that by “doing one’s homework.” That means a commitment to read the material you are provided. Ascertain all of the facts of the proposal. Question staff by asking follow up questions on material not always presented. Talk to people in the industry and talk to the stakeholders, i.e., prospective developers and business owners, and last but certainly not least, one’s constituents by informing them of the facts of the proposal and asking for their comment. You take this vast amount of information and process it through a personal sieve. One overriding parameter is to make a decision that you believe to be in the very best interest of your city, economically and socially.

diff people 2Just as all people are different so, too, are all councilmembers different. During my time on council, I have met some councilmembers who were lazy and didn’t bother to do their homework or who became wedded to a position immediately and would not budge and let facts get in the way. I have even observed some who let personal prejudice determine their position. I have also observed councilmembers who did, in fact, do their homework. Their final position may have been different from mine but that was because their personal framework of reference led them in a different direction. No matter, they earned my respect because they were not swayed by personal prejudice or preference.

city hall 2I was first elected in 1992. I think I can be considered as a Councilmember Emeritus. There are very few of us still living much less living in Glendale. In fact, there are less than a dozen. There are former Mayors Renner and Scruggs, Councilmembers Heatwole, Tolby, McAllister (living out-of-state), Eggleston, Frate, Goulette, Lieberman (living out-of state) and myself. Former Councilmember Hugh is serving once again and former Mayor Klass and former Councilmember Huffman are deceased.

mallarrowhead02From that perspective one has to appreciate Glendale’s recent history. Prior to the 1980’s Glendale was an unremarkable town that offered residents a quiet, hometown quality of life. In the early 1990’s we had an opportunity to create the first major economic engine in the city – the Bell Road Corridor to be anchored by Arrowhead Mall.  I was present for the signing of the beam that was used in the construction of Arrowhead Mall, the anchor tenant for the area.   Glendale had its first major economic engine.

Glitters_lightsGlendale’s second major economic engine became its downtown in the mid 1990’s with the advent of its first, annual major festival, Glendale Glitters and its synergy as an antique center in the state. Since then, downtown commercial has diversified. It is still not all that anyone envisions it can be but it continues to make progress. Its major anchor tenant could be considered City Hall, the Civic Center and the investment the city continues to make in hosting major downtown events. Glendale has its second major economic engine.

Courtesy Christopher B.

Courtesy Christopher B.

In the early 2000’s another opportunity for a third major economic engine was created with the relocation of the Coyotes Hockey team and the construction of Jobing.com arena for the team. The national economy was humming and I and the rest of council were planning for Glendale’s future. The city created a new zoning classification, “Sports and Entertainment District” and Westgate was born. Nearly all of the land surrounding the original core of Westgate to date has been approved with the Sports and Entertainment zoning classification and with Westgate’s and the arena’s stability there will be a surge of development. I won’t relate the history of the arena and the team from 2003 to the present for that has been covered in my other postings.

question 4Today uncertainty about Coyotes ownership and the fate of Jobing.com arena still swirls. Many have asked me for my personal assessment. There is the Beacon RFP and how it plays. There is the current crop of prospective owners: Jamison, LeBlanc/Gosbee, Pastor, Hulsizer and Reinsdorf/Kaites. Do not ignore the non-hockey bids to manage the arena: Global Spectrum, AEG and IFG. They cannot be discounted as players. I am not going to comment at this time and when I do it will be through the prism of what I, personally, believe is good for Glendale. There will be plenty of time to dissect the situation after decisions are made. It’s time to let this situation play out. I think the NHL has come to a decision and it would not surprise me to hear the announcement next week. That much is logical. Whomever the NHL has blessed must get a submission together to respond to the Beacon RFP by May 24. The finish line is in view and the winner is…?

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