BY LINDA BENTLEY | FEBRUARY 8, 2012
Sleazy tactics used to forge fire district
RIO VERDE – Another week has gone by, which brought forward another passel of Rio Verde Foothills residents piping up with new concerns about those pushing to form the new special taxing district for fire protection.
While several of those who contacted Sonoran News said they are opposed to the formation of the Rio Verde Foothills Fire District (RVFFD), they stated they were more concerned with the tactics being employed in attempts to push it through.
And, because they do not wish to become engaged in a feud with their neighbors over the issue, they also asked to have their identities protected.
One woman recalled receiving a packet of information some time ago that included a postcard. A letter enclosed advised her if she owned property in the Rio Verde Foothills area, she “must sign” and return the postcard to Black Top Strategies.
Not appreciating a directive to sign anything, she contacted the Clerk of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Office to find out if signing a postcard was the same as signing the petition.
When she learned it was not, she asked, “What other purpose could signing a postcard have?”
Andrew Chavez, owner of Black Top Solutions, as registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission, but is masquerading as Black Top Strategies, LLC, as contracted with Rural/Metro to collect enough signatures to get the fire district passed, is being sued by Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmonson in Kentucky on civil racketeering (RICO) charges for forging names on petitions.
In November, Chavez told reporter Jon Newberry at the Business Courier in Cincinnati, “I find the allegations ridiculous” because out of the nearly 25,000 signatures collected, Edmondson only identified three signatures that he alleges were forged.
While Chavez is attempting to get the case dismissed on procedural grounds, claiming Edmondson doesn’t have standing to bring charges, the complaint includes as evidence signed affidavits by doctors attesting that their signatures were forged.
And, despite claims by some RVFFD organizers that the charges against Chavez and AZ Petition Partners, LLC, have been dismissed, there has been no ruling on the motion.
A couple other area residents, while they were volunteering doing roadside cleanup on Saturday, said they watched as Carmela Lizzo, one of the organizers, flagged down a couple of bicyclists to sign the petition.
Although the bicyclists don’t live in the area and were just out on a ride through to Fountain Hills, they were told signing the petition would protect the beauty of the area from devastating fires.
One of the cleanup volunteers said they believed Lizzo was using the bicyclists as a ploy to make it look as though there is genuine interest in creating the tax district.
Another bone of contention several area residents have is the fact Joseph Blanchette, another one of the three special tax district organizers, doesn’t own any property within the proposed RVFFD boundaries.
However, according to Rebecca Rees, management analyst for special tax districts at the Office of the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, statute allows for “any person” to organize the creation of a special tax district, without any property ownership requirement.