BY LINDA BENTLEY | AUGUST 29, 2012
Carefree citizen calls AG’s attention to mayor’s ‘thug mentality’
Although Van Allen was not the subject of any of Peirce’s complaints, Peirce said Wise’s letter ‘takes a bullying tone’
CAREFREE – One week from the day former Councilman Jim Van Allen resigned from council for “health issues and personal reasons.” he received an “Official request for Public Records” from Town Clerk Betsy Wise.
Wise wrote, “The requested records shall include, but shall not be limited to every means of recording, including letters, words, pictures, sounds, symbols or combinations thereof, any oral communication later reduced to writing, notes, memoranda, correspondence, written statements or reports, other writings, work sheets, maps, charts, plats, diagrams, plans, specifications, drawings, renderings, ledgers, journals, financial statements, desk diaries, calendars, appointment books, telegraphic communications, photographs, tape recordings, receipts, proposals, agreements, files, records, computer files, disks, CDs, tapes, electronic mail and other data compilations from which information can be obtained or translated through detection devices into reasonably usable form when translation is practically necessary.
“The Town is specifically requesting copies of all evidence created in a ‘digital’ environment, such as e-mail; attachment to e-mail; cell phone (text messages, voice mail); Facebook page website content; Skype, whether recorded or not, between you and Jim Peirce. Arizona law imposes a duty on you to preserve any and all public records in your possession. Accordingly, you are forthwith instructed to stop deleting files, do not corrupt any files, and do not overwrite backup.”
Her letter goes on to say, “As you know, the attorney general, criminal division, has received seven complaints from Jim Peirce that the town and/or its council members, including you, have violated Arizona's Open Meeting Law. The filing of these complaints and notification from the attorney general, criminal division, is a ‘triggering event,’ which requires you to preserve all public records including, but not limited to, electronic discovery.”
Wise then threatened Van Allen with, “Please be informed that, if necessary, the town is prepared to engage in forensic collection of any and all public records in your possession,” while asking him to immediately acknowledge receipt of the request and provide the requested material no later than August 17.
There was definitely no love lost between Van Allen and Mayor David Schwan, which could very well be the “personal reasons” to which Van Allen was referring in his letter of resignation.
Peirce, after receiving a copy of Wise’s letter to Van Allen, forwarded it on to the Arizona Attorney General OMLET (Open Meeting Law Enforcement Team) Division with a letter of his own.
Referring to the letter as one that was “signed by Carefree Town Clerk Wise – but doubtless written by Town Attorney Wright at the direction of Mayor Schwan …” Peirce pointed out that in his May 4, 2012 letter to OMLET he stated, “A ‘slap on the wrist’ is not going to change Carefree’s culture that has existed for decades.”
Peirce stated his seven complaints filed with OMLET “extensively document in detail and prove my numerous allegations against Mayor David Schwan and certain members of the Carefree Town Council and town staff.”
According to Peirce, “It should be obvious that Mayor Schwan should be taking actions to clean up the culture that has fostered the many legal violations committed on his watch.”
Pointing out Wise’s letter to Van Allen indicated Peirce accused the town and/or its council members, including Van Allen, of violating Arizona’s Open Meeting Law, Peirce said his complaints neither alleged any violation by the town nor by Van Allen.
Peirce stated Van Allen’s name only appeared in a partial transcript of the Jan. 10, 2012 council meeting during which Schwan confessed to committing a class 4 felony; the partial transcript of the April 3, 2012 council meeting, during which Vice Mayor Melissa Price admitted to violating the Open Meeting Law; and the April 4, 2012 e-mail from Van Allen to Peirce describing a heated phone conversation Van Allen had with the mayor, who allegedly told Van Allen he was tired of Van Allen “getting involved in a bunch of chicken shit,” before hanging up on Van Allen.
Although Van Allen was not the subject of any of Peirce’s complaints, Peirce said Wise’s letter “takes a bullying tone” by stating the “town is prepared to engage in forensic collection of any and all public records in your possession.”
Peirce wrote, “Mayor Schwan’s ‘Wise’ letter is yet another example of his thug mentality,” and asked OMLET to take “immediate steps to protect Mr. Van Allen from being harassed by Mayor Schwan under cover of legal proceedings.”
In closing, Peirce reiterated his earlier point: unless OMLET “takes strong and decisive action against Mayor Schwan and others, it will soon be business as usual in how members of the town council and town staff conduct their affairs.”