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: .

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


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