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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

It has been 17 years and 150 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

The Arizona Republic of June 1, 2015 has a front page story by Peter Corbett entitled Glendale staffer quits over altered arena audit. Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2015/06/01/glendale-staffer-resigns-arena-audit/28289641/ . Corbett reports that Assistant City Auditor Andrea McDermott-Fields resigned as a result of a conflict with City Auditor Candace MacLeod over the Coyotes audit.

A little history is in order. Two years ago the city audited its Risk Management Trust Fund. The audit was performed by MacLeod. MacLeod was supported by and worked very closely with former City Attorney (now attorney for IceArizona) Craig Tindall. MacLeod was part of the Frisoni-Burdick group that lobbied me (and I assume, other councilmembers) to appoint Craig Tindall as Interim City Manager rather than Horatio Skeete. This is “inside baseball” stuff and wouldn’t be commonly known.

I, and I assume the other councilmembers, were not aware of the fact that MacLeod’s husband did contract work in broadcasting for the Coyotes until 2011. Just as in the case of former Assistant City Manager Julie Frisoni and her husband’s work for Insight Technology (a company that recently received a contract renewal from the city) there is a perception of conflict of interest. Just as Frisoni should have signed a disclosure statement it would have been prudent for MacLeod to divulge her possible conflict in reviewing the Coyotes recently submitted audit. The perception, rightly or wrongly, is that MacLeod might have had a reason to insure that IceArizona, owner of the Coyotes, didn’t look too bad.

What makes this situation even more questionable is that IceArizona stalled on releasing its audit. It should have been submitted to the city no later than September (60 days after the end of the Fiscal Year which ends June 30th). The city didn’t receive it until recently. In anticipation of receiving the IceArizona audit in a timely fashion the city hired Tony Tavares (once part of a group interested in buying the Coyotes) to audit the IceArizona submission. Presumably Tavares’ audit was completed and turned over to the city for confirmation. That is where MacLeod enters the picture. MacLeod assigned the job to McDermott-Fields but would have reviewed and approved the final work product.

According to Corbett McDermott-Fields in her April 21 letter of resignation said, “The basis of my resignation is that you have changed my findings in a way that is not acceptable to me or in accordance with the information that I have gathered.” As a result of McDermott’s resignation and the reason for it Jim Brown, the city’s human resources director did an inquiry regarding McDermott-Fields’ resignation but did not include a review of any of MacLeod’s changes to McDermott-Fields’ audit findings. Corbett related that “MacLeod told Brown that some of McDermott-Fields’ ‘documentation was inaccurate, incomplete, unclear, in some cases inflammatory and at times based on (McDermott-Fields’) opinion, which had not been confirmed with the city attorney or others’.”

MacLeod’s statement to Brown raises so many red flags I’m not even sure where to begin. In the article McDermott-Fields stated, “She is certified as an accountant, internal auditor and fraud examiner, adding that she has more than 25 years of experience.” Add to that she appears to have no ties or relationships to anyone associated with IceArizona and the Coyotes. She probably has more experience than MacLeod. She appears to be a neutral party and called it as she saw it.

It seems as if MacLeod trashed McDermott-Fields’ work because she didn’t like the result. I am also intrigued by McDermott-Fields’ comment, “MacLeod seemed hostile to her when they met to discuss the audit findings and (MacLeod) ‘accused me of throwing her under the bus’.” That also raises red flags. What was MacLeod upset about in McDermott-Fields’ audit findings? Who is MacLeod trying to protect? The city, IceArizona or both? No, something stinks about the whole situation.  It appears to be another CYA move by Brown and Tom Duensing in an effort to avoid city embarrassment because an employee called the audit as she saw it and it might have shown that the city was being short changed by IceArizona in the revenues it received.

The shame of it all is that we will never know the results of the city’s audit. Why? Because former City Manager Brenda Fischer, in an apparent stunning lack of competence, signed a separate agreement with Anthony LeBlanc of the Coyotes, agreeing to keep the audit confidential. She didn’t have to do that. The management agreement between the city and IceArizona stipulated that the city has the right to audit and there was no requirement of confidentiality. If the agreement had been followed without the separate Fischer-LeBlanc amendment the audit would be publicly available. Then we would know who was right in her findings…MacLeod or McDermott-Fields. Somehow or another I’m betting McDermott-Fields was right on the money.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

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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.

Earlier today, March 27, 2015 I made a Public Records Request for information relating to an allegation that Assistant City Manager Julie Frisoni may have violated the state’s Conflict of Interest law. Before the close of business today I received the information I had requested. I want to publicly thank Darcie McCracken, Deputy City Clerk, for the excellent and immediate service I received.

The information I received begins with a letter dated February 11, 2014 sent by Frisoni to Michael Bailey, City Attorney and copied to Jim Brown, Director of Human Resources and to then City Manager Brenda Fischer. In her letter she stated that Councilmember Alvarez had been harassing her and creating a hostile work environment for a month. She stated, “This merchant (from Glendale) told our staff today that CM Alvarez told him that I was going to be fired because of my unethical dealings in relation to purchases from a company that my husband works for.” She went on to say, “My understanding is that she (Alvarez) is violating the council code of ethics, as well as the council code of conduct.” She asked for an immediate investigation to remedy the situation and to be advised of the next steps.

Two days later, February 13, 2014 Brenda Fischer sent an email to Frisoni and copied Jim Brown and Michael Bailey. Fischer indicated that after receiving a councilmember complaint she directed Bailey to “research this matter” and based upon Bailey’s review she considered the matter closed. She attached a memo from Bailey with his conclusions. Bailey’s February 13, 2014 memo said, in part, “From his (Shumway) job title, he does not appear to be involved with public sector sales. Based on this cursory review, I did not find any information to indicate that Mr. Shumway was involved with or benefitted from Glendale’s contracts with Insight Public Sector.” He went on to say, “We were not provided nor discovered any evidence suggesting a conflict of interest. Please note that this review was cursory in nature; a more formal review and opinion would require information that isn’t publicly available.”

Fischer’s and Bailey’s conclusions are troubling because of the perceived lack of due diligence by Bailey in investigating the allegation. He said, “On-line information indicates that Mr. Shumway is vice president, information systems-application development at Insight.” He stated, “Based on this cursory review, I did not find any information to indicate that Mr. Shumway was involved with or benefitted from Glendale’s contracts with Insight Public Sector.” As you can see, Bailey appeared to have done on-line research and used that as the basis of his legal opinion. There also seems to be a lot of CYA on Mr. Bailey’s part with words such as “my understanding is” and it “appears.” As any good “jail house attorney” knows, those are wiggle room words. However, a February 20, 2014 letter by Frisoni to Jim Brown and copied to Fischer and Bailey indicated that she was satisfied and stated, “I am satisfied with the current action that has been taken…”

Hold on…not quite so fast…On March 3, 2015, a year later, Councilmember Bart Turner sent an email to Mayor Jerry Weiers, Acting City Manager Dick Bowers, City Attorney Michael Bailey, Vice Mayor Ian Hugh and Finance Director Tom Duensing. Prior to voting on the issue of a payment increase in the Insight contract he asked for an explanation of, “it appears that the increase in the contract is significantly higher than the base ($138,000) without any explanation for what we receive for the additional expenditure.” He made clear that he was not accusing Frisoni of any conflict of interest. He then stated, “In reviewing the conflict of interest disclosure file at the City Clerk’s office I notice there is no non-conflict statement on file from Ms. Frisoni as there are for several other city employees who may have a perceived conflict of interest due to family or personal ties to city business.” There is the answer we were seeking. Ms. Frisoni did not file a Conflict of Interest Disclosure about her husband’s company bid on and securitization of a multi-million dollar contract from the city.

Three days later, on March 6, 2015, Frisoni asked for specific statements attesting to her non conflict of interest. Director of Finance, Tom Duensing specifically asked Chuck Murphy, Chief Information Officer if Frisoni improperly influenced the Insight Public Sector bid. Murphy attested to the fact that it did not occur. Duensing did not offer any assurance. Frisoni then sent their emails to the City Clerk’s office.

Apparently Bailey requested a statement from Frisoni. In response on March 11, 2015, she sent an email to Bailey. Her opening stated, “Pursuant to your request, I am providing information regarding my association with Insight…” It appeared that this email was requested by Bailey to tie up loose ends in an effort to counter and to satisfy Councilmember Turner’s observation that Frisoni never signed a Disclosure. As an addendum within Arizona Revised Statues, Chapter 8, Conflict of Interest there is a specific Disclosure form provided. To this day she has not signed one. She should have erred on the side of caution, given her position within the city’s senior management, of signing such a form. It’s a good thing that she didn’t sign one now and backdate it. We all remember a previous backdating by 4 councilmembers, Eggleston, Martinez, Frate and Goulet that resulted in indictments for them and City Clerk Pam Hanna…all of which were dismissed on a technicality.

Frisoni said over and over in her correspondence that she did not influence or interfere with the City’s bid process and that appears to be true. But it doesn’t answer the question of whether or not she gave advice on that specific bid process to her husband to be passed on to Insight’s bid team. That we will never know.

Frisoni, through her actions, probably earns a zero for ethics. Even though it seems apparent that neither she nor her husband immediately benefitted financially from a successful bid, that’s not the point. It’s a matter of doing the right thing even if no one notices or acknowledges it. In a situation offering even the slightest perception of conflict it would have been prudent of her to disclose that her husband works for a company involved in a very lucrative bid with the city. It would not have hurt anything and would have enhanced her ethical standing. Many people are of the opinion that’s just not her style.

© 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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