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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

On Wednesday, July 15, 2015 Darrell Jackson, for the Glendale Star, posted a story online in which he reported two sources (not councilmembers but apparently city administrative staff) have confirmed my speculation that the Monday, July 13, 2015 city council executive session was to discuss an offer made by the Arizona Coyotes. Not a bad guess for a former councilmember.

It raises more questions other than answering only one — what was the subject of the e session? If Jackson’s sources are correct the Arizona Coyotes had offered to drop their management fee to $8M for the next 3 years.

Without knowing any more details of the purported offer, the first thought is, don’t the owners of the Coyotes realize they are virtually confirming they plan to exercise the opt-out clause in 3 years? The second thought is city council is absolutely convinced they have a solid legal case against the Coyotes. You can be sure we have not seen all of the city’s cards when it comes to the 2 former city employees, Craig Tindall and Julie Frisoni. I suspect we will not find out how much more there is to know until the discovery phase of the trial — which seems more certain to occur than ever.

Offering to pay a lesser management fee while keeping the opt-out clause does not sound like much of a win-win deal. The city pays the team $8M a year to play in its arena for the next 3 years and then the team leaves? Again, who is going to pay the Coyotes $15M or $8M a year to play in their venue? You can be sure the City of Phoenix and Talking Stick won’t. They have management companies. No, the only thing they will expect is a hefty rental payment from the Coyotes. It seems as if the handwriting is on the wall. No one, other than gullible Glendale has been willing to pay them to play and now, even Glendale has decided that it’s not such a great idea.

If the Coyotes owners are as committed to staying as they claim they are, the first concession they should have made to the city was to remove the opt-out clause but they didn’t offer that carrot. Why? Because they plan on exercising the provision in 3 years. For all those die-hard Coyotes fans out there, what will it take to make you believe that it is quite possible that the Coyotes are not here for the long haul, despite what the sometimes dubious truth teller Anthony LeBlanc has been saying? You know which Anthony LeBlanc I’m referring to. It’s the one who denied Andrew Barroway’s purchase of 51% of the team only to retract his denial. Yes, I realize Barroway is no longer the majority owner but he was for a brief time and LeBlanc originally denied it when it was first reported.

Jackson reported that several administrative staff would like to see arena management separate from the team. At this point in time, that seems to be an idea worth embracing. Hang on folks. This is a new chapter of Coyotes history, barely written and I suspect there is much, much more to come before this chapter is completed.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

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Sherwood signatureVery recently I received this email over the Glendale city hall transom. It was produced as a result of a Freedom of Information Request. It is an email sent by Councilmember Gary Sherwood to Councilmember Manny Martinez and Jeff Teetsel (IStar manager of Westgate). It was sent on June 29, 2013 approximately one week before a majority of the Glendale City Council voted to accept the $15 million a year management agreement with IceArizona.

The main figures in the Glendale cast of characters at that time were: Mayor Jerry Weiers, Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack, Councilmembers Martinez, Hugh, Alvarez, Chavira and Sherwood. The Acting City Manager was Dick Bowers and the Acting City Attorney was Nick DiPiazza. Nick Woods represented IceArizona in contract negotiations for management of the city’s arena.

SherwoodtoMartinezJune292013_Page_1 Blog

Sherwood email to Martinez

 

 

 

 

The actual email is pictured to the left but the text reads as follows:                                                                                       To: Martinez, Manny; Jeff Teetsel                                                     From: Sherwood, Gary                                                                                                                                                    RE: Out Clause and Risk Topics

“Yvonne and I spend over an hour with Nick Woods last night and out of the three concerns from what I shared with Nick after our e-session yesterday (as of 7:45p, Nick has not seen the city’s revised draft which was promised right after we got of e-session nor had it been posted to our website – consequently both happened by 8:45p) two were okay with the city and had to deal with the errors the city made — #1, we don’t own the 5500 parking spots we’re proposing to charge for therefore it must be a license agreement and not a license agreement  (sic) #2) since the bonds that are held against the arena are tax exempt – only a governmental agency can hold those bonds so some different language has to be brought in – city agreed with that. The third item is problematic in that it is against the NHL for cities to hold out-clause and none of the other 29 cities have one. That would allow the city to just kick the team out, where would they play, what if in the middle of the season.

“I don’t have the time to get into all the details but I’ve known Nick Woods for a long time and know him to be a trusted friend and right now I can’t turn my back away from anyone in the city manager’s office or out (sic) acting city attorney.

“Manny, I’ve got a booked day with two Habitat for Humanity events, three radio interviews and two TV spots so contact Yvonne for details of our conversation. Sammy is already on board as he was with us last night.

“Thanks for hanging in there!

“Manny – please delete this email after you’ve read it.”

Thanks,

Gary D. Sherwood

There are several issues of grave concern with this email. The most serious is a possible violation of the State’s Open Meeting Law.  The following is taken from the AG’s office explanation of one section of the Open Meeting Law:

 “7.5.2 Circumvention of the Open Meeting Law.Discussions and deliberations between less than a majority of the members of a governing body, or other devices, when used to circumvent the purposes of the Open Meeting Law violate that law. See Ariz. Att’y Gen. Op. 75-8; Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, 296 So. 2d 473 (Fla. 1974). Public officials may not circumvent public discussion by splintering the quorum and having separate or serial discussions with a majority of the public body members. Splintering the quorum can be done by meeting in person, by telephone, electronically, or through other means to discuss a topic that is or may be presented to the public body for a decision. Public officials should refrain from any activities that may undermine public confidence in the public decision making process established in the Open Meeting Law, including actions that may appear to remove discussions and decisions from public view.”

What the explanation above means is that there are to be no private discussions by a majority (4 councilmembers or more) of the governing body if the topic of the discussion is about a matter to be voted upon by the city council. The IceArizona contract was voted upon one month later. The law also prohibits an elected official (councilmember) from acting as a “go-between,” relaying a position on an issue to be voted upon from one councilmember to another.  Sherwood’s email shows him relaying information to Martinez he had discussed the previous night with Nick Woods, Knaack and Chavira. That action is known as “daisy-chaining.”

Sherwood, Knaack, Martinez and Chavira were the 4 affirmative votes for the IceArizona contract. All four could be considered equally culpable of a possible violation of the Open Meeting law by discussing/negotiating elements of the Coyotes contract amongst themselves, privately, when it was soon to come before them for a public vote… all the while excluding the remaining 3 councilmember: Weiers, Hugh and Alvarez.  

Another alarming admission by Sherwood in this email is that he shared Executive session material with Nick Woods. The city was negotiating with IceArizona. The ad hoc discussion between Sherwood, Knaack and Chavira and Woods may have harmed or weakened the city’s position. City contract negotiations are a direct managerial responsibility of the City Manager and City Attorney. Could this action be a violation of the city’s charter? We’ll explore this topic in the next blog.

Every councilmember knows of the prohibition about not sharing E session material. Doing so is a very serious violation of the Open Meeting Law. Sherwood says quite clearly in his email that is exactly what he did with Nick Woods and then attempts to minimize the violation by characterizing Woods as a friend. It makes no difference. E session material is not to be shared with anyone…even friends or family.

It seems that Sherwood was putting pressure on Acting City Manager Dick Bowers and Acting City Attorney Nick DiPiazza to get the IceArizona deal done…quickly. We know that Mr. Bowers publicly addressed the $15 million a year IceArizona (at that time IceArizona was called Renaissance) contract and voiced concerns about Glendale’s fiscal health if it were approved at that figure. In a June 23, 2013 Dick Bowers memo to city council he said, “Contrary to what might appear in the papers I don’t see this as a ‘done deal’. Far from it.” He went on to say, “I cannot shake the concern for the level of risk expected to be borne by the city…I keep coming back to that same level of discomfort of Glendale having all of the risk in this deal.” Clearly Bowers had substantial concerns and it is not unreasonable to think that Sherwood was advising Bowers that he had the four votes needed to approve the deal.

From this email we can see who was talking to who privately about this issue. Sherwood seems to have taken the lead and all 4 councilmembers may have been negotiating collectively yet privately with IceArizona’s attorney. He acknowledges Knaack and Chavira as participants in his meeting with Nick Woods. He then sent his summary email to Martinez.

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Why did Sherwood ask Martinez to delete his email after reading? It appears to be tantamount to an admission that its contents should not have been memorialized.  There are so many questions and so few answers. Is it possible that Sherwood asked Martinez to delete his email because he realized he was “daisy-chaining?” Did Martinez delete this email as requested? Maybe…maybe  not, leading to its discovery now, over a year later.

Sherwood’s email and his comments within it warrant an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office to determine the validity of Open Meeting law violation allegations sure to arise as his email becomes more and more public. At this point, Sherwood’s email raises a lot of questions. I suspect that it may generate many citizen complaints to the AG’s Office. From my years of experience on council, it looks like a “smoking gun,” written by Sherwood himself that implicates him and 3 other councilmembers in possible Open Meeting Law violations.

So, for all those citizens who spoke in favor of or against the Coyotes deal the night council voted on the matter, it was in vain. It appears that 4 councilmembers, Sherwood, Knaack , Martinez and Chavira, had already made their minds up and shared their positions with one another at the end of June, 2013.

Update 1:00 PM. I am pleased to report that I have scooped the Arizona Republic. At 11:16 AM I published my blog on the Sherwood email. At 12:30 PM Peter Corbett, a reporter for the Arizona Republic released his story on the same Sherwood email. Here is the link:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2014/07/21/glendale-mayor-council-members-violated-open-meeting-law/12956523/ . I knew Corbett had made the FOIA request for said email but I was perplexed because there was no Arizona Republic story. I was beginning to think someone had quashed it.

Mayor Jerry Weiers is considering filing a complaint with the AG’s office. If after reading this blog and Corbett’s article, you think Mayor Weiers should file a complaint, please send him an email at: jweiers@glendaleaz.com and let him know you support such an action.

© 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.

 

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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