It has been 18 years and 79 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

It seems the latest Sammy saga is not quite finished. In the Arizona Republic of March 5, 2016 Paul Giblin has yet another story about it entitled Phoenix employees to repay $420 dinner bill sent to Glendale. It is not online yet so I cannot provide a link.

This story reminds me of the symbolism of throwing stones into a pond. The ripples made by the stones intersect and affect how each reacts.

The first three lead paragraphs say, “Several Phoenix employees will personally reimburse Glendale for their portions of $420 seafood dinner in Washington, D.C., that Glendale Councilman expenses to Glendale taxpayers in 2014, according to a Phoenix spokeswoman.

“Phoenix Communications Director Julie Watters requested an itemized receipt for the meal from Assistant City Manager Tom Duensing on Friday, the day a story about Glendale Councilman Sammy Chavira’s travels appeared in The Arizona Republic.

“ ‘The city of Phoenix is requesting a copy of this receipt with the intent that Phoenix employees who were at the dinner will personally repay their portion of the meal,’ Watters stated in the email.”

There are a lot of sub texts to this story. It is amazing that Julie Watters’ information request to the City of Glendale was filled almost immediately. The general public’s requests for information are not nearly as timely. I guess as Phoenix’s Communications Director her public information requests take precedence.

For two years this dinner was unnoticed and unreported publicly. None of the participants, including the Phoenix contingent, appeared to be ethically challenged about their action and never offered repayment for their portion of the dinner. It wasn’t until it is revealed publicly that the wagons are circled and repayment is forthcoming.

It leads to an assumption that the Fire Chiefs Kalbrenner and Burdick had no problem with a subordinate employee picking up the tab for their high priced meal. The question arises, is there a pattern of such behavior? Of course, Sammy was using his office as a Glendale councilmember but in terms of the Phoenix Fire Department he is a subordinate employee, quite far down on the food chain.

Giblin in his article states that Fire Chief Kara Kalkbrenner and Kalkbrenner’s husband, Kevin, Phoenix Director of Emergency Management were two of the attendees. It appears Phoenix does not have a nepotism policy.

Also in attendance was Phoenix Councilmember Danny Valenzuela, a good buddy of Chavira’s. Nowhere in the article does it state that Valenzuela will be using personal funds to pay for his portion of the dinner. Then Glendale Fire Chief Mark Burdick was in attendance as well. He happens to be Danny Valenzuela’s boss as Danny is a Glendale firefighter. How ethical is it to grant access to some subordinates and not others? If I were a Glendale or Phoenix firefighter I would not be thrilled to learn of Chavira and Valenzuela using their councilmember positions to gain extraordinary access to their fire chiefs.

This story about Sammy’s dinner is probably the tip of the iceberg. There are many tangled interrelationships in politics and municipal affairs and generally they turn out to not serve public interests very well. The repercussions of Sammy’s dinner may have a far greater effect than anyone could have imagined.

© Joyce Clark, 2016


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