Guest Editorial

BOB WilliamsBY BOB WILLIAMS  |  AUGUST 10, 2011

City of Phoenix – Corrupt as they come

Mention corruption and what comes to mind - Illinois governors? Chicago politics? Maricopa County Sheriff’s office?  Whatever your list, add the City of Phoenix.  Yes, the All American City of yore is now about as corrupt as they come.

I really didn’t notice it until long time City Manager Fairbanks retired in 2009 and it was revealed that he was paid about $1.3 million for his last 3 years so he could retire on a quarter of a million dollars a year – more than a U.S. president.  This was approved by the City Council despite the fact that the City pension system trust was underfunded and, to make matters worse, they added Mr. Fairbanks to a list of another two dozen retirees on the rolls at over $100,000 per year!  It’s probably noteworthy that the City Manager froze all city pay raises during his last year in office due to “budget problems” so that he could get his.  The average pension of a City retiree is some $10,000 higher than the average non City of Phoenix Arizona retiree. This is a heck of a deal if you are a City employee – not so much if you are a taxpayer.

Who did the City replace retiring City Manager Fairbanks with?  Deputy City Manager Cavazos, of course,  who was fresh off a week suspension without pay after an investigation proved that he ‘managed’ and approved hundreds of thousands of dollars  for unnecessary, exotic and expensive travel by City employees.  He wasn’t the best candidate but he was “their candidate” and could be counted on to keep that gravy train rolling and the unions happy. The bar for Integrity and sound judgment was lowered appropriately and eight of nine City Council members approved his selection.

One of the new City Manager’s first challenges was the issue of the Police Chief who was reportedly a very experienced and professional law enforcement officer but making some factions in police union unhappy which, in turn, made the union supporters on the City Council unhappy.  Some trumped up charges were bandied about the press and lines were drawn in the sand.  With absolutely no solid investigative facts, the judgment challenged Mr. Cavazos, who was clearly beholding to the unhappy factions, reassigned the Chief and forced him in to retirement soon thereafter.  When the investigation was completed and the dust settled, it was established that the whole thing was a sham and the Chief had always acted honestly and professionally.  Being very experienced and professional law enforcement Chief of Police in Phoenix seemed to be the basic problem. 

When budgets get tight and bureaucracies want more taxes, they threaten impending doom in the areas of public safety (police and fire) parks, libraries, senior centers, jobs and so forth.  This is exactly what the City Phoenix threatened to get their 2 percent food tax passed last year to ‘balance the budget’.  Turned out that they needed that money, about $30 million, to cover the pay raises they had already promised the unions so everyone got a nice pay raise and services got whacked anyway.  Transparency and honesty are not a requirement in a corrupt environment.

Speaking of transparency, the City has no contracting policies.  Can you just imagine the mischief that is going on department by department, office by office in the City of Phoenix?  And, that mischief seems to be led by the Mayor himself with his secret funds and who skips along the edge of the ethical abyss with his sweetheart contracts (literally and figuratively) to his girl friend and traveling companion on exotic and senseless trips to places like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Dubai, China and Mexico – all at taxpayer expense.  Corruption is easy in The City’s wide open contracting environment.

And now you have the unions reportedly spending big bucks for the August election to ensure that the City Council is ‘union proof’ so that their position is further solidified.  And, why not – the police and fire unions comprise more than half of all City employees and their average salary exceeds $100,000 per year. Compare that with other public agency salaries in Arizona and wherever!

The list goes on, but you get the picture. Corruption reigns. Since this stuff isn’t even subtle, you can bet it’s just the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’.  Can you imagine what’s going on that City voters don’t know about yet?  Rest assured the gravy train rolls on for those in charge and their special interests.  Phoenix voters should be outraged at the corruption in City Hall and committed to cleaning house and laying a foundation of new leadership with the August election of the Mayor and four of the Council Members.