BY LINDA BENTLEY | FEBRUARY 20, 2013
CAVE CREEK – During the Sonoran News candidate forum on Jan. 30 challengers to the current council protested allegations and denied they were running as a slate, despite admissions they had all met together, agreed on issues and even held a practice forum.
After the forum, Mike Chutz’s wife Tina was in the lobby with another woman handing out bright pink flyers to promote another forum on Feb. 12 “with NO pre-screened questions,” paid for by the cavecreekelection2013.com Political Action Committee, of which Mike Chutz (r) is chair.
What was interesting is, even days later, the PAC’s website contained no mention of the Feb. 12 forum, only the Jan. 30 forum, so there is a question as to when their flyers were printed.
Were they printed in advance of the forum with the expectation that questions were going to be screened?
Or did someone rush out while the forum was underway to print them up, thereby missing the questions.
First of all, our forum had no pre-screened questions. Questions were turned in by attendees at the beginning of the forum and were sorted by Shari Jo Sorchych, Sonoran News co-publisher, by those addressed to all the candidates, incumbent candidates, challengers or individuals. That was the extent of the “pre-screening.”
Funny, not a single person complained about the questions they submitted having been altered or eliminated.
And, Planning Commission Chair Dan Baxley, who moderated the event announced when he changed the wording of only a couple questions for purposes of clarity.
Additionally, Sonoran News has used the same format for every candidate forum it has hosted.
The only change this time was the last-minute replacement of Shelby Wilson, who became ill, with Baxley to moderate the event.
So, what’s Chutz beef? He took out a full page ad in a Scottsdale newspaper to chastise Don Sorchych and Sonoran News without raising any specifics and without making any attempt to contact Sorchych or write a letter to the editor to refute anything said.
Chutz, who only purchased a home in Cave Creek in April or May 2011 as a second residence, lives in Sewickley, Penn., which is where he is registered to vote.
Why would a part-time resident who does not vote in town feel compelled to overthrow the current council with a slate of challengers?
Chutz came to the forefront last year to protest the Enchanted Canyon Resort project and purportedly amassed $40,000 to fight it.
While the applicant paid the fees and certainly had the right to go through the process for their proposed project, it became clear early on they were fighting an uphill battle without anyone on their side.
The applicant ended up withdrawing the project from consideration before it ever made it through the planning commission.
But Chutz continued on the path of protest for a project that would never see the light of day.
He recruited candidates to run as a slate, including Mike Durkin, Reg Monachino, Steve Snider (although on the ballot, he has since withdrawn from the race), Charles Spitzer, Adam Trenk and Eileen Wright.
Chutz’s mailer states, “Vote for a new council who listens to its voters.”
Well, Chutz isn’t a voter and voters seem to be pleased that Cave Creek has emerged from the economic downturn in far better shape than most municipalities in Arizona.
The town came through the recession with a cash surplus of $3.4 million, AA credit rating and has never missed a debt payment.
The Friends of Cave Creek Political Action Committee, chaired by Terry Smith, is advocating for the reelection of Mayor Vincent Fancia, who is running unopposed, and incumbent council members Shelley Anderson, James Bruce, Ernie Bunch, Dick Esser, Steve LaMar and Thomas McGuire.
Friends of Cave Creek question why the slate, supported by Chutz, want to oust the entire council and virtually take over the town when the current council has successfully weathered the economic storm while reducing the size of government and increasing sales tax revenue.
Even without taking Walmart into consideration, sales tax revenue in the town core is up over the previous year.
Durkin sent out a mailer last week advocating support of the five slate candidates.
However, Durkin did not file a statement of organization organized in support of or opposition to one or more candidates, as required by statute.
He only registered a candidate’s campaign committee to advocate for his own candidacy.
Adam Trenk also appears to be in violation of the same statute, which requires a separate PAC to be organized in support of or opposition to one or more candidates, as he advocates opposition to LaMar, Bruce and McGuire.
Trenk arguably shouldn’t be on the ballot in the first place, since he stipulated in court that he was a Scottsdale resident during the period of time he would have needed to be a Cave Creek resident to meet the residency requirements to be a member of council.
However, the court allowed Trenk to remain on the ballot based on his “intent” to return to Cave Creek.
But Trenk, a lawyer, only registered a candidate’s campaign committee, which does not allow him to make “expenditures in support or opposition to one or more candidates” as he did in his recent mailer.
Chutz, who is a member of the Pennsylvania State Bar, although on “administrative suspension,” filed the proper statement of organization to make expenditures in support of the slate candidates.
So as the slate candidates claim not to be a slate, their campaigns defy such statements, with three slate candidates, Monachino, Spitzer and Wright, all coincidently campaigning to “preserve and protect” Cave Creek, while Durkin is campaigning to elect the entire slate and Trenk campaigning against incumbents.
The only other item on the ballot besides the mayor and council is the APS franchise agreement with the town, which must be ratified by voters.
Ballots must be returned by March 12.
Any candidate that receives at least 50 percent plus one vote will be considered elected to council. All other candidates will appear on the ballot for a runoff election in May.