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


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