THE BEST OF FIFE

HE BROUGHT US AN RTC LAWSUIT, A GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION AND A "CAR OF THE PEOPLE." NOT TO MENTION GEORGE LECKIE AND ANNETTE ALVAREZ. OH, WHAT THE HECK, WE'LL MENTION THEM.

So why did the bank let Fife off scot-free? Speculation centers on the possibility that Fife, if reelected, will give the bank La Paz County.

Best political payoff: Fife has long used the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand to keep track of his personal, business and campaign finances. In 1991, Coopers & Lybrand wanted a lucrative state contract to implement Fife's pet government cost-cutting program, Project SLIM.

Coopers' initial bid came on September 3, 1991, at $1.974 million, making it the highest of the five bids.

Enter Fife's close friend and 1990 campaign Pooh-Bah George Leckie, and Symington's longtime personal and business accountant and 1990 campaign treasurer John Yeoman, who is a tax accountant for Coopers.

In September 1991, Leckie was a member of the state procurement committee reviewing proposals for businesses seeking to win the Project SLIM contract.

In the week following Coopers' initial high bid, Leckie and Yeoman have several telephone conversations, even though Leckie had promised not to have contact with anyone from the bidding companies.

It's not known what the men discussed. But on September 9, 1991, when the final bids were due, Coopers lowered its bid by a stunning $400,000.

Coopers went from last in the bidding race to front-runner, and was awarded a $1.5 million contract. Leckie and Yeoman deny discussing the contract prior to Coopers' final bid.

But according to testimony in a civil lawsuit filed against the accounting firm in California, Coopers officials claim Leckie provided "the inside scoop" on the contract to Yeoman.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office declined to prosecute, saying there was no credible evidence showing that Leckie and Yeoman rigged the contract.

But a federal grand jury probing Fife's finances has asked for documents related to the Project SLIM contract. Attorney General Grant Woods also is reviewing the deal.

Best attempted freeway coup: When it became evident that urban freeway czars had fallen short--waaaaaaaaay short--in their estimate of how much money it would take to build the Valley's freeways, a group of community-minded individuals stepped in to selflessly save the day.

Actually, they were Fife cohorts Dick Mallery (a partner at Snell & Wilmer and close friend/adviser of the guv), Coopers & Lybrand and George Leckie. Mallery and Coopers & Lybrand (Leckie reportedly played a peripheral role in drumming up support) proposed the creation of VUE 2000, which stood for Valley Urban Expressways for the 21st Century and meant that drivers would pay 10 to 15 cents a mile in tolls, thus funding 160 miles of not-so-freeways.

Last year, the Phoenix Gazette reported that HDR Engineering Inc., Coopers & Lybrand and Snell & Wilmer had already dumped $500,000 into studying the feasibility of the nonprofit consortium that would "do the engineering, legal and financial work, and subcontract for construction on 50 projects worth about $50 million each."

Fifty million dollars each? That's what skeptics screamed, and VUE 2000 died a quiet death before anyone could do more than speculate about Fife's involvement.

Best of Fife's Cronies
Best girl Friday: Annette Alvarez and Fife met in the late Eighties. As she once told a reporter, "I was listening to a motivational tape. It said to take someone out to lunch that you admired and figure out how they got where they are." So she asked Fife, then a big-time developer, to lunch. Naturally, they dined at the Ritz-Carlton. "He was very gracious. . . . I think he was amused," Alvarez recalled.

From there Alvarez, whose previous experience included a stint in community relations at KTAR-AM, became the Symington campaign's press secretary. Upon Fife's election, she was made executive assistant for international relations, at a hefty salary of $60,000, plus expenses. In late 1989, employees of the Symington Company and Campaign '90 had gathered for a spiritual retreat. Participants were asked to write their man Fife a note to be enjoyed at the retreat. Some really threw themselves at the task, particularly Annette. New Times obtained a copy of the four-page letter--addressed to "My Dear Fife"--and printed excerpts in 1991:

"Your name is magic. . . . I don't know what I really feel for you. I do know I love you, and it will be forever, but I don't think it's the kind of love I'm looking for. . . . I don't want to live out any more secrets. I want to be free like the hummingbird you gave me. Bright, vibrant and free."

New Times also detailed Alvarez's failures at her state job, including bungling deals in Japan and Mexico that could have cost the state millions.

Fife and wife Ann denied rumors that swirled about Fife and Annette's relationship, but matters only got worse after the initial story broke. Fife and Annette booked adjoining hotel rooms on a business trip to New York, and double-dipped on some of the expenses. Then it was revealed that the Symington campaign had paid Uncle Sam $9,000 in back taxes owed by Alvarez.

Alvarez left the governor's staff in April 1992. She is now an international trade consultant. Rumors still swirl.

Best political baggage: George Leckie defines Fife's administration. Leckie managed Symington's '90 campaign, then became Fife's deputy chief of staff. In that position, Leckie demonstrated his sensitivity to state spending and political correctness by entertaining three top executives of North Star Steel (a Minnesota firm) on the links at the all-white Paradise Valley Country Club. Greens fees: $162; lunch: $60.75.

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