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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

PLEASE CHECK OUT THE SAMMY CHAVIRA VIDEOS TO THE LEFT OF THIS COLUMN. EACH IS ABOUT A MINUTE AND A HALF.

It has been 18 years and 187 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

My thoughts. On June 21, 2016 Glendale’s city council discussed the travel policy issue during its workshop meeting. Here is Channel 15 TV’s take on the situation: http://www.abc15.com/news/region-west-valley/glendale/glendale-city-councilman-sammy-chavira-comps-23k-in-travel-expenses-since-2013 .

Council consensus was that it rejected the use of per diem and wanted to foster more “transparency.” The most disturbing aspect of this issue is that historically there has been no known councilmember abuse of the travel policy….until Sammy Chavira. Sammy’s questionable spending of nearly $25,000 on lavish trips has created a problem where previously there was none. His decision making has proven to be flawed. This brings into question his votes on important city issues such as the previously approved arena management agreement with IceArizona. Were his votes the result of flawed decision making? Were his votes in support of certain councilmember pals or because he received large campaign contributions?

The city has had to spend its valuable resources in terms of staff time and effort to present to city council in a workshop meeting only to learn that it must do further research to be presented once again at a future workshop. City council has been distracted from policy making on the larger issues the city faces. Sammy not only wasted taxpayer money on his travel but he has caused the waste of taxpayer money to redress an issue that had never been an issue before.

In response to Councilmember Tolmachoff’s justification for council travel to D.C. to meet face-to-face with Arizona congressional members; there are other means to achieve the same goal. All Arizona congressional members have offices locally and are often in the Valley meeting with constituents and others. If any councilmember wants a face-to-face with an Arizona congressman he or she can call the local office and schedule a face to face when the congressman/woman is in town. It obviates the necessity of traveling to D.C. for a face-to-face and saves thousands of dollars in airfare/hotels/meals.

As it reads now, the travel policy allows a councilmember to determine if the travel is reasonable. Reasonable is practically impossible to define. What is reasonable to you may be totally unacceptable to someone else. Rather the public wants full disclosure and accountability. If a councilmember is traveling there should be a robust explanation of exactly how the purported city business is a benefit to the city and the taxpayer…with whom will they be meeting? When? Where? The result achieved? All of this information must be publicly posted.

Councilmember Turner during workshop focused on councilmembers’ lost ProCard receipts. Here is an example of just one of many turned in by Councilmember Chavira:

Lost receipt

The illustration is fuzzy and not as clear as one would like. The Lost ProCard Receipt Form shows a date of purchase on 7/10/2015 at Durants’ Fine Foods in the amount of $97.23. Yet Sammy didn’t turn the form in until 4/6/2016….a full 9 months later. Why? Also note the items purchased were 3 specials and 3 drinks. Brent Stoddard, City Council Office Manager and Director of Intergovernmental Relations, is charged with reviewing and approving councilmember submissions such as this one. It is Mr. Stoddard who corrects the record with the notation, “tea/soda? Non-alcoholic.” So, Sammy, what were the “drinks?” Alcoholic? Non-alcoholic? Is this why the receipt was “lost” with the report form being filed 9 months later? To bury it? It’s questions like these, in the light of Sammy’s past actions, that now lead everyone to question why he does the things he does.

The majority of Glendale’s city council, historically and now, is quite respectful and mindful of the use of their taxpayer funded budgets. It just takes one to cause a problem and to reveal flaws in the system waiting to be gamed…in this case it was Sammy Chavira.

Resolution is now required and it must be quickly implemented, clear and concise, based upon the principles of full disclosure and accountability. Taxpayers should be able to easily access information that discloses where the councilmember went, how much it cost and for what specific city business. It’s not that complicated nor is posting it online on each councilmember’s page.

© 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.

PLEASE CHECK OUT THE THREE CHAVIRA VIDEOS TO THE LEFT OF THIS COLUMN. EACH IS ABOUT A MINUTE AND A HALF IN LENGTH.

It has been 18 years and 185 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Glendale city council travel policy…It certainly was an interesting topic that had been requested by Councilmember Chavira after he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Ironically, Chavira, after having made the request for discussion, had not one substantive suggestion or comment to make. He remained largely silent as councilmembers opined and only said he thanked staff for their work on the issue and wanted Glendale, “to set the standard in travel.” That was it. That was Sammy’s entire contribution to the discussion. If you would like to view the complete council discussion, use this link:

http://glendale-az.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2452 .

City Manager Phelps introduced the item with an apology explaining that the staff work on the issue was lacking. Councilmember Aldama was visibly upset. Why, you ask? He wanted to provide input to staff prior to bringing the issue to workshop and did not have that opportunity. Later in the discussion he suggested a citizen’s Ad Hoc Committee to draft council’s travel policy. The idea went over like a lead balloon with the rest of council literally ignoring his suggestion. He did offer one interesting statement saying “he has never misspent” taxpayer money. Yet some Glendale residents are curious as to why he gave thousands of dollars to the Glendale Women’s Club with the understanding that they would pass it on in support of yet another Glendale festival. Hmmm….

Paul Giblin of the Arizona Republic had a story online on the evening of June 21, 2016, several hours after the city council workshop. Here is the link:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2016/06/20/glendale-consider-tougher-taxpayer-funded-travel-rules/86152722/ . In his story Giblin says, “The newspaper (Arizona Republic) reported on March 4 that Chavira expensed $2,075 to see his friend Ruben Gallego sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, and $1,933 to watch Pope Francis address Congress in Washington (on a large screen TV for overflow crowd).

“The Republic also reported that the first-term councilman billed taxpayers a combined $1,033 for poorly documented business-development trips to the Los Angeles area, and a combined $3,136 for airline ticket change fees, seat upgrades and baggage charges since taking office in January 2013.”

The council word “du jour” was “transparency” begun by Councilmember Malnar and repeated continually by the rest of council. It is a word so over used by politicians as to lose all meaning. What Glendale taxpayers expect and deserve is full disclosure that leads to accountability when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars. Several interesting comments were made by various councilmembers. 

Councilmember Tolmachoff spent the better part of five minutes explaining the importance of councilmember travel. For a moment I thought I was back in school. Her rationale centered on the building of relationships that would further Glendale’s agenda as well as the personal development gained through travel. I would suggest that both of those arguments are debatable. She indicated that she wanted staff to develop a method of posting her spending of taxpayer money online.  This is not a new or original idea. This is a concept that I have publicly advocated for as part of my campaign platform for four months, ever since I announced my candidacy to replace Chavira.

Councilmember Turner, after a vigorous defense of staff’s work on the issue, proceeded to offer a litany of specific changes that he wanted. They ranged from provision of itemized documentation; the use of pre and post travel reports; justification for reimbursement of travel change fees; alerting the City Manager of planned travel; and CFO approval of travel expenses. Generally there was council consensus on the rejection of the use of per diem by councilmembers and the desire to post councilmember travel reports online in order to provide greater transparency (there’s that word again). Assistant City Manager Duensing summarized the discussion by stating that staff would be back at a future date with recommendations to increase council “transparency.”

Three recent opinion pieces clearly offer the reasons as to why the need for Glendale city council travel policy review was required. The first is a Letter to the Editor by Ron Myers, constable of the Arrowhead Justice Precinct in Glendale offered on March 10, 2016:

“As an elected public official in Maricopa County who lives in Glendale, I am appalled and dismayed to read a story in The Republic that Glendale City Councilman Chavira has abused the trust of the taxpayers in Glendale by spending lavishly on questionable trips and meals charged to his expense account that we all pay for.

“What possible city business could it be for him to fly to Washington, D.C., to observe the Pope’s speech on a TV monitor or to watch his friend get sworn in as a congressman? Does he really think he can justify spending over $400 on dinner for his superiors in the Phoenix Fire Department while out of town?

“The City of Glendale takes one more black eye from out-of-control politicians. Shame on him and shame on the City of Glendale for allowing this fraud and abuse.”

Another is an opinion piece by Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic on March 25, 2010. She said:

“Glendale’s travelin’ man, Councilman Sammy Chavira, is asking for a review of the city’s travel policy. Apparently, it’s not clear to him that taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the $2,000 tab for him to travel to Washington, D.C. to see his pal, Rueben Gallego, sworn into Congress. Apparently, he believes it was a legitimate taxpayer expense to fly him to the nation’s Capital so that he could watch Pope Francis address Congress. Clearly, Glendale citizens needed to spend $420 for a posh seafood dinner party at a celebrated restaurant in Washington, D.C. Giblin reports that Chavira’s 2014 dinner party included several Phoenix officials, including two of Chavira’s bosses. Chavira is a Phoenix fire fighter.

“Yeah, I can see where there would be a clear need for Glendale taxpayers to foot that bill.

“Chavira said this week that recent medial reports (read: Giblin’s excellent dogging of this story) have led him to believe the city needs to review its policy. ‘While I have always followed the travel policies of the city, I am also completely supportive of reviewing the council’s policies and guidelines,’ he told his colleagues. The policy allows elected officials to decide what is and is not reasonable. Essentially it relies upon the city to elect ethical and honest leaders who don’t look to lax policies as an excuse to rack up frequent flier miles at the public’s expense.

“Given that that isn’t working in Glendale, perhaps it is time for the council to review travel. Or maybe it’s time for the citizens to review who they are putting on council.”

The third piece is a short video conversation by Columnist E.J. Montini and reporters Paul Giblin and Craig Harris as they talk about government officials expensing questionable trips to taxpayers and the lack of accountability in monitoring how they spend taxpayers’ money. Here is the link:  http://azc.cc/1p4sVnQ  .

Laurie Roberts had it right when she said, “…it’s time for the citizens to review who they are putting on the council.” It’s time to remove Sammy Chavira from city council.

© 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.

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