Your dedicated public servants at One City Plaza recently secreted themselves in a council conclave far from the Yuma community's unwelcome prying eyes in order to conspire on ways to squeeze even more blood from the credulous citizen turnips (here). These guys crack me up.
In order to warm up and get in the mood for all of that new revenue generation brainstorming, those stalwart guardians of the public's treasury wined and dined on the taxpayer's dime in a high-toned big city eatery the night before. The gala event was absent the Open Meeting Law required posting of a public notice that a quorum of the council may be in attendance.
But, you may ask, "Is it kosher to hold a council meeting 175 miles distant (Phoenix) from the good folks they supposedly represent?" Excellent question, let's take a look.
As can be seen (here), A.R.S. 38-431.01 (A) is unambiguous in that all meetings of a public body shall be public meetings and all persons shall be permitted to attend. Moreover, Chapter 7 of the Arizona Agency Handbook (here) clearly states that the requirement of A.R.S. 38-431.01(A) is not met if the public body holds the meeting in a remote location.
Oh, the irony. The first item of business on the agenda is an overview of the Open Meeting Law to be presented by the city attorney.
Postscript: In fairness, Councilman Wright declined to attend and Councilwoman McClendon was out of town on other business.
Recall that in our May 8, 2014 update posted on this page (here), the city's incompetent administrator, Gregory K. Wilkinson, after receiving his third pay raise in eighteen months, informed us in an article in the Yuma Sun (here) that he would be proposing a salary adjustment for fiscal year 2015-2016 based on performance to those who "walk on water." At the time we forecast that you could bet that his "water-wing" shoes were on order.
He did not disappoint. Not delaying until the fiscal year begins on July 1st, to show that he is indeed, the one, his six percent raise is to be effective January 1st. Folks, that means that from January 1, 2014 to January 1, 2015 (here) he has had two salary increases totaling eight and one half percent. Perhaps, as some have suggested, he is merely "testing the waters" in advance of the fiscal year so that when others receive an increase in accordance with the budget for all full-time employees he can reap yet another.
Side Note: Some have suggested that our "poorly paid" administrator is deserving of an increase in order to bring his salary range closer to other city managers across the state. It begs the question, "How do you compare professionally trained individuals that hold Public Administration and MBA credentials with an unqualified, inexperienced biology major?"
By now most folks have noticed the changes taking place at the intersection of 4th Avenue and 16th Street. At long last the much needed widening of the junction of old U.S. 80 and state Highway 95 is finally taking place - and that's a good thing.
It begs the question, however, of why it was necessary for a mile of Yuma's real estate north of the project to be declared as slum and blight in order to simply widen an intersection. So, while that all thumbs crowd at city hall tells us that one of Yuma's major corridors is a blighted slum, let's take a look at A.R.S. 36-1471 and see what the Arizona Revised Statutes have to say about their suspect subjective declaration.
First, as can be seen (here) a "blighted area" is other than a "slum area." A blighted area principally addresses the provision of substantially retarded or arrested housing accommodations. Folks, 4th Avenue is not substantially a housing area, it is a primary "commercial" corridor of the city.
Moreover, the dominance of that corridor does not meet the statutory requirement of being a defective or inadequate street layout. Additionally, to date, there has been no specific identification of the alleged unsanitary or unsafe conditions, delinquency of taxes or assessments, nor the existence of the particular conditions that endanger life or property by fire or other causes. Furthermore, a review of the county records fail to provide any evidence of defective or unusual conditions of title. Exactly how the statutory definition of a blighted area has been complied with remains a mystery. Even so, the council coterie has "resolved" that indeed, ". . . . there exists in the City of Yuma a slum or blighted area which constitutes a serious and growing menace, injurious and inimical to the public health, safety, morals and welfare of the residents of the City of Yuma."
A slum area, according to statute, means that within the declared redevelopment area the buildings (whether residential or non residential) must be dilapidated, deteriorated or obsolescent. Also, they must lack adequate provision for ventilation, light, air or sanitation. And, as with a blighted area, conditions must exist that endanger life or property by fire and other causes.
So then, just as all Fords are cars, but not all cars are Fords; similarly, residential areas can be slum and/or blighted, but non residential areas can only be slums, not blighted. We will be able to appreciate the significance of this manifest distinction in a moment.
Folks, ask yourselves what does all of this hokum have to do with widening the intersection of 16th Street and 4th Avenue in order to provide much needed relief from acute traffic congestion? The answer is absolutely nothing.
Translation: With the already existing North End Redevelopment Area created in 1983 extending from 1st to 8th Street and the addition of the 16th Street and 4th Avenue Corridors, the gang at One City Plaza is making the conjured claim that a "predominance" (predominance: majority, high proportion, large number) of two miles of Yuma properties are unsanitary and unsafe fire hazards. Really? With respect to unsanitary conditions, a number of Yuma's longtime favorite eateries are located within that two mile zone of assumed desolation. It begs the question, where are the city's "predominance" of corroborating health violations issued by the Yuma County Health Department? It may also come as a surprise to the churches, medical offices and businesses in reasonably new or remodeled buildings in the area (notwithstanding the absence of corroborating evidence) that they are included in that "predominance" of unsanitary and unsafe fire hazards.
In actuality there is no corroborating evidence to support any of the bogus assertions of the "Master Thinkers" on the third floor of One City Plaza. What precipitated this tout de suite to declare the existence of community blight cum slum were staged photographs by a city employee that were used in a public presentation and printed on the front page above the fold in the toady local paper. In sum, the whole gambit is solely the subjective judgment of city staff with the proverbial rubber stamp approval of the unwitting elected body. (To be fair the Resolution was adopted prior to the four new council members assuming office.)
Side Note: It is interesting that the 4th Avenue boundary line "dodged" around two full blocks of that two miles that is occupied by Yuma Elementary School District #1. Probably not a good idea to vex the parents with the notion that their children are regularly exposed to such a perilous environment.
Notice of Full Disclosure: Confession is good for the soul and painful though it may be, this lowly scribe was mayor of the city of Yuma and "unwittingly" cast an affirmative vote when the North End Redevelopment Area was created in 1983 that "dodged" around those two blocks (please, forgive me, I was green and had much to learn). While revitalization of "the old downtown" is referenced in the North End Redevelopment Plan, the primary focus was on housing and residential development. Hence, in 1983, the North End Redevelopment Area (here) was designated as blighted; an important designation to remember as we move closer to that manifest distinction.
But, you may say, that still does not explain what all of this inanity has to do with widening the 16th Street and 4th Avenue intersection. Thank you so much for asking. That brings into play yet another statute - A.R.S. 42-6209 (here): Abatement of tax for government property improvements in a single central business district. As we look into this statute keep in mind that it addresses the abatement of tax for "government property". Cyber Mayor, disclosing the undisclosed. I love this job!
A.R.S. 42-6209 provides for a lessee of government property that is located in a single Central Business District to pay a Government Property Lease Excise Tax (GPLET) on the improvements placed on that property rather than the usual property tax rate. We will examine the difference between those rates shortly and while time and space will not allow us to delve into the entirety of the intricacies of the process, we will most certainly look into the "fun stuff."
At this point it is important to understand that the "single" Central Business District that was approved in 2004 generally followed the boundaries of the North End Redevelopment Area that was adopted in 1983 and stopped at 8th Street. In 2012 the council adopted the present day redevelopment area by creating the 16th Street Corridor and linking it with the North End Redevelopment Area by way of a one mile 4th Avenue Corridor from 8th Street to beyond 16th Street that has now belatedly become a part of the single Central Business District under the new name of, Yuma North End - 16th Street and 4th Avenue Redevelopment Areas. The statute is clear in that, "A city or town shall not designate more than one central business district within its corporate boundaries." Two completely separate areas and actions (years apart) yet, it is dubbed a single Central Business District? The statute mandates that a Central Business District be located entirely within a slum or blighted area. Moreover, the statute also requires that the Central Business District be "geographically compact." To deem the addition of a one mile sliver as geographically compact is a real stretch (pun intended).
Some of city staff (whose raison d'être at the public trough depends on slum and blight whether trumped-up or real) will be quick to point out that the creation of such a redevelopment area makes state and federal funds available that would otherwise be unobtainable. And you may agree that it is smart planning to position projects to qualify for federal grants, notwithstanding the fact that with annual federal deficits exceeding $1 trillion and an ever increasing federal debt of more than $17 trillion, the federal government has no funds to grant. But, that's another discussion for another day. The question at hand is, if A.R.S. 36-1471 provides for the establishment of slum or blighted redevelopment areas, why the need for A.R.S. 42-6209 that holds out a GPLET to the lessee of government property? After all, what government property is there between 1st and 16th Streets that is available for lease? Answer - at the present none.
There is, however, government property (city of Yuma) available for lease along the riverfront and the objective in creating the 2004 single Central Business District was to allow the city's wheeler-dealer California developer to take advantage of the GPLET and abate the taxes on the hotel and conference center and other components of the project that were to be built-out (in spite of the fact that he was foreclosed on in less than two years). The inescapable verity of that foreclosure and the unambiguous terms of the agreement (which One City Plaza purposely chooses to ignore) categorically consigns the deal to the dustbin of defaults. Nevertheless, in 2012 the undaunted deep thinkers at city hall expanded the "single" Central Business District to incorporate property beyond 16th Street; thereby, endowing their developer de choix a second bite at the GPLET apple. But, you may say, "If the GPLET is solely for government owned property how does that proffer a second bite? Patience, it shall all be revealed.
A number of years ago, anticipating the inevitability of the future need, the city purchased several parcels of privately owned property for the 4th Avenue and 16th Street intersection widening and not all of that property will be required to complete the project. As a result, the remainder will be government owned property. The redevelopment plan states that the city may dispose of it or perhaps retain ownership of part and work with a developer. One notion floated was the development of a "signature" building at the southwest corner of the intersection. So, one of the fundamental purposes of municipal government (streets) has morphed into insuring the presence of "signature" buildings in the community? But, is it eligible for the GPLET? A.R.S. 36-1479 (here) stipulates that the city shall not acquire real property for a redevelopment project unless a redevelopment plan has been approved. The plan was approved by Resolution 2013-10 on January 16, 2013 (here) and the records clearly show that the property for the widening project had been acquired long before January of 2013. Another classic city hall cart before the horse, or was the extended redevelopment area an afterthought to the widening of the intersection? Just asking.
Recall that the redevelopment area created by the 1983 resolution was designated as "blighted." Also, recall that the current Yuma North End - 16th Street and 4th Avenue Redevelopment Areas adopted by Resolution 2012-03 included all of the 1983 boundaries. Look again at Resolution 2013-10 wherein the redevelopment plan was approved and after more than thirty years we are now being told that the redevelopment project area is not "blighted." Inasmuch as A.R.S. 42-6209 requires the Central Business District to be located "entirely" (entirely: completely, totally, wholly, fully, lock, stock and barrel) within a slum or blighted area that is a de facto declaration that more than two miles of Yuma, Arizona, including one of its major traffic crossroads is located entirely within a slum.
Before getting into the particulars of the city's inappropriate use of the GPLET let's take a look at the difference in its reduced rate and the ad valorem property taxes the rest of us pay (here). The chart is for properties in Phoenix and as can be seen, after receiving a free ride for eight years the excise tax that is paid for the remainder of the lease period is roughly 16% of what the property tax rate would be. Moreover, if you examine your tax bill closely it can readily be seen that one of the beneficiaries that is harmed most is the various school districts. But, hey, the captivating charm of that "signature" building will be worth it.
What makes the city's use of the GPLET so disconcerting is that they toss laws, rules and regulations to the wayside and plow ahead. Let's place all of this in order and take a look from the beginning.
As previously mentioned the original redevelopment area was created by Resolution 2303 in 1983 and in 2004, adopting the same general boundaries, Resolution 2004-01 designated the Central Business District (here). Folks, follow this closely because the resolution adoption date of January 21, 2004 is important. The creation of a single Central Business District is mandated by A.R.S. 42-6209 in order to grant a GPLET and the Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) the city entered into with its hot-shot California real estate broker made the GPLET available for the hotel and conference center and other components of the project. However, as detailed on this website (Riverfront Hotel), the city's dud developer lost the hotel and conference center in foreclosure by the lender. The terms of the agreement are clear in that foreclosure by a lender without a Non-Disturbance and Recognition Agreement (NDRA) with the city is an event of default. To date the city has failed to produce such a document. Further, the city's high-end attorney from Phoenix, as a matter of public record in the officially adopted minutes, inadvertently disclosed that the lender at the time of foreclosure had no such agreement. Still, the city doggedly refuses to acknowledge that undeniable truth. While the particulars of their reason for denial are far too complicated to detail here, the short answer is that to admit the reality of the default would have the taxes eventually paid on the hotel and conference center rightfully benefit all of the taxing districts rather than the lion's share flowing into the city's treasury.
All righty then, let them continue to disavowal the default but, the calendar does not lie and the calendar irrefutably shows that the city failed to comply with A.R.S. 42-6209 when entering into the DDA with their defaulted developer. The statute orders that a city shall not enter into a DDA within one year after the designation of the Central Business District. This is some of the fun stuff. As per the recorded document (here) the city entered into the DDA with an effective date of December 17, 2004. Folks, recall that the resolution designating the Central Business District has a date of January 21, 2004. To be in compliance statutorily the DDA could not be entered into before January 20, 2005. Certainly the city can enter into development agreements, however, in order to include a qualifying GPLET the requirements of A.R.S. 42-6209 must be met. It is plainly evident that there can be no lawful provision for a GPLET in the DDA. The proverbial double whammy - an incontestable default due to foreclosure and a patent violation of Arizona law. Confronted with irrefutable truth perhaps those dedicated public servants will experience a personal sense of duty to the rule of law and bring into play the severability clause of the DDA and declare the GPLET section to be void. Sadly, at One City Plaza the rule of law has been replaced with rule by fiat and before the United Against Yumans crowd at city hall would ever own up to error, the odds favor Al Gore coming clean that global warming is nothing more than a pretense concocted to enhance his bank account.
It has been hinted that one of the reasons for the city's machinations to expand what began years ago as simply dealing with a congested intersection problem to now include the virtual eleventh-hour Yuma North End - 16th Street and 4th Avenue Redevelopment Areas, complete with an inflated "single" Central Business District, was indeed, to make available to its favorite foreclosee yet another bite at the GPLET apple: Another was to broaden its own officious reach in order to meddle in the affairs of the business community. Still, you are asking, "How is this germane if the GPLET only applies to government property?" Follow this closely, these guys crack me up.
The city's failed developer is the new owner of the Yuma Mesa Shopping Center at the corner of 16th Street and 4th Avenue and is now underway with revitalization of the property. Well, not exactly the new owner. Recall that following the foreclosure of the hotel and conference center the Quechan Tribe's lawsuit was added to a long list of investors harmed in other bellied-up projects by the city's Wiley Coyote developer. In what looks to have been anticipation of being sued and possible judgments, the Quechan Tribe's "partner" seems to have taken some preemptive steps to lessen his exposure. The foreclosure was held on August 18, 2011 and as can be seen (here), just three days earlier on August 15, 2011 he resigned from Crossroads Prime Commercial LLC and his son subsequently assumed his former position. Crossroads Prime Commercial Inc. (yet another entity) of which his son is president, is the managing member of Yuma Mesa LLC the owner of the shopping center. Moreover, it is his son that signed all documents relative to the purchase of the property (here) as well as the development agreement with the city (here). While conducting business with the city of Yuma as the managing member of the shopping center, according to the Arizona Corporation Commission, Crossroads Prime Commercial Inc. is not authorized as a corporation in the State of Arizona (here). Folks, under the terms of the development agreement the potential exists for the city's bombed developer to enjoy literally hundreds of thousands in abated property taxes and he won't pay a couple hundred dollars in order to be authorized as a corporation in Arizona? The city's position seems to be; move on nothing to see here, as they continue to do business with their failed developer. Just as water seeks its own level, it would seem that character seeks like character with which to do business.
That business includes a development agreement for the shopping center property that contains a provision for the GPLET. Whoa, you say! That's not government property. True enough. However, it will become government property for the purpose of abating the property taxes. It may be the "pads" where new buildings will be constructed or the entire property depending on the extent of the improvements. The shopping center will deed the property to the city of Yuma (here) for the lease period while enjoying the benefit of the complete abatement of property taxes for eight years and the lower excise tax for the remainder of the lease, at which time the city then deeds the property back to shopping center. All for the whopping annual rent of $1.00. The amount of the abatement has been downplayed by some on the council, however, in the event the entire property is abated the total amount would be significant. The current property taxes for the shopping center are more than $70k per year (here). Folks, that's more than a half a million dollars that will have to be made up by the rest of us. As can be seen from the tax bill the hardest hit will be the school districts. Nonetheless, at a council meeting the city administrator (who has a degree in biology) attempted to lecture councilman Gary Wright on the finer points of school funding as though property taxes played no role in school finances. Make no mistake, this action by the city of Yuma will affect the amount of property taxes paid by all residents of Yuma County. Can anyone say - taxation without representation?
The "Master Thinker's" unsuccessful attempts at being wheeler-dealers has produced nothing but dismal failures. Recall the taxpayer's resources ($$$$) being poured into the Main Street Theater, Monarch's Rest, the downtown call center and the San Carlos Hotel (at almost $2 million and counting). And lest we overlook, court records confirm (in the Quechan Tribe's lawsuit) that more than $3 million intended for Yuma's riverfront development is unaccounted for (stay tuned to the Riverfront Hotel on this website for details). Here's a thought: Rather than wheeler-dealers perhaps the city should consider another line of work, like focusing on the fundamentals of municipal government and butt-out of the development business. A good place to start would be to simply widen the 16th Street and 4th Avenue intersection and let their failed foreclosee bear the cost of improving his own property without reaching into the pockets of the good taxpaying folks of Yuma County.
Well, that depends. As can be seen (here) the Constitution of the State of Arizona tells us that the legislative authority of the city (the city council) is to submit proposed amendments to the qualified electors (the good folks of Yuma) at a general or special election.
Moreover, the Charter of the City of Yuma, Article XVI, Section 1 (here) also tells us that amendments are to be made in the manner provided in the Constitution of the State of Arizona.
Clearly then, the City Charter can only be amended by a vote of the qualified electors of the City of Yuma. Not so with the current crowd at One City Plaza. Witnesseth:
Article VI, Section 3 (c) of the City Charter (here) unambiguously states that, "the council 'shall' have control of all litigation of the city, and may employ other attorneys to take charge of any litigation or to assist the city attorney therein . . . ."
What that means, even to those with a half-done grasp of the English language, is that the council (and the council alone) shall control all litigation and employ outside attorneys. Certainly the council may establish a policy/procedure whereby the city staff is directed to provide recommendations for outside legal counsel that is best qualified for a particular matter, however, the charter mandate remains with the elected body and cannot be abdicated by simple council action.
Even so, laws, rules and regulations are for the benighted masses and are viewed by our betters as a mere inconvenient annoyance; a bothersome verity in vital need of their superintending attention. So, lacking any semblance of fealty to the City Charter and in direct contravention to the Constitution of the State of Arizona, those paragons of representative public servants amended the City Charter by a simple resolution.
Previously the not permitted amending was incorporated in the resolution adopting the annual budget (here). To vote against the inappropriateness of abdicating the legislative body's charter authority to a staff position was also a vote against the budget. For this reason (and to their everlasting credit) councilmen Gary Wright and Gary Knight were resolute in their efforts to force a vote on the illicit action in a standalone resolution (here). And again, to their everlasting credit theirs were the only two votes against violating the City Charter and the Constitution of the State of Arizona.
It is important to note that inasmuch as the charter states that the city attorney serves at the pleasure of the city administrator (here), the resolution effectively abdicates that council authority to the city administrator.
Side note: Recently on a local radio program the not up to the job administrator (biology major Gregory K. Wilkinson), in fluent oblique bureaucratese, stated that the council did indeed have control of all litigation. Absent from that disingenuous declaration was any reference to the second half to that charter sentence - "and may employ other attorneys to take charge of any litigation . . . . . . "
Folks, please pay attention because this is the crux of the matter. While the council may have the "ultimate" control of all litigation, the authority for the employment of other attorneys to take charge of that litigation, in a conscious and deliberate violation of the charter, has been given over to staff (city attorney/city administrator) in order to achieve a calculated end.
Why is that significant and what is that end you say? Well, we're glad you asked. The council can only act by motion, resolution or ordinance and those actions must take place in a posted public meeting. To follow the charter (relating to litigation) the employing of other attorneys to take charge of that litigation would require the matter to be an agenda item and voted on in the sunshine. By illicitly abdicating that charter authority to the unelected staff, that vote in an open public meeting has been secreted behind the shielded veil of the executive session. As a result literally hundreds of thousands of taxpayer's dollars flow to outside legal counsel absent any open public vote.
A list for 2013, the most recent calendar year, shows that more than a half a million (here) was spent on outside attorneys and a public vote by those that raised their right hands and swore to uphold the Charter of the City of Yuma and the Constitution of the State of Arizona was nonexistent. In another prior year that amount was in excess of $850k: All without open public action as required.
Additional side note: On that same previously referenced radio program "Wilkey" (as he is affectionately known by his fans), in his characteristic fibbing fashion, stated that the city uses several local attorneys as outside legal counsel for litigation. Check out that list again for all of those many locals. Pinocchio would be embarrassed, but not the biology major.
To be fair, in 2012 a public vote did take place to hire an outside attorney to conduct the sham investigation of the mayor. Sham in that it was an investigation that went nowhere and the cost to the good folks of Yuma was in excess of $200k. However, in employing the outside law firm used to attempt to deny the mayor his day in court the powers-that-be reverted to their usual mode of doing business and like the Wizard of Oz retreated behind the anonymity of the veil.
Historical note: While the Yuma Sun could not bring themselves to put aside their unprofessional prejudice and honestly report on that court hearing - we will. The judge agreed 100% percent with former mayor Al Krieger (Councilmen Thomas and Beeson please take note). Moreover, the judge decidedly stated that the council had exceeded its authority by issuing a censure against the mayor while denying him due process (City Council of 2012, that renders your censure meaningless). That denial of due process, so said the judge, violated the mayor's constitutional rights (again, Councilmen Thomas and Beeson take notice).
To catch the flavor of just how self-serving this grabbing of charter authority from the council to the city attorney really is one needs only to look at who is endorsing the resolution (here). That's right, none other than the city attorney himself. Conflict of interest? The document was drafted by his staff, reviewed by him, then he "recommends" (here) that the council illegitimately amend the City Charter and bestow upon him the authority to employ outside legal counsel. These guys crack me up. This is yet another classic example of why the City Charter must be amended (properly, by the good folks of Yuma) to bring Yuma in line with the rest of the state and have the office of city attorney serve under the council. Presently Yuma and Phoenix are the only two cities in the state of Arizona with the current backward arrangement.
So, then, the expedient result of that calculated end is to be able to operate under the radar outside of the public's view.
To date only two councilmen understand the seriousness of the issue. While Thomas and Beeson are hopeless; hopefully at least two more (it takes four votes) will adopt the habit of doing their own due diligence and recognize their duty and responsibility to that document which they so solemnly swore to uphold and bring this most egregious practice to an end.
Wilkinson's unending struggle with the truth (and the telling thereof) has already been well documented on this page. That character flaw alone brings into question his fitness for the post he occupies, however, added together with his utter lack of credentials in public administration and he is categorically ill-equipped and without qualifications for the job. This section will plainly make evident how the current tenant of the city of Yuma's highest appointive office is in every respect incapable of performing the duties with which he has been charged.
While any number of cases in point could be cited from a nearly inexhaustible list of examples, we have selected one of our favorites (Riverfront Development) because it ideally illustrates Wilkinson's lack of knowledge of the subject matter at hand and how at the same time the council is wholly taken in by that inadequacy.
Background: Upon completion of each component in the Riverfront Development the agreement calls for the developer to deed the improvements on the real property of that component to the city of Yuma. As can be seen from the Deed and Bill of Sale for Improvements (here) the date the hotel and conference center was conveyed to the city was November 30th 2009. Now, look closely in the upper right hand corner at the date the document was recorded, August 17, 2011 (the afternoon before the Trustee's sale).
Additional Background: All facets of a real estate transaction are negotiable, however, in the state of Arizona title insurance (the owner's title policy) is virtually always paid by the grantor. An exception to this is when a governmental entity is involved in a "takings" (eminent domain, right of way, easement, etc.) in which case the government body pays the costs of the sale. It is important to note that the takings provisos are not applicable in the Riverfront Development.
So, why would the city not record the Deed and Bill of Sale until the day before the foreclosure? The city's myriad of pretexts notwithstanding, the crux of the matter is that the title company, per its Schedule B requirements, would not issue a title policy without the consent of the Lender (here).
The One City Plaza "Two Step" is a side-splitting spectacle to behold. The jig began with the city's high-priced Phoenix attorney telling us that for the city to pay such a significant title insurance premium may not be prudent in this situation. Of course it would not be prudent, inasmuch as it's the "grantor's" (the developer) responsibility.
Wilkinson, in an attempt to dodge the point at hand, directed attention to the unconnected factoid of the Lender's signature not being required on the Deed and Bill of Sale in order to convey the property improvements to the city (here). Thank you, Mr. Wilkinson, but we already knew that. What is disingenuously and intentionally being steered clear of is the incontestable fact that the city has no title insurance (Translation: the good folks of Yuma) on the hotel and conference center.
Here's where Wilkinson puts that biology degree to use. In what can only be described as his own distorted definition of what constitutes "real property" he tells us that, "If you understand real estate purchases you only buy title insurance when you buy property." He further demonstrates that finely honed understanding of real property and real estate purchases by telling us that the city has owned the property since before statehood and, "We would not buy title insurance on any of the property we already owned." (here) Really? Let's take a look.
While the city may have owned the subject property since statehood it is apparent that the biology major is unaware that the character of that property changed in 2009 with the added improvement of the hotel and conference center. The "official" definition of real property in opposition to Wilkinson's follows:
The earth's surface, the air above, and the ground below, as well as all appurtenances to the land, including buildings, structures, fixtures, fences, and improvements erected upon or affixed to the same.
Lest we forget, when the hotel and conference center became a part of that "since statehood property" it was the subject of multiple liens as well as a foreclosure sale on the leasehold interest in the same. Moreover, the city's wheeler-dealer developer is the defendant in numerous lawsuits including one by his partner in the project, the Quechan Tribe (See Riverfront Hotel Page). If there was ever a parcel of property in need of title insurance it's the hotel and conference center, particularly in light of the fact that the expense of said insurance rightfully is that of the "grantor" (developer).
Perhaps the real estate obtuse Wilkinson should revisit the Owner's Title Policy on his own home, where he most assuredly will find that the coverage and cost is not limited to the "property" but includes the buildings, structures, fixtures, fences, and improvements erected upon or affixed to the same. On the other hand, Yuma's homebuilders will be elated to learn that, according to Wilkinson, henceforth they will only be required to provide title insurance on the lot.
Wilkinson's position is a parallel and paraphrase of "Gold Hat" (Alfonso Bedoya) in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre - "Title insurance? We ain't got no title insurance. We don't need no title insurance! I don't have to show you any stinkin' title insurance!"
Sadly, the compliant council concurred.
A biology degree, indeed!
In those memorable words of Ronald Reagan, "There they go again!" In case you missed it, the council meeting of Wednesday, April 23rd was another instance of disingenuous sleight-of-hand employed by city staff coupled with the ongoing (and entertaining) obtuse utterances by councilmen Cody Beeson and Edward Thomas.
The spectacle de jour on display was a motion to approve an Employment Agreement with the unqualified (biology major) Gregory K. Wilkinson to serve as city administrator of the city of Yuma and, rather than the council's "vocational defenestration" (to borrow a phrase coined by Dr. Charles Krauthammer) of their ill-equipped administrator, they instead chose to continue the foisting of the inept Wilkinson on the good folks of Yuma. Where to begin?
Let's start with the disingenuous sleight-of-hand stuff first. As can be seen from the staff report (here) the council is being led to believe that the agreement is merely an extension of an existing agreement. NOT SO! Wilkinson's "prior" agreement expired at midnight December 31, 2013 with the outgoing mayor and council members. Moreover, the staff report seems to suggest that the current council is required "by law" to approve an employment agreement. AGAIN, NOT SO!
The Yuma Sun (either equally duped by city staff or in solidarity with One City Plaza to dupe the council and good folks of Yuma) reported virtually verbatim that, "State statute requires approval of such an employment agreement by the current city council." Sorry, Yuma Sun, regurgitating the same couched wording and oblique clap-trap as the city does a grave disservice to your readers. Your bias isn't the problem, it's your pretense of non-bias. The single embedded factoid that Arizona law requires the approval of an employment agreement by the current council is correct only if the current council wishes to have an agreement then (inasmuch as the prior agreement was no longer in effect) indeed, they would be required to approve a "new" agreement. However, if they prefer in their collective judgment to opt for no agreement, that is their prerogative. Folks, that's why we're here -
The Yuma Sun did note that the new agreement calls for an annual salary of $136,431, however, they conveniently (inadvertently I'm sure) failed to report that represents a substantial increase over Wilkinson's pay that was fixed by his Employment Agreement adopted in March 2010. Folks, follow this close because it's important. In the April 30, 2014 edition of the Yuma Sun (here) it was reported that Wilkinson is proposing a two-phase pay change to make up for four years without pay increases. Without further clarification it would suggest that we are being told there have been no pay increases for four consecutive years. That's disingenuous on its face. Wilkinson may be able to cherry-pick a year here and there but he would be hard pressed to identify four consecutive years during the "last several difficult years" in which no pay increases were budgeted. Let's take a look.
First, though, Cyber Mayor gives credit where credit is due. Wilkinson's base salary was fixed in his Employment Agreement in March of 2010 by the mayor and council at $126,691 (representing a promotion from the IT department and a pay increase). Then for the 2010-2011 budget he declined a raise: again, giving credit where credit is due. In January 2012 with the approval of a new Employment Agreement by the incoming council his base pay remained fixed. However on July 1st of 2012 (here) he received a pay increase of 2.5% in accordance with the budget for all full-time employees raising his base salary to $129,858; yet again on July 1st 2013 (here) he received another 2.5% that established his base salary at $133,104 and it can be seen that the 2.5% raise was also in accordance with the budget for all full-time employees and, his Employment Agreement adopted on April 23rd, retroactive to January 1, 2014 included another 2.5% (not in the budget) making his current base salary $136,431. As a result we have the following:
Four years without pay increases? If indeed, there were four years without pay increases during the "last several difficult years" it didn't apply to Wilkinson. The record shows that in eighteen months (July 1, 2012 - January 1, 2014) Wilkinson received no less than three pay raises for an overall increase in base salary of 7.5%: proving the ageless axiom that a bureaucrat's degree of success and financial reward is inversely proportional to the degree of his lack of qualifications.
On the light side, Wilkinson is proposing a salary adjustment for 2015-2016 based on performance to those who "walk on water." Want to bet his water-wing shoes are on order.
Still, the most intriguing question that remains unanswered is, "if Arizona law requires approval of such an employment agreement by the current city council," why then was compliance forestalled until the second quarter of the year? What is more, the City Charter (here) is clear in that the council shall fix the compensation of the city administrator. Recognizing that the previous agreement fixing that compensation became ineffective with the exit of the prior council, under what controlling authority/documentation and on what basis was Wilkinson paid during the first quarter of 2014?
We make mention of that seemingly nit-picky technicality to recall to mind the baseless dog and pony show staged by Wilkinson and Thomas bemoaning $800 that the former mayor allegedly "paid himself" without proper documentation. A quick refresher - the mayor doesn't have a key to the city vault nor is he a signatory on the city's checking account so, just how he paid himself remains a mystery. The administrator, on the other hand, is the custodian of the public treasury and is culpable for any funds improperly disbursed. If Thomas waxed apoplectic over $800 how is it that he is completely silent when in the range of $40k has been paid to the administrator since the first of the year all absent any documentation in place "fixing" his compensation? Indeed, the city administrator "paid himself."
Side Note: With the incoming council in 2010, the city administrator's agreement (Mark Watson) was approved in January. And again, with the incoming council in 2012, the city administrator's agreement (Gregory Wilkinson) was approved in January. Perhaps by making the April 23rd agreement retroactive to January 1st it belatedly becomes statutorily in compliance plus, Wilkinson can collect his new pay raise in a lump sum retroactively.
One of the most unforgettable highlights of the evening was provided by that impetuous youth, Cody Beeson. Councilman Gary Wright when asking reasonable and legitimate questions and expressing reasonable and legitimate concerns relative to the administrator's Employment Agreement received the following etched-in-your-mind forever gem from the barely beyond pubescence Beeson - "I understand where you are coming from being a freshman council member. It's very overwhelming with everything coming at you." You heard it right, the still in his twenties, wet behind the ears, whippersnapper Beeson (as if he is an old salt) was addressing someone as freshman.
Not to be bested the council brain trust, Edward Thomas, proceeded to enlighten the freshman as well. In response to Wright's suggestion that the new members of the council be provided with the administrator's previous performance evaluations Edward the erudite schooled Wright in the finer points of the exclusiveness of information obtained in executive session. Thomas advised that if you were not a part of the one's evaluating the city administrator during the last term - it was an executive session and those notes are privy only to those that were a part of the executive session.
In fairness to Thomas, city attorney Steven Moore was likewise as badly informed. In support of Thomas' mistaken position the jurisprudence deficient Moore intoned that, "What happens in executive session stays in executive session." He misled the council further by stating that executive session minutes are only able to be reviewed by the sitting members (of the council) that were in attendance.
First, as can be seen from the Arizona Agency Handbook, Chapter 7 (here) that deals in detail with the Open Meeting Law and executive sessions both Thomas and Moore clearly failed to follow the mandate as required for their elected and appointed positions, specifically that, Individuals elected or appointed to public office shall review this Chapter at least one day before taking office. Additionally, as can be seen (here) Moore's misinformation that executive session minutes are only able to be reviewed by the sitting members accounts for why the good folks of Yuma have to pay multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars for outside legal counsel each year.
Moreover, at this moment there is a performance evaluation in Wilkinson's personnel file that was completed "outside" of an executive session and inasmuch as the administrator is the council's sole employee that evaluation is indeed available for Councilman Wright's review.
So, there you have it. In their usual bungling fashion One City Plaza continues to get it wrong.
One question that remains unanswered with each city administrator's agreement is, by whom was it drafted? Past councils have been advised by the city attorney that if they have questions or wish to have advice regarding the agreement, being that the city attorney serves at the pleasure of the city administrator (only the case in Yuma and Phoenix) - they (the council) should seek outside counsel. Yet, another example of the need for a change to the City Charter to come in line with the rest of the state of Arizona and have the city attorney under the mayor and council.
A final word about the "freshmen." Inasmuch as it is the "seniors" and Wilkinson that have squandered tens of thousands out of the public treasury for an investigation that went nowhere and continue to squander tens of thousands more on needless ever escalating court costs and inasmuch as it was the "seniors" and Wilkinson (according to a recent ruling by a Superior Court Judge) that violated the former mayor's constitutional rights by passing a Resolution of Censure before allowing him "due process" and further that the court has stated that the former mayor is entitled to reimbursement of his legal expenses: With the egocentric "seniors" and Wilkinson in lock-step no matter the cost in public treasure, it would appear that it will be up to the freshmen to right the course of the ship of state for a true United Yuma.
For those that may not be aware the city of Yuma is squandering your hard earned tax dollars on a billboard that just went up along the Interstate.
While One City Plaza may respond that this is to promote a very special and unique event in the history of the city of Yuma – the Centennial celebration – it should be noted that no mention of “Centennial” is to be found. It proclaims:
Inasmuch as the word “united” is the exact theme touted by city administrator Gregory K. Wilkinson on a recent radio program, perhaps the underlying thrust is yet another cheap shot in attempting to promote the fiction that now that former mayor Al Krieger is gone all is well and the anthem at city hall for the current “united” council is Kumbaya.
At this point a special note: In fairness it needs to be clearly understood that the new mayor and councilmembers are operating under a budget that was adopted before they assumed office. Whether or not the funds were already in the budget one would presume the culpable administrator would seek the council’s input and approval before taking the action of putting their mug-shots on public display (see administrator’s unauthorized purchase of the Pacific Avenue and 8th Street property on this page).
Billboards, really! What is it that the city has to advertise? The only statutorily mandated ads are legal notices – period. All other notices and information to the general public (park and recreation programs, trash schedules, water billing information, etc. etc.) can be on the city’s cable television channel or website. Moreover, it begs the question of why (in light of having a cable channel) does the city fritter away tax dollars purchasing airtime for a radio program?
And equally egregious, why is the city shelling out thousands of the citizen’s greenbacks to advertise its restaurant (The Hills) on TV in direct competition with the taxpaying private sector? If they are determined to make it more difficult for private restaurant operators to stay in a business that is already difficult enough, at the least, could they not advertise on the city cable channel rather than tapping into the public treasury to compete against private enterprise – with whom they have no business competing.
The new council has just completed its 1st quarter in office and will be beginning the process to adopt a budget for which they will be responsible. Perhaps it’s time they had a serious heart-to-heart with their imperious chief administrative officer – behind the woodshed.
Oxford Dictionary: co.in.ci.dence - A remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection
The update of 3-27-14, including the Letters to the Editor that never made it to print, was sent to the Yuma Sun with the accompanying message:
“Cyber Mayor of Yuma, doing the job the Yuma Sun just won’t do.”
On 3-31-14 the previously rejected letter that follows appeared on the editorial page: Coincidence or uncomfortable shaming to action?
As the warden in Cool Hand Luke was fond of saying, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Indeed, the city of Yuma and the Yuma Sun continue to fail to communicate (publicize) the contents of official documents that unmask the shameful stain inflicted upon the good folks of Yuma by the One City Plaza Clowns and their spurious investigation of the mayor.
Recall that immediately upon receipt of the thirty one page “larded-up” report concocted by the “independent” David Pennartz, both the city and the Yuma Sun made all thirty one pages conveniently available to the public with the simple click of a mouse. Now, however, Pennartz’s more than $80k political hatchet-job has been rejected in a nine page report by the Arizona Attorney General titled, Reasons for Turndown, and the city’s wasteful squandering of multiple tens of thousands to deny the mayor his day in court has resulted in a Superior Court Judge issuing a six page Findings and Orders that refutes every position advanced by that bastion of Clowns on the third floor and, to date, all that has been chronicled are eight out of context “cherry-picked” words from the AG’s report, “. . . . . there is not a reasonable likelihood of conviction.” In the absence of any information to the contrary the phrase seems to suggest that the AG declined because the mayor is too wily to be convicted.
The Yuma Sun is so keen on the phrase that they have used it no less than three times in their professional and unbiased reporting, all the while avoiding the truth contained in the official documents because the truth is clearly toxic to their ingratiating stance with the city’s position. Councilman Edward Thomas continues to parrot the lie because . . . well, because, Edward is Edward.
So, what is contained in the documents that the city and Yuma Sun would rather you are not made aware of? In Reasons for Turndown (here) the AG makes it plain that the reason that “there is not a reasonable likelihood of conviction” has nothing to do with the mayor’s wiliness but rather the fact that the allegations do not rise to the level required by the statutes. Moreover, the AG makes it clear that the city’s cracker-jack investigator is not a criminal prosecutor nor is he bound by the same threshold of determination as is the AG (page 1).
Another consideration for the declination was that the AG found it to be “disconcerting” that the city attorney declared a conflict and could not provide guidance to the council on such a “contentious” issue (page 4).
However, the coup de gras came with the AG’s discovery of what amounts to the withholding of evidence on the part of the city by failing to provide a letter relating to the allegation of conflict of interest. The AG determined that based on the letter, “he (the mayor) had no conflict to declare as a matter of law” (page 6).
Side Note: When the city didn’t receive the traction hoped for from the AG the city administrator and Thomas launched into a dog and pony show (worthy of an Oscar) over alleged irregularities in the mayor’s expense reimbursements.
As damning as the Ag’s report is to the city hall Clowns’ specious mayoral investigation, the Superior Court’s Findings and Orders (here) should have the new mayor and councilmembers demanding that the frittering away of the public’s resources be brought to a screeching halt. After all, (to this point) they have no vested interest in what is increasingly being shown to amount to nothing more than a colossal political hatchet-job.
As to the matter of the mayor seeking reimbursement for his legal expenses the Court found that Resolution 2279 is enforceable and binding on the city (page 1). Additionally, the Court found that the mayor’s attorney’s fees fall within the scope of the Resolution (page 2). Translation: Without delay the city needs to abandon this high-priced embarrassment to the community, shelve all of the vindictive intransigent egos, and immediately settle this disgraceful outrage of their own doing.
Throughout this entire fiasco I have maintained that the city had placed the cart before the horse. Now, as can be seen, the Court finds that the mayor was entitled to due process before the City Council can issue a censure resolution (page 4).
And, speaking of due process, the Court referenced that both the United States and Arizona Constitutions require due process. And then, are you ready for this? Drummmmm roll please: The Court found that, “the City Council failed to comply with these constitutional rights” (page 5). And the final stake through the heart of this whole sham circus of Clowns, “The City Council exceeded its jurisdiction by censoring the mayor without providing him due process” (page 5).
Just as in the Kenny Rogers song, every competent authority has inferred to the city that they are “on a train bound for nowhere” yet, rather than fold up their tent they continue to drain the public treasury to cover their bureaucratic backsides at the taxpayer’s expense. To date that expense is rapidly approaching $200k (including Pennartz) and the resident Pinocchio, Gregory Wilkinson, has the undiluted gall to suggest that my public record requests are a financial burden on the city. This very issue is a classic example of why Wilkinson attempts to restrict access to records, because when public records are freely and readily obtainable – The Truth Is Put To The Lie.
It begs the question of why do they fight so hard to prevent the mayor from having his day in court? The answer is to be found in the genesis of this whole sordid debacle. You see certain individuals in opposition to the mayor, in furtive meetings, hatched their conspiratorial skullduggery. The meetings that were held were the equivalent of the proverbial “Star Chamber.” For the benefit of Councilman Thomas and others in the back of the class, a Star Chamber is made up of a handful of self-appointed elites that are of the opinion that theirs is the only opinion and therefore they are entitled to summarily administer justice.
The plan incorporated loading up any and every allegation that could be invented (including sitting in an employee’s chair and making her cry) and then pay $80k to an “impartial” and equally “independent” investigator to frame a report that made it all seem plausible. In short, pile it on.
Unfortunately for the perpetrators of vigilante justice the mayor, being a “hard headed German,” didn’t react as planned. What was that anticipated planned reaction to be? One of the chamber’s elites divulged, “We thought he would resign.” There you have it folks. A conscious, calculated conspiracy designed and orchestrated to apply pressure sufficient to exact the mayor’s resignation.
Not to miss out on the action the Yuma Sun joined the fray and in one of their deep and thought provoking editorials called for the mayor to resign. With that vested interest it accounts for their ignoring official favorable accounts of the mayor and their repetitious running of those eight “cherry-picked” words.
Whether or not the new mayor and new councilmembers rids the good folks of Yuma of this blight on the community and whether or not the Yuma Sun ever cultivates the journalistic integrity to print the truth remains to be seen: in the meantime, however, in light of the in progress unraveling of the Star Chamber conspiracy, those elites and the city should be afraid, very afraid – for indeed, the chickens are coming home to roost.
From the day of his appointment to the position of city administrator Wilkinson’s qualifications for the job have been suspect at best. His resume’s complete absence of any professional credentials whatsoever in municipal management, coupled with his dearth of veracity and accompanying shameful Pinocchios (with apologies to Pinocchio), undeniably make him the most inferior city administrator in the history of Yuma, Arizona – ever (and I have known them all).
His lack of bonafides is self-evident: As to whether his aversion to truthfulness is congenital or pathological I’m not qualified to say, however, it is manifestly evident that his words fall far south of the truth with alarming regularity. Consider the following, which are representative but most certainly not exhaustive:
• The Hiring of the Gust Rosenfeld Law Firm, Part One: This has already been covered on this page in part but we will do a brief recap and then include additional Pinocchios that unquestionably puts Wilkinson over the top as the Whopper-Teller-In-Chief.
Recall that the selection of Gust Rosenfeld was based on the firm purportedly having a limited involvement with the city of Yuma. While they may have had limited involvement with the city, what the disingenuous Wilkinson failed to disclose is the fact that over the years he (as the president of the Yuma Elementary School District #1) had extensive involvement with them on a number of issues including representing him as a named defendant in Yuma County Superior Court. The sin of omission is as serious as the sin of commission and Wilkinson has elevated it to an art form.
Folks, follow this closely because it’s important. Again, recall that at the council meeting of January 18, 2012 the motion made by Councilman Stuart to investigate the mayor and to direct the administrator to provide the name of a law firm to assist the clowns - failed. The improperly called special meeting of January 25, 2012 was solely to reconsider the failed motion of the 18th and if passed to then place the reconsidered motion on the regular council meeting agenda of February 1, 2012. That means the motion to be acted upon at the meeting of the 1st could only be the exact same motion that failed on the 18th, nothing more, nothing less. The full text of that motion reads:
To invoke the powers of the City of Yuma Charter to investigate the allegations of mayoral misconduct and any other relevant allegations. Further, that the City Administrator be directed to provide the City Council with the name of a law firm to provide independent advice and assistance to the City Council for the investigation.
The plot begins to thicken. The motion was altered at literally the proverbial eleventh hour (in clear violation of the state open meeting law) and appeared on the agenda as follows:
YUMA CITY CHARTER, ARTICLE VII, SECTION 10: CITY COUNCIL POWER TO INVESTIGATE AND RELATED ITEMS
A. This item is to discuss and possibly take action on City Charter, Article VII, Section 10: City Council Power to Investigate.
B. Retain the Law Firm of Gust Rosenfeld, P.L.C., to assist the City Council in the power to investigate pursuant to City Charter Article VII, Section10.
At the council worksesson of January 31st Mayor Krieger queried Wilkinson as to how the hiring of Gust Rosenfeld became a part of the agenda and was told that, “staff has not solicited any bids or proposals.” (here) Folks, it begs the question; if staff had not solicited any bids or proposals and if council had not taken any action in an open public meeting, how was Gust Rosenfeld selected in the face of a failed motion that had been brought up for reconsideration but was yet to receive a final vote?
The following day at the council meeting of February 1st Wilkinson delivered the whopper of all whoppers. Inasmuch as Gust Rosenfeld was not a part of the original motion the mayor again inquired of Wilkinson as to how the firm became a part of the agenda and stated that it was in direct conflict with the failed motion. Are you ready for Mr. Pinocchio’s response? Drummmmmmm roll please! Wilkinson bald- facedly stated (here) that, “No action has been taken regarding outside legal counsel.”
Folks, the position of city administrator is to be occupied by someone that possesses the qualities of integrity, honesty and truthfulness, and whose character is above reproach: clearly, the city of Yuma has been seriously shortchanged. To wit: at the very moment the resident Pinocchio made the above referenced statement an associate of Gust Rosenfeld, Mr. David Pennartz, was sitting in the council chambers with his billing-clock running. Moreover, Pennartz was present at the special council meeting of January 25th again, with his billing-clock running at full-tilt, and yet, Wilkinson unhesitatingly asserts that, “No action has been taken regarding outside legal counsel.”
The billing records confirm that Wilkinson had retained Gust Rosenfeld and they had been “on the job” for a week before the council voted to investigate or hire a law firm. How do we know that Wilkinson did the hiring? Because he stated (here) that he was the only one that had contact, “No other city personnel spoke to Gust Rosenfeld.” He also stated (here) that, “He had talked to the law firm to confirm they could provide the expertise needed, should the matter move forward.” Should the matter move forward! Are you beginning to sense a pattern here? Whether or not the council voted to move forward, the billing records undeniably confirm that Wilkinson had already hired the firm a week before. Perhaps the incoming mayor and council will give sober thought to the fact that you cannot create an experienced qualified city manager ex nihilo and will bring aboard a trained professional that has an appreciation for, and an understanding of, the need for truth in public office.
• The Hiring of the Gust Rosenfeld Law Firm, Part Two: It has been said of Bill Clinton that, “He is a very good liar.” Well, Gregory K. Wilkinson is no Bill Clinton as evidenced by his impaling himself on the horns of a dilemma virtually at every turn. Consider: We were told Gust Rosenfeld would be independent in the mayoral investigation because, Wilkinson insisted (here), “. . . . the city has had no dealings with the firm other than limited bonding services.” Really? Now fast forward to the conclusion of the investigation and time to pay the bill. Upon receipt of a tab for $75k Wilkinson now tells us (here) that, “Just how much of that total was for the mayor’s investigation was unclear as some of the charges are for other legal services.” Whoa! Do you sense the horns of a dilemma here? In attempting to soften the sticker shock to John Q. Public (the poor saps paying for this circus), is Wilkinson now telling us that while the “independent” Gust Rosenfeld was investigating the mayor they were concurrently providing legal services for other matters? What happened to the previous “testimonial” that, the city has had no dealings with the firm other than limited bonding services? Further, where is that self-proclaimed guardian of the public’s interest, the fourth estate, as Wilkinson commits contradiction after contradiction? Translation: untruth after untruth.
This scribe submitted a public record request asking for the nature of the legal services provided for other matters and was given the usual bovine ordure that there are no documents to fill this request. Moreover, Wilkinson’s assertion that the alleged legal services for other matters were co-mingled (here) in the mayor’s billing, thus making it “hard to break out the cost because the firm is providing ongoing services” is further bovine ordure. As can be seen (here) the front page of each statement clearly shows that the charges are specifically for “Mayor Alan L. Krieger – Conflict of Interest.”
Note: A public record request has been made for any billing statements that would support Wilkinson’s claim and as of this writing none have been provided. If such are brought forward any required corrections will be so noted.
• 1% Surcharge Checks: Part of the incentive package for the city’s California developer for the Riverfront is a 1% surcharge on all transactions subject to any transaction privilege taxes within the Project. The 1% surcharge is in addition to existing sales taxes and the 2% hospitality tax on all business activity. During the first 10 years 100% of the surcharge collected goes to the developer and beginning with the 11th year the city and the developer each receive 50%.
The agreement states, “The purpose of the Developer’s Surcharge Share is to support the construction, operational costs and expenses, maintenance, refurbishment, reconstruction and future expansion of the Conference Center.” On August 18, 2011, the day of the trustee sale on the Riverfront hotel and conference center, while the developer was being foreclosed on at the courthouse steps the city was busy cutting him a 1% surcharge payment check. This lowly scribe inquired of One City Plaza as to whether anyone really believed that the surcharge payment found its way to the Conference Center for the purposes enumerated above, inasmuch as their developer had defaulted on his loan and was now out of the picture. The answer, not surprisingly, was that there is no mechanism in place to monitor how the funds are spent. Moreover, not surprisingly, there is no mechanism in place to insure that the $4.2 million in Guaranteed Installment Payments are applied “to defray the cost of the Project” as called for in the agreement. To the contrary, as stated on the Riverfront Hotel page of this website there is every indication that the multiple millions went directly to the developer.
While the timing of the surcharge payments to their defunct developer was questionable, the anomaly in how the city posted those payments in its financial records (here) was equally questionable. As can be seen it appears that even though payments were recorded as being made on several different dates, it clearly shows that those payments were made with the same check. Huh? The answer was that the city had recently changed to a new accounting program and because some of the payments were made under the old system and others under the new, an “ObamaCare glitch” occurred and unfortunately the same check number for the first payment carried through to the check for the final payment.
Enter Gregory K. Wilkinson. Folks, the twists and turns by the Whopper-In-Chief on this one virtually require a map and GPS in order to keep up; however, we will do our best to lay out what can only be Pinocchio’s intentional disingenuous misleading of the council, topped off by yet another unabashed and unashamed untruth, so please bear with us.
Assurances were made that it would be a simple task to provide copies of all the check numbers with the amount paid by each check. As the “simple task” dawdled on for three months a separate public record request (here) was made for the check number shown on the printed report and was received (here). It’s important to note that the amount of the receipt is $.25 for “one” copy because in an email (here) to the council Mr. Disingenuous feigns puzzlement as to why the “checks” were paid for and only one check was taken. To quote the pretending Mr. Perplexed, “I don’t know what his reasoning is for saying he didn’t get them.” Really? We shall understand the reasoning momentarily.
Have your map and GPS at the ready because the Great Falsifier kicks into high gear on this one. The check that was provided by the separate public record request (the one Wilkinson acknowledges being picked-up) and the checks that were provided to the council are different copies. Note that the council is instructed that the checks are “not public documents” because the routing numbers are not yet redacted. We have placed the checks together (here) for convenience of comparison.
First, note that they are the same check (No. 121385). The lower smaller check is the one provided by the separate request and as can be seen the routing number is redacted, however, the checks sent to the council has the routing number intact and the redacting of the account number appears more hurried and scrawly: clearly, different copies of the same check.
At the council meeting of August 21, 2013, under call to the public, this lowly scribe informed the council of the receipt of the one check, but advised that the others had not been provided. Follow this closely folks it’s important because, yet again, Wilkinson makes Pinocchio look like a pillar of veracity. He brazenly states (here) that, “All of the checks are available in the Clerk’s Office; Clark can pick them up at his convenience.” Indeed, Wilkinson is no Bill Clinton: clearly, his verbal legerdemain falls far short of his mentor’s slickness. Witnesseth: The next day, August 22nd in an email (here), the council was advised that, “This morning I personally brought down to the Clerk’s office copies of the checks Mr. Clark was asking for at the council meeting again.” So, there you have it. The reason only one check was taken is because only one check was there. Once again Yuma’s low-grade city administrator is in the embarrassingly awkward position of impaling himself on the horns of a dilemma of his own making.
Side Note: After informing the council that the checks were not public documents because the routing numbers had not yet been redacted, as can be seen (here) the checks that were at long last provided (you guessed it) did not have the routing numbers redacted.
Additional Side Note: It only took five months for One City Plaza to provide the documents. As they say, “Good enough for government work.”
This gives rise to serious questions. How is it that the council allowed this a free pass? They were told on the 21st that the checks “were there.” Then they were told on the 22nd that the checks were not there until that day. His blatant contradiction and fictional fabrication was in full view yet, the council remained stoical. The straightforward answer is that the free pass came from a council that was a co-collaborator in the bogus mayoral investigation circus as well as the ongoing Riverfront development whitewash.
So, there you have it folks, just a modicum of Wilkinson’s foibles. We could get into other pretenses but you get the idea. Before the incoming mayor and council can get to the business at hand, they must first have in hand a city administrator that is experienced, qualified, professional and above all else, truthful. We shall see if the recent election indeed wrought change or more of the status quo. In short, to be effective Operation Clean Sweep cannot be limited to the elected officials only.
Postscript: Some may suggest that perhaps this is rather harsh treatment of Mr. Wilkinson. Indeed, the truth at times can seem harsh – but truth is truth. Unbeknown to most folks is a response by Wilkinson to a letter to the editor that appeared in the local paper wherein attention was directed (here) to his, “. . . . presumptuous grabbing of unauthorized authority, traveling to Phoenix and selecting a law firm . . . .” (Gust Rosenfeld). Silly us! He didn’t need to travel to Phoenix that week to select a law firm; he had already hired them the week prior and he did so by the presumptuous grabbing of unauthorized authority.
Wilkinson’s response (here), in his typical unprofessional bravura, labeled this lowly scribe to be a liar. So, to borrow those immortal words of John J. Rambo, “He drew first blood” and now Wilkinson’s chickens are coming home to roost.
For those of you that are too busy trying to make a living to keep up with the inane circus at One City Plaza what follows is a chronological account from the beginning of the whole sorry, sordid story that lurches from outlandish premise to completely unconnected conclusion.
At the regular City Council meeting of January 4, 2012, following Mayor Alan Krieger's State of the City address, under the call to the public the frumpy former mayor, Marilyn Cribley Young, read a prepared vitriolic statement awash in subjective innuendo. Councilman Jerry Stuart was so eager to please Madam Marilyn that he could not contain himself and wait until the appropriate point in the meeting to make a motion to put the question of investigating the mayor on a future agenda. He immediately moved (seconded by Johnson) to place the mayor's wholly political colonoscopy on the regular council meeting of January 18, 2012. (Corrective note to accompanying video: In the Part One Video it is stated that Stuart could not wait until the "appropriate point" in the meeting to make his motion. While Stuart was indeed eager to please Madam Marilyn, under current policy his motion could be made (as it was) at the end of the Call to the Public.) If only One City Plaza shared the same abiding concern for truthfulness and accountability as this website, this exercise would be unnecessary.
At the council meeting of January 18th Councilman Stuart's motion to investigate "failed." Rather than fold-up their circus tent and act in the best interest of the community, the Clowns went into a frenzy and the asinine antics that followed would make San Luis look like a model city and Pinocchio a pillar of veracity. From this point forward the conspiratorial indicters, in their shameless vehemence, violated the state open meeting law, the City Charter and the City Code (where have we heard that before?), oh, yeah, the very same violations they charged against the mayor.
On January 24th a Special Meeting was called (in noncompliance with the City Code) to be held on January 25th for the purpose of reconsidering the failed motion of the 18th. For you Robert's Rules of Order aficionados you know that the time for reconsideration had passed and that the Clowns were in noncompliance of their own adopted rules of procedure.
The City Code (here) is clear in that Special Meetings can only be "called" by the mayor or a majority of the council. The "caller" then, referenced in paragraph (A) (3), must be the mayor or a member of the council. As can be seen from the bogus Affidavit (here) required by the code, it was not a member of the council that made the calls. In fairness, however, the argument would be that elected officials are much too busy for such menial secretarial tasks and it is accepted policy by all that the duty is to be delegated to the mayor and council administrative assistant. Again, in fairness, the city administrator has said that the duty was assigned elsewhere because the mayor precluded the council's assistant from making the calls. Good for the mayor! Under Robert's Rules of Order to reconsider an item of business the request must come from the prevailing side: the administrator doggedly refused to identify who from the prevailing side asked for the reconsideration. It was not until the Special Meeting and after repeated queries that the administrator finally grudgingly mumbled that it was Councilman Edward Thomas. There now, why was that so difficult? One would think that the Clowns would want to be in as meticulous compliance as they insist of the mayor.
Side Note: The administrator subsequently removed the mayor and council administrative assistant (more about that later).
The most conspicuously offensive act of noncompliance with the City Code is the manner of filing the Affidavit of the Special Meeting being called. As can be seen the bogus Affidavit (here) states that the meeting was noticed "in accordance with Yuma City Code §30-02 A(3)." Not so! Paragraph (A) (3) is clear in that the "caller" (the affiant) must file an affidavit with the city clerk (the taker of the affidavit), not the "city clerk" must file an affidavit with the city clerk. Simply stated, there is no provision in the City Code for the city clerk to fill both the role of the "file-or" and the "file-e." The question has to be asked, how does all of this noncompliance on the part of the Clowns slip past "Point of Order - I'm a Former Investigator with the Border Patrol - I'm not Just a Councilman, I'm the Deputy Mayor" Johnson?
So, all of the nonconcompliance notwithstanding, the Special Meeting was held on January 25, 2012. Again, the purpose was to reconsider Stuart's failed motion of January 18th that only requested the name of a law firm. We know that David Pennartz of Gust Rosenfeld was present at the meeting of February 1st and, it has been reported by "various attorneys" in the community (to borrow a line from the city administrator), that Pennartz was also present at the meeting of the 25th. We also know from Gust Rosenfeld billing statements that Pennartz was "on the job" for at least a week before the council voted to hire his firm. How can that be? The motion of the 18th had failed. Moreover, even if the motion had passed at that point it only called for the name of a firm, not the hiring of a firm. So, how did Gust Rosenfeld arrive on the scene?
First, some background information is in order. At the council work session of January 31st Wilkinson stated that, "We're trying to find a respected law firm in the state where the city has had very limited business with them, so it would be an independent law firm. With this particular firm we have only done some bonding with them and that's it. So, we haven't had really any dealings with them on any other matters." What Wilkinson failed to disclose is that while the city of Yuma may not have had any dealings with them on any other matters, Wilkinson, as president of the governing board of Yuma Elementary School District #1, had extensive dealings with them. That work included a broad range over a period of years from bonding services to reviewing teacher and employee contracts and representing the district in court. They even represented Wilkinson as a named defendant in Yuma County Superior Court. Yet, Wilkinson (with a straight face) insisted that, "we haven't had really any dealings with them on any other matters."
When confronted with his disingenuous failure to disclose his knowledge of and prior relationship with the firm, he resorted to the duplicitous dodge of telling us that he had solicited the names of firms from various attorneys and came up with two firms. We were then told that "three local attorneys" unanimously suggested Gust Rosenfeld (Yuma Sun, March 26, 2012). When asked to respond to a public record request and provide the names of the "various attorneys" and the "three local attorneys" in particular the answer was, "There are no documents to fill this request."
Perhaps some of the "local attorneys" reside on the 3rd floor of One City Plaza. What has never been brought to light is the fact that David Pennartz, the crackerjack investigator with Gust Rosenfeld, is a former city attorney (former city attorney for Scottsdale and former deputy city attorney Glendale). As fellow members of the Arizona City Attorneys Association (ACAA) how well do the city's legal-beagles know Pennartz? Could it be that further disclosure is in order? It is established fact that Gust Rosenfeld was no stranger to Wilkinson and certain members of city staff; Wilkinson hired the firm (before the council ever voted to investigate); and a good number of the accusations against the mayor were made by the "neutral" Wilkinson - how then, could any reasonable thinking person consider this to be a fair and impartial investigation?
Stuart's motion of the 18th stated, "I move to invoke the powers of the City of Yuma Charter to investigate the allegations of mayoral misconduct and any other relevant allegations. I further move to direct the city administrator to provide city council with a name of a law firm to provide independent advice and assistance to the city council for that investigation." Clearly, the motion was to only provide the name of a law firm. At the Special Meeting of the 25th the motion was to "reconsider the previous vote on this item in order to place it on the Regular City Council Meeting agenda of February 1, 2012, for further consideration." Still, no law firm by name and no council approval.
Before moving on to the meeting of the 1st where bald-faced irrefutable violations of the open meeting law took place, we should revisit Point-of-Order Johnson's rancorous rant at the meeting of the 18th. Johnson calling for a point of order (as he is prone to do) stated that, "the City Charter, city ordinances and state law specifically prohibit city council members from participating in a "VOTE" or discussion of matters in which they have a personal interest. Certainly, Mayor Krieger has a personal interest in this item." Apparently Johnson was secure in supposing that he had lined-up sufficient votes against the mayor. Follow this closely folks: at this point rather than raging against the mayor Johnson should be thanking him, he should be expressing his everlasting gratitude because it takes a minimum of four votes (a simple majority) for a motion to pass. The motion failed on a 3-4 vote with council members McClendon, Brooks, Thomas and Mayor Kreiger voting nay. Disqualifying Mayor Kreiger's vote (as per I'm-the-Final-Authority Johnson) the count would be 3-3 with the motion still failing because of a tie vote but, in which case there would be "NO" prevailing side to move for a reconsideration. Game over! No investigation, no open festering wounds in the community and no pitting councilman against councilman and citizen against citizen for no other purpose than inflating Johnson and Wilkinson's intractable egos. Not really. The Clowns lost sight of what is best for the community long ago and their true aim is self-evident - their own petty-minded self-interest.
Before continuing on to the infamous meeting of February 1st some clarification is in order. Since posting Part One several folks have asked why I am defending the mayor. Or as "Point-Of-Order" Johnson would say, "Why am I a sycophant of the mayor?" I'm not. All one has to do is visit the Gila Mountain Annexation page on this site and it can be readily seen that, on that issue, I have Johnson and the mayor shoulder to shoulder (literally) in my opposition. Moreover, I disagree with the mayor on the city of Yuma taking over animal control from the Humane Society of Yuma and the city of Yuma taking over ambulance service from Rural Metro. In this issue, however, the mayor is unquestionably on the receiving end of what we called in my youth - the proverbial "dog-pile." My position throughout this entire infantile farce is to shine a light on the double standard (or as my 101 year old Grand Dad would say, the two-facedness) employed by the Clown accusers.
In Part One it can clearly be seen that the Clowns did not comply with the City Code nor Robert's Rules of Order in calling the Special Meeting of January 25th. In Part Two we will see that they violated both the state open meeting law and the City Charter. But first some of the "mechanics" of how meetings are to be posted in order to be in compliance with the state open meeting law.
An item cannot be discussed and certainly not acted upon unless it has been noticed to the public at least 24 hours in advance. Generally the agenda for a regularly scheduled council meeting can be found on the city's website on the Friday preceding the meeting to be held on the 1st or 3rd Wednesday of the month (well within the 24 hours required). Additionally, there is a separate agenda that is posted for the worksession that is ordinarily held the day previous to the council meeting and that agenda also includes a provision to discuss the regualr council meeting items. From time to time there are additions to be added to an agenda after it has already been posted and those additions must also be noticed to the public at least 24 hours in advance. Not so with the Clowns, witnesseth:
On Friday, January 27th the Agenda for the meeting of February 1st was posted to the city's website (here) and the item dealing with the possible investigatioin of the mayor (Item VIII) was Councilman Stuart's motion that failed on January 18th and was reconsidered on January 25th. Question: As can be seen the city clerk "certified" that the agenda had been posted on January 27, 2013, inasmuch as that date is yet in the future, was the meeting properly posted? Just asking. Recall that the motion asked that the council invoke their power under the City Charter to investigate and to direct the city administrator to provide the council with the "name" of a law firm. On Monday, January 30th the agenda remained the same, however, at 11:57 A.M. on Tuesday, January 31st the silly season shifted into high gear. That is when the city clerk's office posted an "addition" to the regular council meeting of February 1st and, as can be seen (here) that addition to was retain the law firm of Gust Rosenfeld.
Side Note: By posting the additional item on the council meeting agenda at 11:57 A.M. on Tuesday, January 31st and including that item for discussion at the worksession means that it had been posted less than five hours in advance, far short of the 24 hours required by the state open meeting law. But, hey, the Clowns were in a hurry.
Folks, the City Charter states that the council can only act by ordinance, resolution or motion and those acts must be in an open public meeting properly noticed 24 hours in advance as per the state open meeting law. So, with no "public action" by the council how did the retaining of Gust Rosenfeld come to be an agenda item? That's the question asked by Mayor Krieger at the worksession of January 31st as can be seen from the minutes of that meeting (here). Mayor Krieger inquired further of the city administrator as to why he would, "move to this level without direction from the city council?" and stated that there was now a question of a quorum violation. Wilkinson, obviously dancing the Teaberry Shuffle, responded that, "No quorum violation occured." The following day at the meeting of February 1st Mayor Krieger again posed the question of under what authority (in light of Stuart's failed motion) had the retaining of Gust Rosenfeld been placed on the agenda? At this point Wilkinson's Pinocchios swelled to a full-throated reverberating crescendo of prevarication when he speciously stated that, "No action has been taken regarding outside legal counsel." (here)
Well, yes and no. To say that "no action" had been taken by "the council" regarding outside legal counsel would be a correct statement. However, as can be seen by the billing statements from Gust Rosenfeld (here), Wilkinson's assertion that, "No action has been taken . . ." is woefully veracity challenged. Clearly, Gust Rosenfeld had been hired and on the job for a week before the council voted to investigate: Making Wilkinson's unintended revelation the proverbial "smoking gun." The billing shows that David Pennartz attended the Special Meeting of the 25th before the council even voted to reconsider Stuart's failed motion of the 18th and it shows Pennartz was present at the meeting of February 1st before the council voted to investigate. Almost six thousand dollars in legal fees and there had been no (public) action by council.
Side Note: The lines in black were redacted by the city before releasing the "PUBLIC" documents - and we are repeatedly reminded (by the city) that One City Plaza is a citadel of truth and transparency.
How could that happen you say? I'm glad you asked. It can only be one of the three following scenarios:
(1) A rogue city administrator acting alone (violation of the City Charter). (2) a single councilman or less than a quorum of the council directing the administrator to act (violation of the City Charter and state open meeting law). (3) a quorum of the council directing the administrator to act outside of a properly posted public meeting (violation of the state open meeting law and City Charter).
So, the truth has been put to the lie, vis-a-vis Wilkinson's mendacious assertion claiming that, "No action has been taken regarding outside legal counsel." While it can now be seen that it is Wilkinson that is acutely undersupplied in the truth department, he has endeavored mightily to deflect that deficiency to those whom he opposes. In an unreservedly classless and unprofessional act Wilkinson rebuffed the mayor (one of his bosses) by saying that parts of the mayor's State of the City Address was ". . .absolutely, 100 percent false." (Yuma Sun January 6, 2012) What so inflamed Wilkinson was the mayor's reference to keeping the city's finances in order during these tough economic times. Perhaps Wilkinson should rebuke Point-of-Order Johnson as well. During his last campaign for office Johnson said that " . . . We are facing a financial crisis in this city and we have to cut spending and control the budget." (Yuma Sun August 14, 2009) But then, Johnson isn't a target, he's an abetter. Hypocrisy, thy dwelling place is One City Plaza. Clearly Wilkinson should have remained as an assistant director in the IT department since he is unequivocally not ready for prime time.
Sadly, however, no steps will be taken by council to admonish their wayward administrator because you see, truth is something the Clowns insist upon of others. When the charge is directed towards themselves a mountain becomes a mere molehill: Yet, a molehill can abruptly take on mountainous proportions when the gang at One City Plaza resolves to trash the character of others. That truth notwithstanding, the Clowns continue to harangue that the mayor violated the state open meeting law and City Charter. You have to give them credit - they've got chutzpah.
Here's a thought: Inasmuch as there was no official action by the elected body representing the good folks of Yuma to approve any investigative charges by Gust Rosenfeld prior to February 1st, let the Clowns pick up the tab for the six grand.
We have now seen in Parts One and Two that in order to have the question of investigating the mayor placed on the agenda of the regular council meeting of February 1st the Clowns violated Robert’s Rules of Order, the City Code, the City Charter and the state open meeting law. Yet, the culpable Clowns only consider it to be an offense when it is being charged against others. Now for those that have emailed this website and stated that I was being intentionally disingenuous by failing to address the most serious of all the allegations - that of conflict of interest – not to worry, I have purposely reserved that issue for the last. Recall that I have stated from the beginning that I am not defending the mayor, but rather it is my intention to shine a light on the duplicitous double standards plied by the Clowns. In Part Three we will see that engaging in conflicts of interest is not a foreign act among the mayor’s faultfinders. Indeed, another “smoking gun.”
But first, let’s finish with the regular council meeting of February 1st. After all of the injudicious gyrations to resurrect Stuart’s failed motion of January 18th the Clowns finally had their shot at voting to investigate the mayor and to hire a law firm to validate their foreordained suppositions.
So, now the investigation is underway and it is relatively quiet until the investigation is completed and the report is ready to be presented to the council at a special called meeting held on Monday, May 14th. As with the Special Meeting of January 25th the Clowns again repeat their violations of the City Code. Witnesseth: As can be seen by the Affidavit (here) the city clerk once more filled the role of both the affiant and the taker of the affidavit (file-or and file-e). Moreover, when a public record request was submitted to the clerk’s office inquiring as to whom on the council called for the Special Meeting of May 14th it was the standard carte du jour expected from One City Plaza – there are no further records to fill this request. Folks, the City Code (here) is clear in that special meetings can only be called by the mayor or a majority of the council, yet the city clerk attesting in a sworn affidavit that the Special Meeting was noticed “in accordance” with Yuma City Code cannot/will not disclose the caller of the meeting. Where’s “truth and transparency” Thomas when you need him?
To give the flavor of the objectivity of the “independent” Pennartz – a number of gems were offered throughout the report during his presentation such as - “it is special counsel’s opinion” – “The special counsel finds” – “appear to corroborate” – “appeared to be professional and to be telling things as they were” – “providing the most credible version of the events” – “it is reasonably certain” - “In the legal judgment of special counsel” – “special legal counsel believes” and on and on ad nauseam. In the end, in each instance, while Pennartz strained to the fullest to create the impression of credibility for his suppositions his failure to produce bonafided evidence consigns his opinions to the realm of unsubstantiated guesswork. Or in layman terms - he said she said.
The guesswork and the he said she said was present in the individual accusations of conflict of interest as well. Recall that in Part Two it was stated that a molehill can take on mountainous proportions when the gang at One City Plaza resolves to trash the character of others. That is the tactic employed by Pennartz in the alleged warehouse conflict of interest issue. Translation: “Create” a means to obtain the desired end.
Quick side note: For $75K one would think that the good folks of Yuma could expect something that at the least resembles a quality product. Throughout this entire section Pennartz refers to former city administrator Mark Watson as Mark Watkins. But, hey, he’s already got his check.
For those that may not have followed the city council campaigns in 2009, a good deal of dissatisfaction had been voiced concerning upper management at One City Plaza. At that time, then candidate Al Krieger agreed and pledged to make the sought after changes if elected. So, after becoming “Mayor” Krieger, in less than 90 days from taking office the occupants of the two highest positions in the city organization vacated their posts. Unfortunately for the mayor, however, if fulfilling your campaign promises involves upsetting the status quo you can take it to the bank that as sure as the sun rises in the east retribution will follow.
So, Pennartz’s “star witness” in the warehouse issue was none other than the former city administrator of whom Pennartz stated, “Special legal counsel accepts Mr. Watkins interview statements as providing the most credible version of the events.”
Note: It’s Watson not Watkins.
Well then, what were the events and what were Mr. Watson’s statements? The mayor and administrator were “wind-shielding” possible properties for city enclosed storage. In driving by the mayor’s warehouses the administrator stated that he (the mayor) could not be involved in the sale of the warehouses to the city because he had a conflict (page 22 of the report). That would be true if the city had expressed any interest whatsoever. Then indeed, at that point the mayor would have been in a declarable conflict of interest position. According to a published guideline from the Office of the Attorney General the mayor would then be required to declare a conflict of interest “prior” to the matter being addressed by the city council. Pennartz’s assertion, however, that it is an immediate conflict of interest for the mayor (or any other elected official) to so much as make it known that they have a property that may meet a city need is purposely misleading. There was no interest on the part of the city and moreover, to his credit, the former administrator’s statement (that Pennartz tells us provided the most credible version of the events, page 22 of the report) was that the mayor did not pressure him “to make a deal.” End of discussion. So, given the attorney general’s guidelines and Pennartz’s own account, the mayor was within those parameters. Clearly, Pennartz was attempting to earn his $75K by making a mountain out of a molehill.
In the 3 ½ E “conflict” Pennartz was making Mount Everest out of an anthill and his wily underhanded tactics were on full display. Following 9/11 discussions began about a proposed loop around the MCAS frontage along Avenue 3E and the mayor’s family owns property in the general vicinity. In 2007 when the issue was brought before the council, then Councilman Krieger declared a conflict of interest. The issue was again considered at the Council Meeting of June 4, 2008 when Krieger was out of office. At that meeting (citizen) Krieger stated that he was not opposed to the proposed motion (here). Pennartz then jumps to 2010 smugly informing us that at the Council Meeting of August 17th, the now Mayor Krieger, did not disclose his conflict of interest in the issue. Come on, Pennartz! For $75K of the good folks’ hard earned money surely you can do better than that.
First, Pennartz conveniently overlooked 2009 (Krieger still is not in office) when Ordinance No. 2007-35 had been amended by Ordinance No. 2009-33 wherein the Krieger family property was now “excluded” from the proposed project.
Moreover, Pennartz erroneously (or disingenuously) identified the meeting of August 17th as a Council Meeting which infers a regular council meeting where both discussion and possible action by the council takes place. The meeting of the 17th was a “Council Worksesson” and the agenda item “Avenue 3 ½ E Design” was for staff presentation only. It was not a forum wherein Mayor Krieger could argue to influence the council’s vote – there was no vote to be taken. And further, it was “not” on the agenda for the Council Meeting the following day, August 18th, as an “action” item, nor was it scheduled to be on a future agenda.
Translation: With official action having been taken that excluded the mayor’s family property from consideration for future acquisition and at a forum where no action can be taken or is anticipated to be taken in the near future, Pennartz tells us that as the mayor of the City of Yuma representing the interests of the good folks that elected him to office, Krieger cannot express his judgment that the project, “is not necessary to the wellbeing of city residents.” Why not? Because that would not fit the “independent” Pennartz’s misrepresentation of events.
Side Note: While Pennartz whined that the mayor argued against the need for the project he slyly omitted telling us that “I’m-the-deputy-mayor Johnson” (the mayor’s arch nemesis) expressed concerns that this was a case of overbuilding streets in areas where they are not needed - Councilmember McClendon voiced her reluctance to revisit the issue and Councilman Mendoza was adamant that, “the issue can wait another ten years.” (Council Worksesson Minutes August 17, 2010)
Finally, Pennartz pooh-poohed Mayor Krieger’s suggestion that if indeed he was stepping into an area of likely conflict of interest the city attorney could have addressed the question. According to Pennartz it is not the city staff’s responsibility to keep track of elected officials personal business interests in order to keep them from running afoul of conflict of interest issues. Fair enough. However, as can be seen in the minutes of the Council Meeting of June 4, 2008 (here), in response to a question from then private citizen Krieger as to how his family’s property would be affected, the dutiful city attorney Steven Moore stated that he would research the issue and provide an answer to both the council and Krieger. So, Mr. Pennartz, there you have it: Moore had full knowledge of the mayor’s situation and the City Charter clearly states that the city attorney “shall” serve as the chief legal advisor to the council and yet, he said nothing. Nonetheless, for four years each and every time the Housing Authority of Yuma was on a council agenda, Moore, as the chief legal advisor to the council, can be seen arising and walking behind the dais to advise Councilman Mendoza to declare a conflict of interest. Clearly, the city attorney is most selective in imparting his conflict of interest advice.
The incontestable conclusion: It is not possible to have a conflict of interest if the city has already taken official action to change its proposed project to exclude your property from acquisition.
In what the report titles “Conflicts of Interest – Business Relationship with Eckard Construction” Pennartz’s overreach to “connect the dots” is a real stretch - because there are no dots. If the item of business had been the awarding of a city contract to Eckard then, as an employee of the company, indeed the mayor would have had to declare a conflict. However, the discussion and action related to general policy and there was absolutely nothing specific to Eckard. To the contrary, Eckard was one among any number of contractors that might be affected. Specifically, according to the law, Eckard was part of a class of people whose interest was no greater than other members of the class. It’s called the “Rule of Ten,” Pennartz, but nice try anyway.
Side note: A current council member is an employee of a local company that has conducted business with the city in the past and may do business with the city in the future. Yet, this council person was advised that because their relationship with the company was simply that of an employee they were not required to declare and file a conflict of interest. Why is it then that Pennartz rants that the mayor (simply an employee of the company) failed to file a conflict of interest? Can anyone say double standard? How about hypocrisy?
One final “Conflict of Interest” leveled against the mayor (according to Pennartz) was the mayor’s involvement at the regular Council Meeting of January 18th. Pennartz informs us that because the mayor receives a salary he had a pecuniary interest in the council’s actions to investigate him and should have declared a conflict and made known his specific conflict on the public record (the minutes of the meeting) AND filed a notice of the conflict with the office of the city clerk.
First, if Mr. Pennartz will familiarize himself with the statutes he will find that they give the option of either or, and do not require both the making known a specific conflict on the public record (the minutes of the meeting) and the filing of a notice of the conflict with the office of the city clerk. The accepted practice within the city of Yuma for elected officials is for a copy of the meeting minutes to be held in a disclosure file in the office of the city clerk. I don’t suppose Pennartz would consider a refund of some of the taxpayer’s $75K for having to take him to school? No, probably not.
Additionally, the mayor’s “pecuniary” interest was not in jeopardy because as Pennartz states on page 32 of his totally impartial investigative report, “the city council does not have the authority to remove the mayor . . . “ Thus, the council has no power or control over what Pennartz calls the mayor’s pecuniary interest.
Moreover, when challenged by Point-of-Order Johnson as to his participation in the meeting the mayor deferred to the city attorney and was told that he could respond to the allegations being made against him.
No, the mayor was not violating the conflict of interest statutes; he was simply defending himself against the raw, naked assault of the Clowns.
Translation: The Clowns were out for a wild-west style lynching and they’re whining because the mayor would not placidly comply by placing the noose around his own neck.
Nothing illustrates that attempted lynching by the Clowns more clearly than Resolution 2012-24 (here). As can be seen, the Clowns issued a formal censure of the mayor "before" he had been charged, much less found guilty, by an agency that has enforcement authority within the State of Arizona. (He has still not been charged or found guilty) Most egregious was the Clowns adoption of the conclusions and determinations as to the allegations that "were not sustained by credible evidence." Indeed, the Clowns were in a hurry.
Translation: This most unfortunate embarrassment to our community was foreordained and wholly orchestrated by the Clowns.
To further establish the double standard of One City Plaza follow what happens when the fickle finger of fate points toward one of their own. You can bet that the response will be that of the towering mountain becoming a diminutive molehill.
(Another Smoking Gun)
Steven Moore began with the city of Yuma as an assistant city attorney more than thirty years ago. At one point, after becoming the city attorney, he quit and went into private practice. Then in 1991 he closed his private practice and returned to his former position as city attorney. At that time Moore filed with the office of the city clerk a disclosure memorandum enumerating a number of private client cases in the event of a conflict of interest with the city and he included in that report his position as an officer and director of an Arizona corporation based in Yuma (here).
From time to time over the years that company has had business that comes before the city and, according to Pennartz, Moore is required to file a conflict of interest on each occasion. Yet, the only notice of his position with the company is the memorandum quietly filed away in the office of the city clerk twenty years ago and he has never (as required per Pennartz) “declared a conflict and made known his specific conflict on the public record” (the minutes of the meeting). Again, where’s Pennartz when you need him?
Let’s take a look at one of those “specific conflicts.” At the regular Council Meeting of April 3, 2002 the council voted to approve Ordinance 02002-26. That ordinance was for the purpose of purchasing property for street and intersection widening. As it happened the company for which Moore is an officer and director owned two commercial lots that were included in the ordinance and were subsequently purchased by the city for multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The minutes of the meeting (here) clearly show that Moore was present at the meeting and that the ordinance was adopted without discussion and most importantly without an open specific declaration of conflict by Moore. Further, as can be seen from the ordinance itself (here) the document was drafted by the city’s legal department of which Moore is the head and, most indicting, the ordinance bears Moore’s approving signature.
Folks, the end result of the conflicts of interest alleged against the mayor by the Clowns was that absolutely nothing of any value or benefit accrued to his account. Moore's conflict, however, resulted in him (as city attorney) approving the form of the document that directed the disbursing officer of the city to pay multiple thousands of dollars to the company of which he serves as treasurer. So, while Moore is enjoying a free pass, how can serious consideration be given to purely prejudicial political assertions against the mayor?
It is also clear that by filing the disclosure twenty years ago Moore himself understood and acknowledged that future conflicts were possible, if not probable. Perhaps Pennartz would like to amend his report to the Attorney General: Probably not.
There are other examples, such as in 2009 when the company requested the council’s approval of a liquor license application absent Moore’s declaration of conflict - but you get the idea.
Note: It needs to be clearly understood that by exposing Moore and the council’s double-standard antics there is absolutely no negative inference whatsoever being made toward the company. The company is a longstanding, solid contributor to the betterment of our community. For that reason their name is being withheld. The culpability for failing to declare his conflict of interest is Moore’s alone.
So, there you have it folks: The Clowns and their sycophants (to borrow a favorite expression from Point-of-Order Johnson) have violated literally every thrust they have charged against the mayor.
Here’s a novel thought - If the Clowns were genuinely concerned about disclosure they would be openly examining all of the breaches of the agreement between the city and its wheeler-dealer California developer. That’s the real issue yet, the council has been voiceless since their “gem” on the Colorado (the hotel and conference center) went into foreclosure in August of 2011.
That is our next focus, so tune into the Riverfront Hotel page on this website where you will be able to see where literally millions of taxpayer’s dollars are flowing other than where intended.
These guys never quit. As can be seen in the City Code (here) Regular Council Meetings are to be held on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month. In the event that the day should fall on a holiday then the meeting "shall" (not maybe, not perhaps, not if you feel like it and not if you get around to it) be held on the next seculatr day. The first Wednesday for January 2013 fell on the 2nd, clearly not a holiday, but not only was the meeting not simply moved to another date to accomodate the holiday crowd, it was cancelled entirely. Translation: The Clowns may reschedule a meeting but they have no authority under the City Code (as presently written) to cancel a regularly scheduled meeting. The upshot is that they are amending an ordinance by a simple motion. But, hey, they make the rules, not submit to them.
At the Council Work Session of Tuesday, January 15, 2013, Point-of-Order Johnson again manifested his innate ignorance of the City Code by making a motion to change the order of the Council Meeting Agenda for Wednesday, January 16, 2013, by moving the call to the public from the front of the agenda to the end. As can be seen in the City Code (here) work sessions are solely for the purpose of information, discussion and deliberation only and, "no action" is to be taken at a work session. However, not to worry, the equally ill-informed city administrator, Greg Wilkinson, tells us that everything is okey-dokey because Johnson was simply making a "procedural" motion. Yeah, right, a procedural motion that took "action."
It begs the question - why does it fall to a private citizen to shine a light on all of the unscrupulous skull-duggery at One City Plaza - where are the journalistic wonders in the 4th Estate?