Is Fulcher fishing for fodder to discredit Coady?

By Linda Bentley | May 27, 2009

Kiwanis Club of Carefree may not be all that it should be
CAREFREE – Following one the most contentious elections in the town’s history, Mayor Wayne Fulcher, who came in eighth in a field of ten with only 586 votes, was relegated to the May 19 runoff election until he withdrew his candidacy.

Councilman Bob Coady, on the other hand, who is often the lone contrary vote on items before council, received 800 out of 1,244 votes cast, the highest for all candidates, securing his council seat during the March primary.

Fulcher also backed Proposition 403 to increase council terms to four-years, which went down in flames by a vote of 669 to 503.

When Coady suggested placing a measure on the ballot to allow for the direct election of mayor, not only was Fulcher opposed to the idea, he refused to place it on an agenda.
So, Coady registered the initiative, collected the requisite number of signatures and it became Proposition 404, which won by a landslide with 73 percent of the vote.

Then on May 20, the day after the election, Fulcher wrote two letters of “complaint and request for investigation,” one to Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and one to Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

Even though both were printed on official Town of Carefree, Office of the Mayor Letterhead and signed using his title of mayor, Fulcher’s opening sentence proclaimed, “I am the current mayor of the town of Carefree.”

He continued, “It has recently come to my attention that Councilman Robert Coady has maintained a separate checking account during this council term, under his exclusive signature, for the Town of Carefree Recycling Program.” Fulcher asserted the account existed “without the knowledge of the town” and stated “disbursements have been made from the account outside of town audit and control.”

Fulcher said the situation was brought to Coady’s attention in a May 15 letter but he has yet to receive a response.

In the letter to Thomas, Fulcher expresses concern that he is unable to “verify whether there have been activities related with this account unrelated to the Town of Carefree Recycling Program.”

His letter to Goddard states, “Deposits and disbursements from the Bob Coady account, outside of town control, jeopardize the validity of the FY ’07/’08 audit and put the town in violation of Arizona Revised Statutes 9-481-B …”

Requesting they each “initiate an investigation of this account,” Fulcher asked Thomas to “determine what, if any, illegal activities have taken place,” and Goddard to look for “possible violation of state statutes.”

Prior to the March 10 primary, the Political Action Committee (PAC) Caring About Carefree, formed by Chairman Ron Nelson, Treasurer Chuck Hoch and Gary Hayward as “assistant treasurer,” mailed a flyer to every P.O. Box in Carefree, exclaiming “Important Breaking Voter News” of a “smoking gun” described as a “secret personal bank account” opened by Coady and Cave Creek Councilwoman Grace Meeth.

Fulcher knew about this prior to March 10 but waited until the day after the election, over two months later, to call for an investigation.

The account was opened in 2003 for the Community Recycling Partnership, which evolved from the recycling program started in Cave Creek under Brian Miller about 10 years ago.
According to Coady, because neither town would accept funds donated to the program, his attorney suggested he open a bank account.

He says the account’s never been a secret and, contrary to the PAC’s allegations, it was opened by Miller and Coady in 2003, with Meeth eventually replacing Jeff Lowe, who replaced Miller.

And, when Carefree had the means to establish a separate line item, allowing balances to be carried forward into the next year without comingling the money with town funds, Coady, unhesitatingly, transferred the approximately $4,500 balance to the town.

A review of the check register revealed nothing unusual, inappropriate or nefarious and the issue appeared to die.

However, a couple of weeks ago, Attorney Mike Herrod resurrected interest by filing a written request for more than a dozen records associated with the account, some of which may not be subject to public record laws.

While anyone can make a public records request, considering Herrod lives south of Bell Road off of 52nd Street and Paradise Lane, he’s not making the request on behalf of a client, not one that he’s disclosed anyway, his interest was curious.

However, Herrod is a member and director of the Kiwanis Club of Carefree, a veritable who’s who of Carefree’s political movers and shakers, including former mayor Hugh Stevens and, until recently, former mayor Ed Morgan.

While Fulcher is not a member of Kiwanis, he’s been a speaker and guest of Carefree Vice Mayor Lloyd Meyer, who also withdrew his candidacy when he was not elected in the primary.

Carefree Councilwoman-elect Susan Vanik is president-elect of Kiwanis, Hayward is secretary, Hoch is a director and Ralph Pipp, the man behind the Carefree Get Out and Vote PAC, is a former treasurer and director and currently serves on its financial review (audit) committee.

Herrod’s sudden interest in Carefree’s most infinitesimal of affairs piqued our curiosity in the Kiwanis Club of Carefree.

There are over 5,500 Kiwanis clubs registered with the IRS as nonprofit, exempt organizations. However, neither the Kiwanis Club of Carefree nor the Kiwanis Club of Carefree Benefit Foundation is amongst them.

Since incorporation in 1996, Kiwanis Club of Carefree and Kiwanis Club of Carefree Benefit Foundation, incorporated in 2003, there is no evidence either has filed an application with the IRS for exemption. Simply declaring itself a nonprofit organization with the Arizona Corporation Commission does not make it tax exempt.

Without that designation, the Benefit Foundation’s assets, which grew from about $503,000 in 2004 to over $810,000 in 2007, most likely include unreported taxable income.

On April 29, the last day of the reporting period for the Pre-General Election Report filed by Hayworth, Caring About Carefree disbursed the $229.16 remaining balance in the PAC’s account to Kiwanis Club of Carefree Benefit Foundation as a “charitable donation.”

Laws in effect since 2006 require exempt organizations to make their annual returns and applications for exemption available for public inspection and provide copies to individuals requesting them, immediately in the case of in-person requests, and within 30 days for written requests.

Those records, or lack thereof, might prove far more interesting than any sought by Herrod.