My View

BY DON SORCHYCH  |  MAY 13, 2015

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my viewBye-Bye Eileen
Upcoming council meeting

In Linda Bentley’s article last week about the Cave Creek Council meeting she reported the council finally moved on planning commission issues. The only casualty was Eileen Wright who was removed from the planning commission.

The vote was 4-3 to remove her, which was interesting. The nays were Mayor Vincent Francia, which is no surprise, while newbie’s Susan Clancy and Mark Lipsky voted to retain her. I guess that proves the new council isn’t a slate. While I understand Lipsky was not in Cave Creek for six years, Susan Clancy certainly should have known Wright through Sonoran News’ honest reporting, which she says she reads.

I first encountered Wright when she attended our forum in 2013. She made a slanderous statement about the town which insinuated the town was doing illegal things. Mayor Francia was not amused and pilloried her verbally. He has never stopped apologizing for what was exactly the right thing to do. Wright was an active campaigner and apparently Jerry Freeman liked her style or something because he put $900 into her campaign. As you will see, it apparently bought her loyalty. She remained an active dark-sider politically and was surprisingly appointed to the planning commission, even though the slate had been defeated.

It is telling that Wright’s message didn’t play with voters since she was not elected, but she remained true to the slate’s philosophy.

bil canfield editorial cartoon
Town Manager Peter Jankowski was at the court  hearings along with other witnesses for the defendants, Planning Director Ian Cordwell and Trails Coordinator Bambi Muller. I asked Jankowski why he allowed a planning commissioner to appear in court for the plaintiff. He walked away.

I should say I am also a defendant along with the town and Morning Star Development (formerly Cahava Springs). I assume that is because I am in favor of horse trail.

Currently Freeman’s attorney is complaining that he has spent $100,000 so far. Fortunately, the town of Cave Creek is covered by insurance, which means the town spends only 20 percent of what it costs our attorneys to defend.

The council meeting on May 18 will answer voters’ questions about the new council and their promises. Some long standing issues will be discussed and possibly brought to a vote.

One of extreme importance is to consider terminating the Dickinson Wright (formerly Mariscal Weeks) law firm. When speaking of Dickinson Wright, we might say Gary Birnbaum’s firm since he has played many roles, allegedly for Cave Creek’s benefit.

Mayor Vincent Francia is especially fond of Birnbaum, crediting him with the final actions to get the last 30 percent owner of Spur Cross Ranch to sell to the town. The most important saviors of Spur Cross were the state, county, town administration which fielded annexation to the north, Friends of Spur Cross – finally and most importantly, the voters who approved of a temporary property tax to fund the purchase. Sonoran News coverage didn’t hurt either.

Birnbaum likes to credit himself as the last word in mediation. One good example is the purchase of the water company for $20 million that will never be forgiven by town critics.

Former Town Manager Usama Abujbarah’s attorney, during the slate’s attempt to can him, made many assertions that the slate actions were illegal. That part of Abujbarah’s lawsuit has yet to be heard in court. But Birnbaum appeared and blessed the proceedings. He and the slate apparently agreed to have Fredda Bisman be the town attorney, even though a previous council requested representation by a different firm attorney. She served the slate well and put a damper on our news gathering by taking her time reviewing our requests for public documents.

As it turns out, according to ousted Vice Mayor Adam Trenk’s deposition, Bisman assisted Trenk in crafting his motion to terminate Abujbarah. She did this before Trenk was a councilman.

Is Birnbaum and Bisman’s active participation in Abujbarah’s termination and the use of his firm to defend against Abujbarah a conflict of interest? A new law firm should examine that possibility. After all, at last count they have been paid more than $250,000 to defend the town.

And finally the council will hear the issue of road closure. Read Linda Bentley’s article about a survey by a nationally recognized research firm about how voters perceive the road closures. Hint: Eighty-one percent oppose closing of traffic lanes on Cave Creek Road for motorcycle parking, and lots more.

And the last issue on the agenda I will mention is the possible use of Sonoran News for town of Cave Creek advertising.

Sonoran News is the only newspaper which mails to all postal addresses in Cave Creek. We served the town well in all respects until Rodney Glassman was named Interim Town Manager by the infamous slate. He looked for and found a cheaper alternative but one with less than twenty percent coverage in Cave Creek.

This new philosophy also contributed to the town’s utilization of direct mail and water bill inserts for political advertising, a possible illegal use of taxpayers’ money. Perhaps the new law firm should look into those costs as well.