Schwan demands correction and apology

By Linda Bentley | February 3, 2010

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CAREFREE – On Jan. 21, Mayor David Schwan fired off another letter, this time to Carefree Town Council and Sonoran News in response to the Jan. 20 article, “Carefree councilmen openly back Traynor in recall election,” claiming councilmen Peter Koteas and Doug Stavoe made serious charges “based on egregious errors of fact.”

Schwan said he looked forward to a “prompt correction of the facts and apology, from both the council members and … Sonoran News, to the town of Carefree and the Foothills Caring Corps” (FCC).

In his letter, Schwan actually admits, “I approved using $1,826.27 of Carefree funds as a match to the grant amount of $5,478.82.”

That’s a problem. Schwan has no authority to autonomously approve unbudgeted expenditures without obtaining council approval.

It’s a violation of state statute.

Attached to Schwan’s letter was Town Administrator Gary Neiss’ Sept. 21, 2009 letter to Mike Taylor of Valley Metro/Regional Public Transportation Authority with a grant application for LTAF II funds in the amount of $5,478.82, indicating the town’s 25 percent match of $1,369.71 for a total of $6,848.53 to the FCC.

There are a couple of problems here.

First, who directed Neiss to submit a grant application for LTAF II funds in September when council agreed during the June budget meeting council agreed to suspend all charitable contributions and did not include such an expenditure in its FY 2009-2010 budget?

Second, the town’s contribution to the FCC totaled $7,305.09 not $6,848.53, as indicated in the grant application.

It also happened to be to a nonprofit organization Schwan has been affiliated with for the past several years, constituting a conflict of interest.

Schwan only resigned from the FCC board after the May election because the new council might had been “closely divided” on matters. His recusal could result in deadlocks.

To avoid that risk, Schwan has instead decided to make decisions on his own without bringing items to council for approval, possibly in violation of the law.

In his letter, Schwan not only admits to having authorized an expenditure, which, without council approval may have been in violation of the law, he documented it in writing.

Claiming he “acted properly,” Schwan states, “My action brought needed funds to a local 501(c)(3) that provides many services to Carefree citizens.”

No one appears to have a problem with the work of the FCC or doubts funds are needed in order to provide its services.

However, Schwan cannot unilaterally decide to donate taxpayer money to nonprofit organizations, especially one with which he has been deeply involved, without first obtaining council approval. Laws are in place to specifically curb such abuses of authority.

But, in an effort to divert attention away from his own acts, Schwan accuses Koteas and Stavoe of using the “good name of the FCC for political purposes and that reprehensible action is not appropriate for members of Carefree Town Council.”

Malfeasance is defined as misconduct; conduct by a public official that cannot be legally justified or that conflicts with the law.

Misfeasance is defined as illegally performing something legal; the abuse of lawful authority in order to achieve a desired result.

Nonefeasance is defined as failure to meet legal obligations; the omission of some act that is expected to have been performed.

For those who believe recall should be reserved only for those elected officials who have exhibited malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance, it appears Schwan may fit their bill as well.