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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

It has been 18 years and 99 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

At the Glendale city council meeting of March 22, 2016 during Council Comments Sammy stated that he will request a review by council of its travel policy. And so the story of his questionable travel expenses lives on. If he thought announcing that he was requesting a review of the policy would put him on the right side of the issue he was wrong. Once someone in the public eye has committed a transgression it lives in the public eye forever. Sammy’s travel expenses are an election issue. They go to the character of the man and to his ability to make sound, ethical judgments.

Paul Giblin of the Arizona Republic has another story on Sammy’s travel out today, March 25, 2016. Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2016/03/24/glendale-councilman-sammy-chavira-seeks-review-travel-policy/82181492/ .

In Giblin’s story there are quotes from a recent Chavira email and City Attorney Michael Bailey’s email response on the issue. Chavira emailed City Attorney Michael Bailey and City Manager Kevin Phelps saying, “I would appreciate if you confirm that I followed all the rules and regulations regarding my travel expenditures. Additionally I would appreciate it if you would confirm that I submitted all my receipts and appropriate paperwork.” Note Sammy’s choice in wording. He used the word “confirm.” Hmm…it’s pretty obvious that Sammy is seeking someone, anyone to provide cover for his ethically challenged travel expenditures.

Mr. Giblin received Public Information Requests not only for Sammy’s email but for City Attorney Michael Bailey’s response. Now it gets interesting.  Bailey noted that the council’s travel policy is lax as no prior approval is required by anyone and the councilmember has the responsibility to decide if an expense is reasonable. What appears reasonable to Sammy may not be reasonable to you or others.

Giblin quotes from Bailey’s email, “Noting the foregoing (council’s lax policy and the absence of any standard for reasonableness) and based upon the information I have been provided regarding travel expenditures, the information does not conclusively establish any unlawful expenditures or any expenditures in violation of council policy.” How is that for making sure Bailey has wiggle room? You have to especially like the use of the word “conclusively.”

Then there is the issue of lost receipts raised by Councilmember Turner. Council has no policy regarding how to handle them appropriately or to establish a cap on reimbursements made with no paperwork to confirm the amount being requested. Apparently Sammy was reimbursed for lost receipts as well.

It gets even better. Giblin asked former Fire Chief Mark Burdick, now a mayoral candidate, about the situation. Burdick’s answer? He thought Sammy used his personal credit card and had no idea that Sammy used the city’s credit card to pay for the infamous $420 dinner. Where is Burdick’s announcement that under those circumstances, he too, will reimburse the city personally? Where is Burdick’s statement on the propriety of a dinner that included one of his subordinate fire fighters, Glendale fire fighter Danny Valenzuela?  According to Giblin, Burdick goes on to request a citizen’s ethics commission to oversee councilmembers’ expenses. That idea may be a bit of overkill as a remedy but hey, Burdick’s got to distinguish himself from the incumbent mayor somehow. This is as good a way as any.

In Giblin’s online Arizona Republic story there are graphs and charts comparing the travel expenditures of all of the councilmembers. Note that the two highest spenders are Sammy and recalled Councilmember Gary Sherwood. It appears that both fancied themselves as high rollers. They were buddies. They often went on the same trips. They voted together on many high profile city issues. Many citizens believe that they might have traded votes. The most notable being Sherwood’s flip-flop on the casino issue voting in favor and Sammy’s flip-flop on the $15 million a year arena management contract to IceArizona voting in favor. Each of these men voted in direct opposition to their campaign promises to their voters.

The ethical action for Sammy would be to reimburse the city for his problematical travel expenditures. He can’t do that although he should. If he were to reimburse the city that is tantamount to an admission of wrong doing. Sammy has no choice but to continue his mantra of I did nothing wrong. We’ve all heard many politicians say the same only to have them end up in jail.

The problem for Sammy is twofold. This issue is not going to go away before the Primary Election on August 30, 2016 and it forever defines his ethics and character for the voters of the Yucca district. They are angry and disgusted to learn Sammy wasted nearly $25,000 of their hard earned tax dollars.

Sammy has never addressed the primary purpose of his trips. To all appearances his primary purpose was to have fun in Washington, D. C. on your money. His perceived secondary purpose was to throw in some sort of brief meeting on a city related topic to provide him with just enough cover to be considered legal. The primary purpose and secondary purpose of a trip on taxpayer money is the distinction that many are missing. If the primary purpose is conclusively for city business that is legitimate. Perhaps secondary, unrelated to city business, portions of trips should be paid by the individual.

The voters of the Yucca district are angry. Glendale city councilmembers should be angry as well. They made appropriate and ethical decisions regarding the primary purpose of their travel. Unfortunately the ethically-tainted brush being used on Sammy will be used on them. Sammy’s apparent unethical decisions have now called into question their decisions.

Sammy’s questionable ethics is a story that is not going to go away although he may on Primary Election Day.

© Joyce Clark, 2016

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘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 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 material. 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 18 years and 60 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

The general assumption is soon Councilmember Sammy Chavira of the Yucca district in Glendale will be running for his council seat. There are all kinds of theories floating out there as to why he hasn’t pulled a nomination packet already. One is that is he stalling to make his campaign season as short as possible. That leaves less time for voters to take a critical look at his record or lack thereof. The other is that he is going through the hiring process to obtain a lucrative paying job at the new Tohono O’odham casino in Glendale. Hmm…this could prove problematical for him. Remember his ouster from the National Hispanic Firefighters Association (NHFA)? One of the urban legends is that Sammy and his buddies drove around in a golf cart during the event collecting all of the event revenues for themselves. It is known that NHFA made no money on the event and had to cover event expenses in excess of $12,000.

It’s a good time to look at his campaign pledges and his record of delivery. Sammy ran on 4 central campaign promises revealed in an October, 2012 campaign mailer:

  • “Too many sweetheart arena deals for out-of-state corporations have left us deeply in debt. Sam will prioritize public safety, education and public libraries and isn’t afraid to say no to special interests.” 

Sammy was the deciding yes vote on the $15 million dollar a year arena management agreement with IceArizona. The irony is that yes, IceArizona is an out-of-state corporation but many of its owners are Canadian. In addition on June 11, 2015 Sammy and recalled Councilmember Sherwood were the only two votes against voiding the costly $15 million dollar arena management contract with IceArizona. It appears Sammy’s agenda was to support his good buddy Sherwood and IceArizona. It seems as if Sammy wasn’t afraid to say no to special interests but rather he supported them wholeheartedly.

  • “Sam understands that good jobs and good schools go hand in hand. He will fight to fully fund Head Start, support education tax credits for our local schools, and make after school programs more curriculum based.” 

This is the biggest lie of the century. Local city councils have no control over local education. That is the job of local school boards. The council can be supportive of local schools but it cannot create policy for any local school. So why did Sammy use this? Many voters, but not all, are unsophisticated. They are busy with their lives and don’t follow school or city issues unless it directly affects them and their families. Did he fight to “fully fund Head Start,” a federal program? No. Did he support “education tax credits for our local schools,” either state or federal? No. Did he “make after school programs more curriculum based?” No.

  • “Sam will go to the city council to represent the people, not a particular ideology, because he knows that results are what’s important.”

Has Sam represented you? Unless you are a political junkie you couldn’t pick him out of a line up. He’s had one…just one… district meeting back in 2013. The only other scheduled district meeting was cancelled at the last minute. Have you ever met him? Talked to him about issues that concern you? I think not. If he knows that “results are what’s important,” why hasn’t he delivered any to the people of his district?

  • “No more sweetheart deals. The city needs to be a tough negotiator, making smart planning decisions that preserve Glendale’s future.”

Sammy’s entire term of service seem to be based on sweetheart deals. Apparent deals with recalled Councilmember Sherwood; apparent deals with the Tohono O’odham, supporters of his campaign in return for his support of the casino; apparent deals with the fire union, supporters of his campaign in return for his support of their agenda. Deals in support of his constituency…not so much.

Sammy Chavira made a lot of promises to the voters of the Yucca district. He didn’t deliver. He made a lot of promises to special interests. He did deliver. He made a lot of campaign promises to the voters of the district and he broke them all.

© Joyce Clark, 2016

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘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 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 material. 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 307 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

On November 3, 2015 the voters of the Sahuaro district dealt a political death blow to Councilmember Gary Sherwood by voting for Ray Malnar to replace him. The unofficial vote total has Ray Malnar winning with 53.61%. There is no doubt that Sherwood caused his own demise. How?

Sherwood was elected in November of 2012. For three years his actions and votes have raised questions. One of the major centerpieces of his campaign was his strong opposition to the Tohono O’odham casino in Glendale. As a result of his position the anti-casino forces paid for independent expenditures supporting his run. He also ran pledging fiscal conservatism in managing the city’s arena. It didn’t take him long to renege on both elements of his platform.

Within a year of his first term he reversed his position on the casino and became its strongest advocate. When asked why, his answers were consistently vague and seemed to center around learning “new information.” When queried on what information and from whom, he never offered a clear and convincing explanation. There was also the nagging assumption by many that he had swapped his positive vote of support for the casino with Councilmember Chavira’s positive vote of support for the IceArizona arena management deal.

Sherwood ran supporting his constituency’s opposition to continuing the practice of exorbitant financial payments to operate the city’s arena. Inexplicitly he advocated for the IceArizona management deal at a cost of $15 million a year. His actions in connection to this support gave rise to an alleged complaint (eventually dismissed) to the Arizona Attorney General’s office regarding his divulging of executive session information. He seemed to have developed a pattern of deliberately supporting big money interests over the voices of his constituents. It was a pattern soon to be repeated.

In the matter of Becker Billboards Sherwood was a prime advocate for their interests while he once again ignored his constituency. It left a bitter taste with his constituents and now they were becoming alarmed about his lack of support for their views. His failure to connect with his constituency became an issue of contention with the proposal to sell the Foothills Branch Library. He failed to notify them of meetings on the issue usually until the day before a scheduled public meeting. He bragged about a luncheon meeting he had arranged with the Kathleen Goeppinger, President of Midwestern University, proposed buyer of the library.

He seemed to be very proud when he declared in a council workshop meeting he had met privately with one candidate under consideration as Glendale’s new city manager, Brenda Fischer. Many people were astounded that he would have done such a thing. He was her strong advocate and after she was hired he seemed to receive preferential treatment not only from Fischer but from her inner circle, including soon-to-be Assistant City Manager Julie Frisoni. It was seemingly obvious that Sherwood and his coalition of councilmembers had the ear of Fischer and her inner circle while those who opposed Sherwood and his positions were frozen out.

Sherwood appeared to be needy…he wanted to be recognized as a “major player,” locally and regionally.  He seemed to revel in the attention he received from Anthony LeBlanc, et.al, when they were seeking approval of their arena contract. After the management contract was signed he was observed lurking about at Coyote Town Hall meetings trying to catch LeBlanc’s attention until he was recognized and praised. Did he know observers reported members of IceArizona not only ignored him after securing the contract but apparently they ridiculed him as well?

When it came to Becker billboards that stakeholder group had contributed significantly to Sherwood’s campaign and so, he seemed to reciprocate by advocating for them. Again, Sherwood seemed to ignore his constituency’s overwhelming opposition to the billboards in favor of those who generously contributed to his campaign coffers. Then there are the countless recitations by many on the 4th floor of city hall who heard Sherwood’s declarations that he was the “real” mayor of Glendale. Many city employees thought he was arrogant and dismissive of them.

The nail in the proverbial coffin was his apparent belief that he was above the law. He accumulated at least 6 driving citations in a relatively short time period and then failed to follow through in fulfilling his responsibilities for those actions eventually leading to a state-wide warrant for Failure to Appear. This issue was resolved only after it was publicly reported that he was caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. In a recent press release he admitted to using city funds to rent a vehicle while driving on a suspended license and pledged to reimburse the city.

After all of his purported foibles, who wanted Sherwood to remain in office? The largest supporter of keeping Sherwood in office was Phoenix Firefighters Local 493 Fire PAC Committee (responding to the bidding of its sister Glendale union) having contributed $14,000 to an Independent PAC called Citizens for Safety and Education run by a long time fire union activist, Mike Colletto. Between October 2 and October 14, 2015 the independent committee spent $11,412.96 advocating for Sherwood’s retention. By the way, per usual, Sherwood was late in filing his latest campaign expense report. He raised nearly $40,000 ($39,810.30). Of note, that’s twice the amount that his opponent, Ray Malnar, raised ($18, 800). Sherwood’s big money contributors were: Mark Becker – $3,000 on 9/9/15; the Tohono O’odham – $6,250 on 10/8/15; Nick Wood (an attorney for IceArizona) – $1,500 on 10/8/15; Jason and Jordan Rose (Becker billboards was/is a client) – $1,000 on 10/17/15; and members of the Molera Alvarez political consulting group – $1,000 on 10/21/15 and 10/22/15. Let’s not forget PAC contributions, much of it union money, totaling $28,000:

  • Arizona Pipe Trades               $10,000                             9/11/15
  • IBEW Local 640                        1,000                              9/15/15
  • Republic Services, Inc.                 500                              9/15/15
  • Iron Workers Local 75               2,000                              9/16/15
  • Phoenix Firefighters
  • Local 493 Fire PAC                    1,000                               9/16/15
  • Surprise PRO Firefighters
  • PAC                                         2,000 (cumulative)            9/16/15
  • United West Valley
  • Firefighters                               2,500 (cumulative)           9/16/15
  • Pinnacle West PAC                        500                              9/21/15
  • Gilbert Firefighters                    4,000 (cumulative)           10/14/15
  • United Mesa
  • Firefighters                               4,500 (cumulative)           10/14/15

Why has Gary Sherwood become the first councilmember ever successfully recalled in Glendale’s history? Despite the tremendous fire union financial and manpower support as well as the financial support of “big money” interests, Sherwood ignored the voices of his constituency and demonstrated that he was apparently more willing to support the interests of those who contributed generously to his campaigns. You can be sure Sherwood will place the blame on “outside interests” such as casino opponents but Sherwood was the architect of his own political demise by making choices that seemingly benefitted him in the short term while ignoring long term consequences. He died politically by a thousand, tiny cuts self inflicted as he made choices that seemed to benefit only himself. Sherwood has no one to blame but Sherwood. He made his choices and has been made accountable for them by his district’s voters. In commenting on his loss Sherwood said he plans to run again in November of 2016. Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Sometimes…every once in awhile…the good guys do win…

© 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 ‘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 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 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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