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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

Glendale is not the only municipality facing financial pressure. One has only to look at Phoenix’s $37 million shortfall. Many municipalities are adopting new strategies to cut their budgets. One area of a municipal budget that merits further scrutiny is the fire department. Let’s look at Glendale.

Public Safety consumes over two thirds (67%) of Glendale’s General Fund. Glendale’s proposed  FY 2014-15 budget shows a total police department budget of $77,604,581 and a total fire department budget of $36,744,314 (roughly half that of police). The police department has total personnel of 537 and the fire department has total personnel of 267 (roughly half that of police). Everything tracks. The police department has twice the personnel and twice the total budget as that of the fire department. Except in one, major area – Overtime (OT), Hourly & Specialized Pays. You would expect the fire department expense in this line item to track at about half that of the police department. Not so.  The police department line item figure for OT in the FY 2014-15 budget is $1,675,000 covering 537 personnel. Astoundingly, the fire department OT line item figure is slightly higher than that of police’s at $1,681,000 covering 267 people.  Clearly, the fire department’s OT, Hourly & Specialized Pays is out of control.

So, we know the police department’s budget and personnel are twice that of the fire department’s with the exception of Overtime Pay in which they spend virtually the same amount. How can that be? The fire department’s practice of Constant Staffing requiring 4 people on each fire truck is creating unsustainable demands for overtime pay.

There is one other piece of information that is important to consider. In FY 2013-14 the Glendale Fire Department answered 30,040 EMS (Emergency Medical Service) calls; 3,570 fire calls; 2,238 miscellaneous calls and 619 special operations calls. Glendale’s medical calls have become the “elephant in the room” for the fire department. Its medical calls are ten times that of fire calls. Obviously the fire department’s mission has evolved over time. Its first priority is now medical response and fire suppression response, while still critical, has become its secondary mission.

Municipalities across the nation are recognizing the tremendous financial burdens placed upon them in covering the costs of fire department overtime as well as the costs associated with sending a large fire truck to a medical emergency. And they are beginning to act.

In Spokane, Washington as of January 2, 2013 the city decided that three fire stations and one ladder station would start using smaller vehicles on medical calls as opposed to the larger ladder trucks, which age quickly and operating and maintaining them was becoming more and more expensive. They decided it was important to spend their limited resources wisely taking into account that 78% of those three stations’ calls were medical.

Here’s another example: The Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue (TVF&R) near Portland, Ore., was one of the early adopters of a fire/ALS deployment model using smaller vehicles. The department initiated its “Car Program” in 2010 as the way to respond to the increasing demand for EMS in a more efficient and effective manner. With 80% EMS calls, the department searched for a way to effectively respond to lower-priority requests for service and still maintain readiness for major emergency incidents. Instead of deploying a four-person staffed $400,000 full-size apparatus, the department purchased a $31,000 Toyota FJ Cruiser and staffed it with a single fire paramedic to handle calls such as minor traffic accidents, community service requests and lower-priority medical emergencies.

Or… In August 2012, the city of Grand Rapids, Mich., received a report that highlighted the recent trend of fire department rightsizing. The ICMA (International City Managers Association) made 22 recommendations to Grand Rapids municipal leaders that included a variety of changes to the fire department’s EMS response. One of the first recommendations was to eliminate five full-size fire department apparatus and replace them with smaller, more cost effective RRVs. The result was an estimated savings of $2.1 million.

And this… The Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD) began providing rescue services in the late 1950s with the use of panel vans that carried firefighters to the scene of motor vehicle accidents and other requests for non-fire suppression services. This model of prehospital care delivery was retained as the LACoFD became one of the nation’s first fire ALS providers in the early 1970s. Today, the department still delivers ALS care by way of quick-response squad trucks staffed with firefighter paramedic personnel. The primary benefit of this ALS model is that it ensures a better utilization of resources while maintaining a cost-effective response. When an LACoFD squad arrives, the paramedic can determine if ALS care is required and then either accompany a contracted ambulance transport provider or return to service for another response.

San Jose, California as well as other cities across the nation are considering or have already reduced the number of firefighters on each response truck. It has proven to provide fire departments with more flexibility and better coverage. Four people on each engine to answer a medical call, was impracticable. Neighboring agencies, like Santa Clara County Fire, already assigns just three people per engine. The reasoning was that since 94% of all calls are medical, the Santa Clara County Fire Department was over deploying.

The practice of responding to medical calls with full-size apparatus is proving to be an expensive and inappropriate use of equipment. One deployment concept that appears to be gaining as an option for the fire service to meet both a decrease in budget and an increase in the demand for organizational efficiency is the transition from full-size fire apparatus to smaller rapid-response vehicles (RRVs). Some departments have used this concept for years to deploy ALS personnel to the scene of a medical emergency and to work in conjunction with other apparatus on fire suppression incidents. Fire departments must embrace new approaches to the deployment of their EMS resources by using peak demand staffing and changes to apparatus.

The “right resource, right place and right time” model has become the key concept for the deployment of fire EMS first response resources. Adopting a clinical, financial and operational strategy; and changing and rightsizing EMS resources appears to be the answer to many of the challenges faced by fire departments today. The modern fire service is now expected to be innovative and able to change its business practices by recognizing  evolutions in the response to the majority of service requests, especially as a majority of calls are now medically related.

As we move toward a change in the nation’s healthcare delivery system based on accountability and clinical outcome, the department that can adapt to new norms will be the most successful.

Models with reduction of personnel on response units and redeployment of those personnel to reduce overtime and the use of small, medical response units staffed with fire paramedics are being used successfully throughout the country.

It’s time to right size the Glendale fire department. Will the Glendale City Council have the strength of will to request that changes be made? Will the Glendale fire department and more importantly, the Glendale fire union, innovate and adapt to the reality of shrinking resources and the increased demand for more effective, reasonably priced medical response? Or will they use the buzz words of “diminished service and response time” to fight it?

© Joyce Clark, 2014

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.

The Glendale City Council Workshop of May 6, 2014 had 4 items: the 2035 General Plan Update; the West Phoenix/Central Glendale Light Rail Update; discussion of adding electronic voting to council meetings; and the ever present FY14-15 budget follow up.

The 2035 General Plan Update discussion was led by Jon Froke, Glendale’s Executive Director of Planning, joined by Celeste Werner and Rick Rust, VPs of the Matrix Group. The Matrix Group is the consultant hired by the city to conduct the 2035 General Plan Update at an unbudgeted cost of $110,000 to be paid over two years: $31,000+ the first year; and $78,000+ the second year (FY2014-2015). Here is the link to their presentation: http://www.glendaleaz.com/Clerk/agendasandminutes/documents/01A-Glendale2035GeneralPlanUpdatePowerPoint.pdf .

The city has put up a website for the General Plan Update at www.glendale2035.com. It’s in its infancy right now and there isn’t much to see when you visit the site. At some point there will also be Facebook and Twitter links. Perhaps the greatest take away from the presentation was the continual emphasis upon the Citizen Steering Committee’s role in the process which is advisory only. It was made clear that the final approval rests with council before it goes to the voters in a General Election on November 8, 2016.

As citizens what can you do? Get involved…learn as much as you can…voice your opinion, your vision for Glendale’s future… and concerns, if you have any. There is a natural tension between property owners of vacant land and citizens and their neighborhoods. Make no mistake. Property owners will work hard to maximize the designated zoning for their vacant property because when it is sold a more intense zoning designation means more money for them. Sometimes what they may want will be in direct conflict with what is compatible with your neighborhood. Be vigilant. Check what’s vacant around you and then find out what kind of zoning designation may be placed on that land. Make sure it works to the betterment of your neighborhood. As an example, a property owner may want a multi family (apartment) zoning designation. Your neighborhood might be made up of large or medium sized lot homes. Apartment zoning on vacant land adjacent to your neighborhood will inevitably create future problems and could lower your property value.

Next up was the West Phoenix/Central Glendale Light Rail Update. Cathy Colbath, Glendale’s Interim Executive Director of Transportation Services, introduced Stephen Banta and Benjamin Limmer of Valley Metro. Both men made an excellent presentation. Here is the link: http://www.glendaleaz.com/Clerk/agendasandminutes/documents/02B-LightRailUpdate-PPT.pdf .

Funding for mass transit will be generally along the lines of: 50% from the federal government; a large percentage from voter approved Proposition 400 administered by Valley Metro; an undetermined percentage by the cities in which the mass transit is sited.

Take aways were, in terms of cost per mile: light rail, as most expensive, at $60 to $90 million per mile; a modern streetcar system at $40-$60 million a mile; and bus rapid transit at between $2 to $20 million a mile.

Valley Metro is still in the initial planning stages identifying which of the 3 modes of service would work the best and identifying a corridor extension from 19th Avenue and Bethany Home Road, Phoenix into Glendale. The study area is from Northern Avenue to Camelback Road, including the use of Grand Avenue. Based upon their findings Valley Metro has excluded Northern Avenue, Bethany Home Road and Grand Avenue. It appears the final corridor will be either the Glendale Avenue or Camelback Road. Mass transit is becoming more and more of a necessity in the Valley as resources shrink and the costs of purchasing fuel continue to rise. Did you know that for every billion dollars invested in mass transit in the valley there was a return of $7 billion in economic development along the light rail lines?

Valley Metro will host a public meeting and present their latest information on the study and will offer the public a chance to comment and ask questions. The meeting will be on Thursday, May 22, 2014 from 6 PM to 8 PM at Glendale City Hall, Council Chambers. It’s worth it to attend and to share your opinion on what kind and where mass transit should be sited in Glendale.

Economic redevelopment is critical along all of Glendale Avenue. Redevelopment of Glendale Avenue has been planned to death for at least 20 years with no discernible results to date. I was on the Miracle Mile Committee years ago as a private citizen and was a councilmember when the latest plan, Centerline, was approved. I can’t even remember all of the iterations of planned redevelopment that occurred in between those two efforts. Glendale Avenue is our namesake street. All of it, from 43rd Avenue on the east to Sarival Road on the west, deserves special recognition in terms of development and redevelopment planning. Centerline, the current name for Glendale Avenue redevelopment, only targets 43rd Avenue to 67th Avenue. If I may be so bold as to suggest, a broader, long term vision is required for all of Glendale Avenue and perhaps it should be considered as a whole but in phases. Phase I could be the current 43rd to 67th Avenues. Phase II could be 67th to 105th Avenue (location of our airport and public safety training facility). Phase III could be 105th Avenue to Sarival Road. We should cherish this entire corridor and plan for its future now.

Most of council was receptive to the Glendale Avenue corridor with the exception of Vice Mayor Knaack. Her reservations are understandable. After all she owns property at 55th and Glendale Avenues. However, she is being short-sighted. She is thinking in terms of short-lived financial pain, in the form of relocation or construction, creating financial hardships for business owners such as herself. The long-term gain of finally securing a tool for the economic development /redevelopment of Glendale Avenue between 43rd and 67th Avenues is too important to Glendale’s future viability.

The third agenda item just boggles the mind. Vice Mayor Knaack, under Council Items of Special Interest, brought up the subject of electronic voting at council meetings. Someone on staff may have slipped her the suggestion. Chuck Murphy, Glendale’s Executive Director of Technology & Innovation, and Diana Bundschuh, Deputy Chief Information Technology Officer introduced Chris Voorhees and Thao Hill of Granicus, Inc. Granicus is the provider of the current system used at council meetings.

Two questions should have decided the fate of this idea in short order. Is it critical to the current operation of council meetings and what does it cost? Now, I’m a technology nerd. I love new technology but in the light of Glendale’s current financial crisis electronic voting is not a necessity…now, at this very moment. Yes, it’s sexy and new. Yes, some other cities already have the technology but we can do without it for now. It is not critical to the process of council meetings. What about the cost? Well, Glendale can have the new, sexy technology for a mere upfront cost of $23,000 and an annual cost of approximately $18,000. And that doesn’t include the cost of replacing hardware such as tablets on a periodic basis – perhaps every 3 to 4 years. Hardware is expensive and is used by all personnel including council. Of course this is all unbudgeted. Of course Glendale has no money for a Cadillac right now.

It didn’t faze a majority of council for one single minute. It didn’t bother Councilmembers Knaack, Martinez, Sherwood and Chavira who constituted a majority giving direction to move forward with the new system. Mayor Weiers was decidedly uncomfortable and observed that the cost equates to one position within the city. What was the point of Councilmembers Martinez and Knaack urging all councilmembers to give back a portion of their council budgets if they are all too willing to be imprudent about Glendale’s unbudgeted expenditures such as this one. It’s ridiculous. If they cannot control their spending on relatively small items, God help us on the really, really big ones.

The last agenda item was Fiscal Year 14-15 Budget Follow-Up Items presented by Tom Duensing, Glendale’s Executive Director of Financial Services. By the way, I keep waiting for City Manager Fischer to live up to her pledge to get rid of all of these Executive Director titles…still hasn’t happened…wonder if it ever will? Here is the link: http://www.glendaleaz.com/Clerk/agendasandminutes/documents/04-POWERPOINT-FiscalYear2014-15Follow-UpItems.pdf .

Following Glendale’s budget this year is like trying to find your way through the smoke and mirrors.  It’s the same pot of money no matter what new names are used. Now we have General Fund Sub-Funds, a Permanent Fund and an Internal Service Fund. Go figure. When you watch senior management discuss the budget this year you end up feeling confused,  down right befuddled and just as if you had been sold a bottle of snake oil.

The take aways are that your Primary Property Tax Rate will increase by 2%, the Temporary Sales Tax increase will become permanent and there’s a new strategy called Alternative Service Delivery. The least offensive of the two increases is the increase in the primary property tax rate. Glendale’s portion of your property tax bill is relatively small. Hence the increase in real dollar terms is also proportionately small.

What should be of concern is making the temporary sales tax increase permanent and eliminating the sunset provision that was to occur in 2017. In an attempt to avoid painful cuts to the budget council took the easy way out. It’s a promise broken. Instead senior staff ratified by this council continues to overextend Glendale’s finances and to spend more than is in the budget.

Alternative Service Delivery is the new buzz word for privatization of services Glendale residents receive. The problem is, that while senior staff implements this strategy, no one and most certainly the public or even council for that matter, have been told exactly what they are doing. Then again, it’s another refusal on the part of senior staff to share information. If you were to ask any councilmember about Alternative Service Delivery they would parrot the explanation they heard at this workshop meeting. That is, positions when vacant are being evaluated. If you asked what specific evaluation criterion is used and what jobs have been privatized, they would not be able to answer. After this article, they probably will.

Tentative budget adoption is scheduled for the May 27, 2014 meeting of council with final budget adoption scheduled for June 10, 2014. At the June 24, 2014 council meeting the increased property tax rate and the permanent sales tax increase will be adopted.  Glendale’s voters got what they wanted…a tax and spend city council.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

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.

 

When I retired from Glendale City Council in January of 2013, Horatio Skeete was Interim City Manager and Craig Tindall was City Attorney. A new mayor and several new councilmembers were enough of a majority to shake things up. While a new search for a city manager took place Dick Bowers was appointed as Acting City Manager and Craig Tindall was asked to resign. Nick DiPiazza became Acting City Attorney. Tindall’s Severance Agreement was executed on April 1, 2013. Here is the link: http://www.glendaleaz.com/clerk/Contracts/8419.pdf .

In exchange for his immediate resignation, he continued to be employed by the City for six months. Council offered six month’s pay plus benefits totaling $186,378.14 which included pay, benefits, CLE, bar dues, IMLE conference, deferred compensation, and additionally, a joint press release. Mr. Tindall could approach Councilmembers and city officials for recommendations (references).  He was entitled to keep the city phone and phone number and he remained in the system an additional six months and did not exhaust his vacation or sick time. For whatever reasons other than the publicly offered “time for change,” they wanted him gone immediately and were willing to pay nearly $200,000 to have it happen. It’s a sweet deal. For up to 5 hours of work in a 2 week period over 6 months he received over $186,000. I bet you wouldn’t turn it down.

As part of his severance package he would stay on board in a limited capacity as a Special Counsel. The agreement called for him to be available to respond to factual questions he had previously handled for the city. There was a requirement for a separate agreement to allow him to provide legal advice. Here is the exact stipulation: “Employee will be available for up to five hours per two-week period from the date of this Agreement to the Separation Date to respond to factual questions regarding matters Employee previously handled for the City; provided however, Employee will not provide legal advice to the City unless by separate agreement.”

The Severance Agreement was approved by city council on a 5 to 2 vote with Mayor Weiers and Councilmember Alvarez voting “Nay.” Mayor Weiers turned out to be correct in viewing Tindall’s stay for an additional 6 months as problematical.

Can we assume all of council read the agreement? Yes, as there was a great deal of discussion about its terms prior to the vote. They knew that he could respond to factual questions but not offer legal advice. So why did Councilmembers Knaack, Martinez and Sherwood, three of the four votes needed to approve the IceArizona Agreement, ask him for legal advice regarding the IceArizona Agreement? And why did Tindall respond by offering legal advice?

Did Mr. Tindall breach his Severance Agreement by offering councilmembers legal advice regarding the IceArizona Agreement without fulfilling a separate agreement allowing him to provide legal advice?

I received, anonymously, a copy of an email dated Friday, June 20, 2013 sent at 8:04 AM. Here is a copy of that email:

Tindall email 3 corrected

 

 

In Item 1 of his email, Tindall says, “First, in § 8.3.1 the exception for the 2013-2014 season should be removed. That was in the Jamison agreement for last season when the League faced issue sight he (sic) collective bargaining agreement. The year was changed, but it is not needed any longer.” The only recipients are Councilmembers Knaack, Martinez and Sherwood as they apparently asked Tindall for legal advice.  The email is not copied to the Acting City Manager or the Acting City Attorney. Copying others is a usual and typical practice. I always copied my Council Assistant and on city matters copied the City Manager, Assistant City Manager and relevant department heads. It informs others and prevents blind-siding on an issue. It’s also a matter of professional courtesy. Since Tindall referred to the Acting City Manager in his email, he should have copied him as well.

It appears that the councilmembers were the only ones to ever see this email. Was the email offered with the “understanding of the City Manager” as Tindall stated?  If that were the case it would be expected that he Cc the acting city manager and/or the acting city attorney formally for informational purposes at the very least.

Less than 2 months later, August 20, 2013, Mr. Tindall is hired as IceArizona’s (successful bidder for Jobing.com arena Management Agreement) General Counsel. His Severance Agreement retains him as Special Counsel to the city until October 1, 2013. For 6 weeks he continues to work for both the city and IceArizona. He could legally and he did despite appearances. I guess he forgot the old adage, “Perception is reality.”

Former Councilmember Phil Lieberman filed a complaint with the Arizona State Bar Association alleging among other things, that Tindall may have breached his Severance Agreement. Does this issue have the potential to become part of the Bar’s investigation? Despite many who view Lieberman as an old curmudgeon, you have to wonder what else he knows…and in this instance he appears to be right.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

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.

On April 22, 2014 on a vote of 16-10 HB 2547 was rejected in the Arizona Senate. It would have partially reimbursed Glendale for public safety expenditures related to hosting the upcoming Super Bowl in 2015. This is an event that generates large sales tax revenues all over the state and especially in the Phoenix Metro area.

Here are realities some Arizona senators conveniently ignored. The state, the county, the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA), the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee and the Bidwills all breathed a sigh of relief when Glendale stepped up to the tune of $35M for infrastructure improvements surrounding the stadium and accepted construction of the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale when no other city in the Phoenix Metropolitan area was willing to do so.  Glendale held its tongue when publicly slapped in the face by the naming of the stadium as the University of Phoenix Stadium.

Glendale looked forward to its first Super Bowl hosting experience and assumed that new sales tax revenues would cover the costs associated with being a host city. It was a pilot project and learning experience. Glendale did an outstanding job of hosting and has been praised as a model experience. Glendale spent $2.2M in 2008 as a host city. It earned sales tax revenue of $1M losing $1.2M in the process. It was an expensive lesson.

If anyone believes that public safety was the only cost to Glendale for hosting the 2008 Super Bowl, they are fools. Don’t forget at a minimum to include sanitation and transportation. Glendale sanitation had extra duties in assuring that the venue was clean and neat for a minimum of two weeks.. Glendale’s transportation staff coordinated all of the transportation logistics during the NFL Experience and on game day. Then there were the countless hours of Glendale staff time in preparation for the event and the countless meetings with NFL and Arizona Host Committee officials. Glendale put a lot of skin into the 2008 game yet it was cities like Scottsdale, Tempe and Phoenix that reaped gorilla sized sales tax revenues.

Some of these Arizona senators were lied to with impunity. They were told that Glendale made money on the 2008 Super Bowl. I was there. I was on the city council. I saw the figures. Glendale did not make money. I was one of only two councilmembers who voted against hosting it again in 2015 for the very reason that Glendale lost money. I said publicly at the time that without a reimbursement mechanism in place I could not support hosting it again.

If anyone believes that $2M will cover the costs of hosting the Super Bowl in 2015, next year, they, too, are fools. City Council intended to build up a fund of $4 to $6M over 6 years to cover the anticipated expenses. Everything from gas, to salaries, to vehicle use, to supplies has gone up. Then council became preoccupied with the Coyotes mess and was raped by the NHL to the tune of $25M a year for two years. The set aside fund never materialized.

Finally, this year Glendale crafted a bill to recapture its costs as a host city. The original figure requested was $4M and it watched as the bill was steadily watered down to $2M accepting that something was better than nothing.  In the meantime AZSTA, the Host Committee and the Bidwills came up with their own bill requesting $10M. It never made it to the Arizona House of Representatives’ floor for a vote. It died an ignominious death.

So where were they? Why didn’t AZSTA, the Host Committee and the Bidwills buck up and support Glendale? When their bill died did they just pick up their marbles and leave the fight? You bet they did. They view Glendale as a red-headed stepchild  – a child that doesn’t play well with others. After all, how dare Glendale not make its hotels bow to the pressure and cap their room rates? They blamed Glendale for not dictating terms to private hotel entities. They also claimed, falsely, that Glendale would not provide the necessary, stipulated parking needed for game day. Not true but in their view Glendale, quite simply, had become a pain in their butts.

Mayor Weiers and Vice Mayor Knaack publicly acknowledged at the April 22, 2014 council meeting that Glendale cannot continue to absorb the costs of hosting the Super Bowl without reimbursement. They made it quite clear that it is an unsustainable proposition. I applaud the fact that they have put everyone on notice and unless a reimbursement mechanism is created Glendale will not be in the business of hosting future Super Bowls. It’s about time. It’s nice to finally have some public company on this issue. Way to go Mayor Weiers and Vice Mayor Knaack. The ball is in AZSTA’s, the Host Committee’s and the Bidwill’s court. It’s their turn to play nicely and to acknowledge that Glendale is a valuable asset to them. After all, they can’t pick up their marbles (er, stadium) and go away, can they? Ironic, isn’t it? They may have cooked their golden goose.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

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.

The Glendale City Council workshop scheduled for Tuesday, December 17, 2013 will finally force this council to declare its financial intentions for the future. It is a jam packed agenda but there are several items that are especially important to each and every citizen in Glendale. One is a presentation of Monthly Arena Reports and the other is the Five Year Financial Forecast.

The Monthly Arena Reports were a request of Councilmember Alvarez. We know her motive and that is to show how much the city is bleeding from the current management agreement. Staff will prepare and post online each monthly arena report. The December 31, 2013 report is to be public by January 31, 2014.

Unfortunately based upon the material offered at workshop the city does appear to be bleeding as a result, in part, of the latest arena management agreement. Here is what each of the monthly arena reports will include:

Revenues to the city

  • Sales tax collected inside the arena
  • Base rent ($500,000 annually)
  • Ticket surcharge for hockey events ($3 per ticket)
  • Ticket surcharge for non-hockey events ($5 per ticket)
  • Supplemental surcharge ($1 per ticket)
  • Parking revenue for hockey events ($10 per car)
  • Parking revenue for non-hockey events ($15 per car)
  • Naming rights (20% to city)
  • Naming rights for indoor stage (100% to city)
  • City sponsored events (revenues minus expenses)
  • Safety & Security Fee ($174,122 a year)
  • Hourly security costs for police
  • Hourly security costs for fire
  • Interest income placed in an escrow account

Expenses to be paid by the city

  • Arena capital improvements ($500,000 annually for now)
  • Quarterly management fee ($3,750,000 per quarter; $15M annually)

What does all of this mean? The sales tax collection, ticket surcharges and public safety revenues are not new revenues.  The only new revenues, courtesy of IceArizona, are the rent of half a million a year, naming rights and parking revenue. IceArizona has paid $219,702 to date of its annual rent. There is no new contract on naming rights as the current contract has not yet expired. As for parking revenue we will not see the first revenue number until January 31, 2014. It will be an interesting number for IceArizona keeps the first $20,000 (that’s 2,000 cars at $10 each) per game in parking revenue. Tom Duensing, Executive Director of Financial Services, in a recent article forecast(http://www.azcentral.com/community/glendale/articles/20131213glendale-fiscal-forecast-grim.html) that the Coyotes deal will cost the city an estimated $8.1 million next year, after the city receives its revenue associated with the deal. That’s one Christmas present denied.

The second major agenda item, the Five Year Forecast, is even worse. What it boils down to is that Glendale is spending more than it takes in. The annual amount that the city is short in revenue averages $14M a year until 2017 when the temporary sales tax increase disappears. Then the average deficit balloons to $30M a year. Do you smell the temporary sales tax increase becoming permanent? If it occurs it is a major promise broken and will have consequences the next time the city asks Glendale voters to approve anything.

While operating expenses continue not to be controlled as effectively as they could be there are other obligations that put in the city in trouble. The city’s debt service (of about $30M a year) is 17% of its operating budget. It is way too high and according to Moody’s it should be in the 10% to 12% range. Add the city’s contractual obligations (of about $25M a year) at 13% of its operating budget. Fully 30% of the city’s operating budget is used to pay debt service and contractual obligations. Add to that figure, personnel costs of over 50%. There isn’t enough money to cover all of this. No Christmas present here either.

Also of note is the projected expense for the Super Bowl of $1.7 million dollars with expected revenue of $200,000. It appears that this expense is greatly underestimated. In 2008 the city’s expenses were over $2 million dollars with a loss of about $1 million dollars. In 7 years every expense has gone up, not down and the expectation was, until now, that it could easily cost the city $4 million to host. The city has only factored in the $1.7 million it must pay to the Host Committee. It has not accounted for any additional costs including staff time.

Staff will be asking council to provide direction for the upcoming FY 14-15 council budget workshops. Their choices are: fix the deficit for the coming fiscal year or fix the deficit long term. If they wish to send a strong, positive signal they will embrace a long term fix. If they are still in hopeful mode they will choose to solve the ongoing problem short term and like chicken little, put it off as long as possible. Which way will they go?

© Joyce Clark, 2013

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On the December 3, 2013 city council workshop there were 6 topics. This was not one of council’s short, one-hour, “whizz bang, thank you ma’am” kind of meetings. It seems whenever there is discussion related personally to council the discussion is intense and prolonged.

Let’s take a look at each one. First up was the issue of 2 hour downtown parking. Someone had complained to Mayor Weiers and so it surfaced as a Council Item of Special Interest. Since the parking restriction was not being enforced there was a question of keeping the signage up. Councilmembers Martinez, Knaack and Sherwood felt there was no problem but supported Weiers, Hugh and Chavira in their request to survey the downtown merchants about the issue. So there will be a second installment on this issue after the survey is completed.

Next item was the city suite policy and its use. This item was requested for discussion by Vice Mayor Knaack who explained that she wanted to disabuse the public of the notion that council had free and unfettered access to the city suites at Jobing.com arena and Camelback Ranch. This notion is widely held when the public sees Mayor Weiers and Councilmember Sherwood often and regularly in the city Jobing.com arena suite. The policy as I remember it allowed for 2 uses: for non-profit use and for city business use (economic development). Apparently there is now a third use allowing for city council city business.  Council finished by directing staff to make more use of the suites as a reward to city volunteers. A good idea. Sources have said that Interim Assistant City Manager Frisoni was able to rent the Jobing.com arena suite in the past for her daughter’s birthday party. If that did occur it most certainly violated stated city policy. Hmmmm…

The third item was allowing citizens to donate a greater amount monthly to the From the Heart Donation program — another Mayor Weiers topic. After much discussion council gave direction to increase the donation option from $1 a month to $2 a month on citizen utility bills. The thinking was that it would double the amount received monthly for the program. Maybe, maybe not. When the price is increased on anything the number of purchasers usually decreases. Let’s see how this works out.

Undoubtedly the hottest topic was the discussion of council budgets. Vice Mayor Knaack requested this item and made the point that she did not think the use of council funds (read your taxpayer dollars) should be given from councilmember budgets to non-profits.  Martinez and Sherwood agreed but it raised Councilmember Alvarez’ blood pressure by at least 100 points. She had been silent on all previous items and did not wake up until this topic came forward. Then she was off and running!

She made sure she cited every past transgression from Knaack benefiting from the city’s VIP (Visual Improvement Program) for businesses to the city’s decision to enter into the $15 million dollar a year management agreement with IceArizona to the absence of recreation programming for kids. She made sure she recited every past sin. She made clear she would not go along with any prohibition council might create regarding council budget donations to non-profits. Hugh and Chavira stood fast with her.

Councilmember Martinez, joined by Vice Mayor Knaack, once again asked that councilmembers reduce their discretionary and infrastructure budgets so that the funds could go back into the General Fund. There is no doubt that Martinez, Knaack and former Vice Mayor Steve Frate believed strongly in doing so. Here is the past history on council budget reductions;

  • Barrel district (Knaack)      reduction of $26,571 and district improvements of $197
  • Sahuaro district (Frate)      reduction of $24,729 and district improvements of $4,965
  • Cholla district (Martinez)    reduction of $23,796 and district improvements of $2,998
  • Cactus district (Lieberman) reduction of $2,563 and district improvements of $500
  • Yucca district (Clark)          reduction of $1,188 and district improvements of $15,445
  • Ocotillo district (Alvarez)    reduction of $0 and district improvements of $9,545 

Donations to non-profit/school districts:

  • Ocotillo district (Alvarez)              $22,134
  • Cactus district (Hugh)                  $11,849
  • Yucca district (Chavira)                $  8,000
  • Cholla district (Martinez)              $  1,000
  • Barrel district (Knaack)                $     609
  • Sahuaro (Sherwood)                    $     419

You can see from the figures above there are two competing philosophies regarding the spending of council budgets. There being no consensus on anything related to how they spend your taxpayer dollars there was no direction given and things will stay just as they are.

The next item was a topic generated by Councilmember Sherwood. Currently all councilmembers can offer a Council Item of Special Interest without having to get 3 other councilmembers to agree to the topic. Sherwood wanted to go back in time and reuse the policy that required 3 other councilmembers to support any Item of Special Interest. As he said, “It was better to have staff work with ‘real’ issues” and he summarily dismissed the value of any Item of Special Interest brought forward by a councilmember. His suggestion went over like a lead balloon and he received no council support for his latest idea.

The last item was city generated and was a presentation on the proposed financial policy on transfers. After the presentation by Tom Duensing, the new Director of Financial Services, he was thanked profusely (especially by Chavira who has become quite adept at thanking everybody for everything) but there was nary a question. The longest part of this item was the presentation by Duensing.

On another unrelated issue, lately there has been a fire storm of public discussion on the siting of billboards in the Arrowhead area adjacent to the Loop 101. I bring this up not to take a position on the issue but because of something I read recently. A Cholla citizen reacting to the billboards said, “How ghetto could that be, to put up signs like that?” This is not an aberration but the typical attitude exhibited by Arrowhead folk. So, billboards are ghetto-izing? It’s OK for billboards to be placed in the rest of Glendale along with pawn shops, loan stores, massive apartment complexes and liquor stores? I’m surprised that Arrowhead has not ceded from the city. It must be embarrassing for Arrowhead people to have to say they live in Glendale with all of its ghettos.

© Joyce Clark, 2013

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The reaction to my blog on “Staying quiet in Glendale” hit a nerve with many readers. I received numerous emails from citizens and Glendale employees, past and present. Today’s a good day to round up all the speculative commentary received over the past few months and share.  There were several comments on Glendale’s current environment such as “’Being Quiet in Glendale’ hit the nail on the head!” or ”… not much had changed since Beasley has left….everyone still walking on eggshells and no trust…” Some commenters said the practice of reporting any interaction with councilmembers continues to this day. The general reaction was sympathetic to the four employees that either resigned or were terminated and that Mr. Bolton did not get a fair hearing. Many expressed the sentiment, if it is “so easy to get rid of the ‘good guys’ everyone’s in trouble.”

It also opened up much commentary on other Glendale related issues. Word is out there that we can expect Julie Frisoni’s appointment as Interim Assistant City Manager to become permanent any day.  Many of those commenting pointed out that Frisoni does not meet the minimum necessary qualifications for the position which mandate at least a Masters Degree in Business Administration or Public Administration. Another commenter shared that the very first action by the new City Manager Brenda Fischer was to have a video made about herself by…you guessed it…Julie Frisoni’s department. Several said Jamsheed Mehta is no longer an Interim Assistant City Manager and has been relegated back to his previous duties as Executive Director of Transportation. Hmmm…someone well qualified is shoved to the back of the bus.

Have you ever heard of a “cop card?” Me neither. Apparently it can be used to get out of a speeding ticket in Glendale. Rumor has it that one or two councilmembers could actually possess this “cop card.”

Did you know that City Manager Brenda Fischer’s husband was a firefighter in Henderson, Nevada (he may still hold that position)? Watch for Fischer to recommend making whole firefighters’ overtime pay – not straight time pay but overtime pay. FYI: while the Glendale Police Department has been cut by 16% over the past few years, the fire department’s cuts have come in at considerably less, only 8%.

Lastly, I was sent an article published by the Wall Street Journal on November 1, 2013 entitled Cities revival curbed by red-ink budgets by Jerry A. Dicolo and Cameron McWhirter. It said, in part, “New Orleans was one of five cities among the nation’s largest 250 that in 2012 faced a situation known in municipal finance as a ‘negative fund balance,’ according to data provided to the Wall Street Journal from Merritt Research Services, LLC. The others dealing with the issue, which means at the time the figure was reported, liabilities outweighed assets, were Allentown, PA, Providence, R.I., Glendale, AZ, and Detroit. Data on a few cities weren’t available as of August, 2013, when Merritt collected the information.Credit rating firms consider the metric a sign of a serious structural budget problem. In 2007, before the recession hit, Detroit was the only city with such an imbalance, the figures show. Glendale officials said a new sales tax is expected to generate more revenue and shore up its budget.” The Journal published a graph representing figures from August, 2013 depicting the 10 cities nationally with the lowest reserves (General Fund balance). Here they are in descending order:

  1. Detroit, Mich                     -27%  ( minus reflects negative fund balance to expenditures)
  2. Glendale, Ariz                   -21.2%
  3. Providence, R.I.                –  3.4%
  4. New Orleans, La               –   1.8%
  5. Allentown, Pa                   –  0.90%
  6. Paterson, N.J.                  +  0.07% (plus reflects positive fund balance to expenditures)
  7. New York, N.Y.                 + 0.72%
  8. New Haven, Conn             +   1.7%
  9. Bridgeport, Conn              +   2.4%
  10. Philadelphia, Pa                +   2.7%

In an article by the Arizona Republic dated October 31, 2013 entitled Challenges abound as cities climb out of financial holes by Parker Leavitt. It says, “Glendale’s general-fund reserves fell 143 percent over five years, ending fiscal 2012 with a $26.5 million negative balance, according to financial reports. Payments to the National Hockey League for Phoenix Coyotes operating losses led to significant declines in Glendale’s reserve funds in 2011 and 2012, according to a Moody’s credit report.” Obviously Glendale has significant financial problems. This council continues to spend money the city does not have.

Council has taken actions that were not budgeted in the current Fiscal Year 2013-14 budget: an external audit costing over a half million dollars; the Beacon Request for Proposal for the Arena (never used) costing over $100K; or the biggie, an additional $9M for the arena management fee (that will never be covered in total by the “enhanced revenue fees” promised by IceArizona); or the employee Christmas vacation time costing over $1M dollars. It adds up to approximately another $2M unbudgeted that will have to come from other departments…except for fire, I guess.

In upcoming budget workshops for Fiscal Year 2014-15 council must consider making substantial cuts of approximately $9M and additional cuts of about $5M a year for the next several years. The temporary sales tax increase is due to expire in 2017. There is already talk that the City Manager will recommend that the temporary sales tax increase become permanent. That is not what I, as a former councilmember, or the voters expect. The voter approved proposition mandates that it disappear in 2017 and that is what we demand. Every citizen should be on alert. If you have the time and inclination please watch when city council takes up the budget in March of 2014. I will be watching…will you?

© Joyce Clark, 2013

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The City Council workshop meeting of October 15, 2013 had a little something for everyone. Since Mayor Weiers has been at the helm all of their meetings have been extraordinarily brief. Not so this time.

The first item was an informational presentation on light rail in Glendale by Steve Banta, CEO of Valley Metro. Keep in mind that even if all the stars aligned, Glendale still wouldn’t see light rail for a minimum of ten years. The corridors under study remain the same: Northern Avenue to Bethany Home Road; Camelback Road; and the Loop 101. The only strong sentiment was expressed by Vice Mayor Knaack whose business is located in downtown Glendale. She remains adamantly opposed to light rail being sited along Glendale Avenue. Ummm…I guess she didn’t get the memo about Mesa. They deliberately sited their light rail on their Main Street to spur redevelopment. Their experiment with light rail has been so successful that Mesa is paying for an additional 2 miles from a city fund dedicated to street improvements.

Council moved on to the next item, Councilmember Chavira’s plea to get more amenities in the Western Regional Park (now called Heroes Park) at 83rd and Bethany Home Road. He proposed as temporary, soccer fields; or the addition of sod to green the park; or an archery range. He needs to bring something home to his constituents before he runs for reelection. Poor Sammy, it won’t be park improvements. He ran into the same brick wall as I. Keep in mind that a majority of the former council diverted $6M earmarked for the park to the construction of the Public Safety Training Facility. It was a spite move orchestrated by the former Mayor because I refused to become a member of her team. Council has an obligation to restore that $6M deliberately and willfully taken from the park. Chavira heard a resounding “No” from his fellow councilmembers to his requests. Even Alvarez said “No” and called for prioritization of needs. They fell back on the council policy directive that mandates maintaining and improving the parks already in place. They grudgingly agreed to move forward on the concept of an archery range provided it “was at no cost to the city.” I have never seen a project come forward that didn’t involve some cost to the city. In addition when residents of the area publicly participated in the planning of the park there was not one request for an archery range. In all my years on Council I received one call from a father who wanted to establish an archery range in a nearby retention area for his son so that he could conveniently practice. As the Director of Parks and Recreation Erik Strunk stated, “There will be no available funds in the Parks and Recreation Capital Improvement Program until Fiscal Year 2018-19.” At that time all seven councilmembers will be vying for the use of those funds.

The Sister Cities Program was next on the agenda.  This item was Councilmember Sherwood’s request. His motive was to partner with Canadian cities that host hockey and perhaps to boost Canadian attendance at Coyotes hockey games. It was a subject that didn’t engender a lot of comment. However, Alvarez and Chavira broadened the concept to include Mexican cities. Council directed this initiative be shifted to the private sector for further exploration and called on the Civic Pride Ambassadors, the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau to lead the effort.

Now we get to the meat and potatoes…er…steak and potatoes of the workshop…the Tohono O’odham and its proposed casino. The new City Attorney, Michael Bailey, presented information first. He said for 5 years the city’s position has been in opposition as expressed by various city council approved resolutions. Until council passes a new resolution expressing a new direction, the city will remain opposed to the proposed casino. He went on to say the city is no longer involved in any active litigation against the TO’s plan. Everyone is waiting for the results of two actions: U.S. Representative Trent Franks bill currently enjoying bipartisan support which has passed the House and moved on to the Senate; and the 9th Circuit’s Court mandate that the U.S. Department of Interior further clarify its justification for provisionally placing the land within Glendale in reservation status. He also expected that no matter what the Department of Interior’s decision, we can expect further litigation.  The City Attorney advised waiting until these issues were resolved before moving in any direction. He likened the current situation to council’s ordering and paying for a steak dinner and then just before it arrives, getting up and walking out of the restaurant. He alluded to the fact that entering into a dialogue with the TO could send the wrong signal to our friends and supporters – the other Tribes, the State Legislature and our Congressional delegation.

Despite his sage advice, here’s how the council lined up on the issue. Mayor Weiers and Councilmember Martinez remain firmly opposed and counseled waiting until the issues resolve. As expected Councilmembers Alvarez and Hugh are in the TO camp, breathlessly awaiting the casino’s arrival as if it is the cure for all of Glendale’s financial woes. Councilmember Chavira, in whose district the proposed casino would be located, has never been one to take a strong position on anything, maintained a fence sitting posture (painful to say the least). If he had a brain, he’d listen to and represent his constituents who will be dramatically affected and simply do not want the casino. Councilmember Sherwood after proclaiming that he was still opposed to the casino then trotted out a litany of reasons in its support. Vice Mayor Knaack, ever ready to appease everyone and anyone, listed the reasons why a casino was not in anyone’s best interest then flopped to supporting dialogue with the TO. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. What happened when the European nations practiced appeasement?

The result of the long and sometimes contentious discussion was 5 of 7 councilmembers supported directing staff to fact find (including dialogue with the TO) to produce an assessment of the impacts of the proposed casino on Glendale. I find it amazing that 5 of them believe they will get specific facts from the TO. This is the same Tribe that hid its ownership of the land in question for years. This is the same Tribe, when asked by Glendale staff, for specifics regarding their proposed casino, offered only conceptual ideas, nothing concrete. This is the same Tribe that publicly stumped for the State Gaming Compact in 2002, knowing that they already had plans to violate the spirit of the compact. There is and should not be, justifiably, any trust regarding assertions that they make. What’s the old saying? Trust but verify?

Council’s reasons in support of dialogue were superficial and may have been motivated by the people who spoke at their last council meeting (by the way, many were not from Glendale). This council left their steak dinner on the table having already paid for it, unwilling to wait and to let the issues play out and knowing that possible further litigation will not see an end to this situation for several years.

© Joyce Clark, 2013

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In its September 19, 2013 edition the Glendale Star ran an editorial entitled Dysfunctional city needs one spokesperson—the Mayor. Here’s the link: http://www.glendalestar.com/opinion/editorials/ . It states the obvious. In the absence of one strong voice the vacuum is filled with the multiple voices of all 7 councilmembers often delivering opposing messages while competing for attention. What’s going on?

Jerry Weiers, the Mayor, made a fatal mistake at the outset of his term. He aligned himself with Councilmembers Alvarez and Hugh on the issue of the Coyotes deal. Meanwhile Councilmember Sherwood, knowing that most likely he had the support of Councilmembers Knaack and Martinez, began his successful courtship of Councilmember Chavira. They are now best buddies and it led to successful passage of the Coyotes’ management deal. So began the setup of what is turning out to be a consistent 4-3 vote on nearly every issue. Weiers’ initiative to set up “Car Cruizing” in downtown Glendale ended in disaster when the producer moved the event to Westgate. His call for prayer before the start of council meetings, opposed by a majority of residents, did not help him either. Weiers must do some damage control or he can forget about a second term. One suggestion he might consider is to stop listening to political advisers who do not live in Glendale or truly understand Glendale dynamics. Weiers needs to listen to his residents instead. Perhaps a series of Town Hall meetings would fill that bill. 

As stated in an August 13, 2013 blog entitled Manny…say it ain’t so the election cycle of 2014 will be interesting. Councilmember Martinez is not running for reelection and has endorsed Robert Petrone. Big mistake on Martinez’ part as Petrone is not perceived as a good financial steward with the baggage of financial troubles from 2003 to the present defining him. Others will emerge to run for the Cholla district seat. Alvarez has announced that she will not run again. Good thing, for she’s been a one woman disaster since she took office. She, of course, will endorse someone. Whoever it turns out to be should cause us all to run in the other direction. An Alvarez clone is the last thing Glendale needs.

The really interesting decision to be made is by Vice Mayor Knaack. She stands for reelection in 2014. Does she run for her seat and then vacate it in 2016 to make a run for Mayor? Bets are that is exactly what she will do. Her effort to display leadership has led her to adopt a position of trying to please everyone and in reality, pleasing no one. Her ambition to become mayor could lead to her exit from the Glendale political scene.

The vacuum of leadership appears to have been filled, for now, by Councilmember Sherwood. He took the lead on the single hottest issue in Glendale, the Coyotes issue, right out from under Mayor Weiers. Sherwood is also ambitious and will seek the mayorship…in 2016 when his first term is up? Chavira, a Phoenix firefighter, has the Glendale fire union staunchly backing him and as Sherwood’s newest best friend could get the fire union to support Sherwood in 2016. The fire union will be in the cat bird’s seat choosing whoever promises them the best deal…Weiers, Knaack or Sherwood? In the past, the union has supported all three.

Of course this council is dysfunctional. They are no different than any other political body. They serve as a classic example of putting personal political ambition ahead of taking unpopular actions that best serve the city. They are jostling and shoving to fill the role of leader. It’s an all out contest to restore every unpopular cut to please residents short term rather than ensuring that the city’s long term finances are made healthy by keeping the city lean. Glendale is by no means out of the financial woods. Camelback Ranch and arena debts were back loaded causing the annual debt payments to become substantially larger this year and on into the future. Then there is still the open question of just how much of the $9M unbudgeted due to the arena management will be covered by the enhanced revenue scheme.

 Just one example of jockeying for position was the discussion at the August 17, 2013 council meeting surrounding the city’s Civic Center. Ever since it opened the city has subsidized its operations and maintenance. The rationale used by staff is that council directed that it be a community resource. Most of the community has never set foot in the Civic Center and cannot afford to rent spaces within it. In 2012 the past council directed that it was time for the Civic Center to recover 100% of its costs. It is a business after all. Since that direction, staff has been able to recover about 70% and according to its 5 year plan is set to recover 100% in the future. Several councilmembers, with wringing of hands, are ready to restore its city subsidy. Thank goodness, City Manager Brenda Fischer was able to stave off the notion by declaring it would be a topic of discussion for the spring council budget workshops. She also reminded council that when you add to one department’s budget, you must take away from another department. It’s again time for this council to prioritize city services, from most important to least important.

On a lesser note the Attorney General’s office has now rejected all complaints made related to any councilmembers’ violation of the state’s Open Meeting Laws. It was expected. The only issue remaining is the AG’s investigation into additional charges in relation to the external audit. Do not expect anything to come of that either.

©Joyce Clark, 2013

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On August 21, 2013 at 1:18 PM I received the following email: “Since you were interviewed as part of the process, I wanted to let you know that the City-Council-directed-external-audit of the city’s finances is complete and is being released to the public and media today. The documents will be posted on the city’s home page and are available for you at this link: http://www.glendaleaz.com/documents/SpecialProject-SummaryofFindingsandConclusions.pdf    Julie Frisoni”

This short and not-so-sweet email went to people interviewed for the external audit (or declined the request for an interview) but are no longer working for the city. It would have included me, former Mayor Elaine Scruggs, former City Manager Ed Beasley, former Assistant City Manager Pam Kavanaugh, former Finance Director Ed Lynch, former Human Resources Director Alma Carmicle and former Risk Manager Jim Loeb. I assume another email went to currently employed city personnel who were interviewed.

I had not checked my email all day but I did so late in the evening. I immediately went to the link provided in the email (you can do so as well), downloaded and printed out the 250 plus page external audit produced at a cost of half a million dollars. Then I spent the next couple of hours reading and analyzing it.

Finally, finally, finally, the city has released the results of the external audit. This is an issue for discussion that is long overdue. To do it justice there will be this article to be followed by two more. This first section will flesh out the scope of the audit, the players and the atmosphere surrounding the actions that occurred. It’s time to set the record straight.

The firm hired to perform the external audit was Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally, PLC (HMPFM). They, in turn, subcontracted Fidelity Forensics Group, LLC., the Law Offices of A. Bates Butler and Evidence Solutions, Inc.

Their mandate was to investigate actions related to the Early Retirement Program (ERP); transfers between and out of the Risk Management Trust Fund (RMTF) and the Workmens Compensation Trust Fund (WCTF); look at any other cash transfers into the city’s General Fund; and evaluation of city management’s disclosure of these actions to the city council. They would also be charged with identifying any civil or criminal liability related to these actions. As they worked their way through these issues council approved enlarging their scope of investigation to include lack of city contributions to the trust funds; the city’s actions under the Federal Early Retirement Reimbursement Program (FERRP); Art Lynch’s employment arrangements after he retired as well as city action associated with his retirement; and Alma Carmicle’s work arrangement after she moved to Mississippi. In other words did anyone deliberately misdirect city funds or use them improperly, was improper direction given and did the city council know?

We know who was hired to do the work and what they were hired to investigate. To do their work they secured 19 workstations and/or computers and/or other devices such as tablets and phones. They reviewed nearly 75,000 documents but perhaps, most importantly, they performed 37 interviews. 27 people were interviewed (some more than once) as follows:

*    Norma Alvarez        *   Don Bolton             *   Jim Brown               *    Cathy Mcintyre        *   Ann Buchmeier       *   Nick DiPiazza             *   Julie Frisoni             *    Diane Goke           *   Horatio Skeete          *   Julianna Lloyd        *   Christina Parry       *   Craig Sullivan              *   Candace MacLeod   *   John Stern               *   Darcie McCracken       *   Raquel Montero        *   Joyce  Clark          *   Robert Steele           *   Elizabeth Smith        *   Andy Jennings         *   Elaine Scruggs         *   Shelly Kitts               *   Lupe Sierra         *   Craig Tindall                    *    Jill Shaw                *   Jim Summers        *   Michael Morrison              *   Sherry Schurhammer

More telling are those who were asked for interviews but declined them:

             *   Ed Beasley                  *   Art Lynch              

              *   Jim Loeb                     *   Pam Kavanaugh

             *   Alma Carmicle 

Now we have our cast of characters. What was the environment under former City Manager Ed Beasley’s tenure? It can be characterized in two words — very controlling. I used to joke and say that councilmembers were mushrooms. There’s an old country saying that mushrooms are grown in the dark and fed horse manure. It turns out to be more colorfully accurate than anyone imagined. Page 19 of the external audit says, “From the onset of the ERP, City Management and staff failed to keep the City Council appropriately informed, at times misled them and/or provided incorrect information. Under the previous administration, city staff was hindered and/or prohibited from providing valuable information to the City Council. Until recently City staff was hesitant to make independent decisions or communicate directly with the City Council due to a mandate by City Management that all Council communications be run through the City Manager’s office. The few times City staff was allowed to present to the City Council, they were required to do a dry run for City Management and only present that which was approved at that rehearsal. These acts could be most readily observed in official communications by City Management and staff with the City Council.” Finally here is formal vindication of my actions as Chairperson of the Trust Funds and as your councilmember despite the smear tactics used by my opponent in my recent reelection campaign.

In my conversations with various staff, there was confirmation that not only did every council communication have to flow through the city manager’s office but that staff was required to report any verbal communication had with councilmembers. They also, I kid you not, had various staff members act in the roles of individual councilmembers and then rehearse the proposed presentation to be made to council. It was a formidable and intimidating atmosphere in which Beasley expected results. Policy direction was his forte. Immersing himself in detail to achieve the objective was not. Question: Who exactly constituted “City Management” at that time? Or did Beasley instead rely upon his “inner circle” of trusted advisers?”

What occurred disturbs me – no, it’s worse than that. It makes me sick to my stomach. Management staff, almost universally belong to the International City/County Managers Association (ICMA). ICMA’s Code of Ethics can be seen at this link: http://icma.org/en/icma/ethics/code_of_ethics.

Tenet 3 of the Code is as follows, “Be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships in order that the member may merit the respect and confidence of the elected officials, of other officials and employees, and of the public.” Staff members involved betrayed the trust we placed in them and treated us as mushrooms.

Next up — what did the investigation reveal?

©Joyce Clark, 2013

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