It has been 17 years and 85 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

Peter Corbett in the March 26, 2015 edition of the Arizona Republic had a story entitled “Glendale assistant city manager resigns.” Here is the link: . He leads the story by saying, “A top Glendale manager resigned this week in the wake of questions about a computer contract that had been reviewed more than a year ago.”

One month after City Manager Brenda Fischer was hired she appointed Julie Frisoni as an Assistant City Manager in August of 2013. Frisoni’s husband, Jeff Shumway, is a Vice President of Insight Enterprises, Inc. the parent company of Insight Public Sector, Inc. In late 2013 after an RFP had been issued the city accepted Insight’s bid and entered into a multi-year, multi-million dollar computer contract. A year ago, in January of 2014, when Norma Alvarez was still a Glendale city councilmember she raised the question of a conflict of interest on the part of Frisoni. Michael Bailey, Glendale’s newly hired City Attorney and friend of former City Attorney Craig Tindall (Tindall and Frisoni were close friends), reviewed the allegation and according to Corbett, “City Attorney Michael Bailey reviewed six contracts with Insight and determined in February 2014 that Shumway did not sign any of the documents nor was he part of the company’s sales team.” Apparently that was the extent of Bailey’s review of the allegation of a conflict of interest. It appears to have been marginal and tailored to produce the desired result.

What does Arizona law say about conflict of interest?

8.2 The Arizona Conflict of Interest Laws. State statute provides in pertinent part:

  1. Any public officer or employee of a public agency who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any contract, sale, purchase or service to such public agency shall make known that interest in the official records of such public agency and shall refrain from voting upon or otherwise participating in any manner as an officer or employee in such contract, sale or purchase.
  2. Any public officer or employee who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any decision of a public agency shall make known such interest in the official records of such public agency and shall refrain from participating in any manner as an officer or employee in such decision.”

Arizona’s conflict of interest law centers on the concept of “substantial interest.” Substantial interest, for purposes of this law, refers only to a financial interest. In other words the public officer or employee of a public agency or relative must receive financial benefit. In strictly interpreting Arizona’s conflict of interest law, neither Frisoni nor her husband, Shumway, violated the law.

But…perception is reality often times. Julie Frisoni with her 12 years of employment with the City of Glendale wrote and reviewed many, many RFPs. She would have the knowledge required to write a successful RFP and would also have the knowledge, knowing Glendale’s financial condition, of what would be a successful dollar amount to request. Did she share that knowledge with her husband? That is your decision to make.

A successful award of the contract to Insight did not benefit Frisoni or her husband financially and therefore conflict of interest laws were not violated but were there other ways to benefit? Did Shumway benefit in greater status and clout within the company? Did the award by Glendale give him a leg up on the Insight corporate ladder that could result in a future promotion and a larger salary? Who knows? I don’t but that’s the kind of speculation that becomes rampant in this kind of situation.

What is apparent is although it appears to have been all above board it smells bad. It does raise a question. Did Frisoni sign a Conflict of Interest Disclosure? According to state law, 8.7 Disclosure of the Interest. Every political subdivision and public agency subject to A.R.S. §§ 38-501 to -511 must ‘maintain for public inspection in a special file all documents necessary to memorialize all disclosures of substantial interest made known pursuant to this article [A.R.S. §§ 38-501 to – 511].’A.R.S. § 38-509. Any public officer or employee who has a conflict of interest in any agency decision or in the award of a contract must provide written disclosure of that interest in the agency’s special conflict of interest file. A.R.S. § 38-503(A), (B). The officer or employee may either file a signed written disclosure statement fully disclosing the interest or file a copy of the official minutes of the agency which fully discloses the interest. A.R.S. §§ 38-502(3), -509.” I have filed a Public Records Request today to see if Frisoni did indeed sign such a disclosure. What if it is discovered that Frisoni did not file a signed disclosure statement? The penalty could be as severe as a class 5 or 6 felony.

Another part of state law relates to doing business with the public agency with which the person was employed and states, 8.11 Representation of Others After Leaving Public Service. State law also places restrictions on representation of others when a public officer or employee departs from state service. In particular, A.R.S. § 38-504(A) provides:

A public officer or employee shall not represent another person for compensation before a public agency by which the officer or employee is or was employed within the preceding twelve months or on which the officer or employee serves or served within the preceding twelve months concerning any matter with which such officer or employee was directly concerned and in which the officer or employee personally participated during the officer’s or employee’s employment or service by a substantial and material exercise of administrative discretion.” This sanction is clear cut. It remains rumored that Fischer and Frisoni are going to partner in their own communication agency. According to this provision neither one can do business or represent a client doing business with Glendale for 12 months. Since both were senior management it is reasonable to acknowledge that each was “directly concerned or personally participated” on every conceivable issue within the city.

So, faithful blog readers, it appears that Frisoni and her husband, Shumway did not violate the Arizona Conflict of Interest law. What about the spirit of the law?

© Joyce Clark, 2015


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