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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On April 26, 2019 Jen Fifield had a story in the Arizona Republic about Mayor Weiers’ trip to Norway and France.  Here is the link to the story: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/glendale/2019/04/26/heres-what-glendales-mayor-did-his-5-k-european-trip-taxpayers-dime/3562785002/ . There is so much about this story on which to comment.

The reporter, Jen Fifield, calls herself “a city watchdog reporter covering Surprise and Glendale.” Others call her a “muckraker.” This term is usually applied to journalists who intentionally write (for profit or personal gain) about alleged corruption of public officials. Take your pick…watchdog or muckraker?

Any story about any event or person is fair game for any reporter but the tone of an article can always be the subject of debate. Journalists always tout being fair and unbiased but often the words, especially descriptors, used in an article will reveal any bias. In addition, Fifield’s use of Mark Burdick, Weiers’ opponent in the last mayoral election, is suspect. Did she really expect Burdick to be unbiased on the issue? If your answer is ‘yes’, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale. Another person, Yvonne Knaack, quoted by Fifield in her article, was an ardent Burdick supporter and who knows, may run for Mayor this time around.

The information chosen by the reporter to use with respect to the audit is also suspect. I believe this trip occurred in the summer of 2018 and the mayor reimbursed the city for his wife’s expenses in the fall of 2018. The audit occurred in the spring of 2019 with the auditor calling Weiers’ wife’s expenses as “disallowed” many months after the fact, even though the auditor knew that those expenses had been fully reimbursed many months earlier. The auditor’s use of the term “disallowed” implies that the action was purposefully illegal.

Fifield then refers to former Councilmember Chavira and cites his more than a dozen frivolous trips to Washington, D.C. at a taxpayer expense of over $25,000 during his term of office. Citing Chavira’s well known and notorious antics in a story about Weiers implies that Weiers is a bad actor like Chavira. That implication leads the reader to accept the bias in the article. Chavira abused the use of taxpayer funds repeatedly. Linking Weiers’ one trip to Chavira’s repeated abuses is certainly suspect in terms of bias.

To be clear, all members of the Glendale Sister Cities organization received the same blast email advertising the trip. All councilmembers who are members of the organization received it including me. I chose not to go for a variety of reasons both ethical and financial as I assumed I would be paying for my trip. Whether to go or not to go on any trip using taxpayer funds is a personal and ethical decision as a public official. For the hundred or so elected officials throughout this Valley, one could expect multiple decisions to go or not to go and to charge the city or not to charge the city as varied as the councilmembers themselves based upon each councilmember’s experience and standards. Some would have chosen to go considering it valid representation of a city. Others may not have chosen that option. There is no hard and fast rule in any city in this Valley. Should there be? You should be letting your elected officials know where you stand on this issue.

Did Mayor Weiers do something wrong and underhanded? That’s for you to decide. I have worked with him personally for the past several years and in my judgment that was the furthest thing from his mind. Having observed his actions he is a man who genuinely cares about Glendale and especially the least fortunate among us including our veterans’ community. His non-profit work is well known throughout the Valley.  This man would not deliberately cheat the taxpayers of Glendale. It was a decision Weiers chose to make in good faith. I would have made a different choice. Does that make him right and me wrong or vice versa? No.

I am not joined at the hip to Mayor Weiers. We have had our differences. The most important one to me was his vote in favor of Stonehaven while I was adamantly opposed. I see a distinct difference between Chavira who blatantly and repeatedly abused his office and Weiers one trip to Norway when he genuinely believed he was going as a representative of our city.

I am always concerned when we enter a political season. We are in one now for the 2020 election. It’s early I know but election cycles now seem to start almost immediately upon the completion of the previous election. This story appears to have been shared with the reporter in an attempt to bloody Weiers’ nose politically by linking him with Chavira’s abuses. This happens all the time and every politician is fair game during an electoral season but it is important that you, the reader, understand the context in which the story is framed.

© Joyce Clark, 2019         

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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.

The other day in my blog entitled “A little bit of this…a little bit of that” I related that Republican Senator Sylvia Allen of Snowflake, Arizona had introduced a bill whose sole intent is to gut the Arizona Open Meeting Law.

Arizona’s Open Meeting Law is designed to prevent elected officials, such as members of the Glendale city council from meeting privately and secretly to discuss actions that they will be voting upon. Allen’s bill would allow such private and secret meetings to occur without penalty.

We should all be wondering if there is any connection between the current Attorney General’s investigation of 4 Glendale city councilmembers: current councilmembers Gary Sherwood and Sammy Chavira and former councilmembers Yvonne Knaack and Manny Martinez.

The allegations surrounding these four councilmembers are centered on their actions prior to the July 3, 2013 vote of approval, by these very same four councilmembers, of the IceArizona management agreement for the city’s arena.

It was a time when then Acting City Manager Dick Bowers had sent a Memo to all councilmembers raising concerns about the deal. Allegedly in an effort to shore up a pro-IceArizona majority vote, these councilmembers met privately with IceArizona’s attorney Nick Wood right after a council executive session. Allegedly Sherwood shared executive session information with Wood and then emailed a summary of the deal’s status to Councilmember Martinez (who did not attend the private meeting) with an admonition to destroy his email. Let’s not forget now Assistant City Manager Julie Frisoni’s role in all of this. There is at least one email floating around in which she shares positive talking points of the IceArizona deal to the four supportive councilmembers exclusively. Those councilmembers who she assumed were not in support of the deal did not receive her email.

It’s awfully coincidental that while these four Glendale councilmembers remain under investigation by the Attorney General’s office, at least 4 of SB 1435’s sponsors are Glendale representatives: Senators Judy Burges, Don Shooter, Kimberly Yee and David Livingston. Senator Debbie Lesko of Peoria is also a sponsor of the bill.

You don’t suppose Sherwood had a conversation about his current difficulties with any of these sponsors? Nah…it’s just coincidental.  Below is a full list of SB 1435’s sponsors:

Email is an easy action nowadays. Simply copy and paste the email addresses from above. Please let them know that allowing elected officials to meet privately and secretly on legislation that will come before them will do nothing to further good government and it kills what little transparency we have. Tell them the days of secret, backroom deals are over. Kill the bill.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The 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 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 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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