MANAGEMENT OR BUST

EX-DANCER DEBBY KOSOBUCKI THOUGHT SHE'D BEEN HIRED TO MANAGE A FIRST-CLASS TOPLESS CLUB. NOW SHE BELIEVES SHE WAS MERELY A FRONT TO CONCEAL THE INVOLVEMENT OF A CRIMINAL.

Kosobucki tells Brazee she might sue. (She hasn't.)
A few days later, Brazee and Kosobucki met at the office of Brazee's attorney Harvey Yee. (Yee replaced Postal as lead counsel in the fall of 1994.) The meeting lasted 16 minutes. Kosobucki says she told Yee she didn't intend to work for tips, that she wanted what she was hired for--to be the manager. (She says Postal told her she'd earn $600 to $750 a week. In a taped conversation with Kosobucki, Postal acknowledges discussing this pay range with Brazee and Mondavano, and says they told him it wouldn't be a problem. Brazee denies ever discussing Kosobucki's salary with Postal.)

Yee told Kosobucki they'd get back to her. Later that day, Brazee received a letter from Kosobucki's attorney, Rosemary Cook, demanding restitution of a year's salary, about $36,000. Yee wrote back, offering to settle, but asking Cook to offer another amount.

Kosobucki says Cook dropped her after Cook learned that Kosobucki had taken evidence of hidden management at Expos‚ Cabaret to the police. (Cook did not return calls.) Kosobucki's new attorney, Bill Loftus, hasn't taken any action on her behalf. He says, "There's not a hell of a lot of question in my mind of what happened. And I don't think it was right. The question is, is it worth all the tremendous amount of time and effort it would take to prove it? I don't know."

Late last fall, Phoenix assistant city attorney Jim Hays convinced the liquor board to consider his argument that Expos‚ Cabaret's license should be denied on the basis of information he'd received regarding the capability and qualifications of the owner and manager. Most of that information came from Kosobucki, via the Phoenix police.

The liquor board was already set to reconsider the Expos‚ Cabaret license based on its location.

Yee went to Superior Court to fight the decision to reopen the capability and qualification issue, and lost.

The liquor board heard testimony on the location issue in December, and on capability on February 5. During the February hearing, both Hays and Blair Driggs, the assistant attorney general assigned to represent the liquor department, alleged hidden management, that Dennis Mondavano and/or Jim Brazee were really intended to manage the club, and that Kosobucki had been a front.

Regardless of who actually was managing Expos‚ Cabaret, it is illegal to lie on a liquor license application, or to lie in testimony before the liquor board. Mondavano apparently did just that when he told the board under oath that he never had sold controlled substances. It's true that he pleaded guilty to possession--not selling--of cocaine, but if board members had read the Scottsdale police report on Mondavano's cocaine case, they would have harbored little doubt about his role. The report, by undercover detective Carl Angelini, painstakingly describes his purchase of cocaine from Mondavano. One passage describes Mondavano weighing some white powder on a scale. (Mondavano tells New Times that cocaine was found on property he owns, but that he was not otherwise involved.)

Hays argued that Mondavano's criminal record made it impossible for him to qualify as manager, and that Kosobucki was hired to go before the liquor board because she had experience and a clean record.

Yee argued that the City of Phoenix knew about Mondavano's involvement all along, that Mondavano even testified before the city council on Brazee's behalf. Therefore, he wasn't hidden. Further, Yee argued that Mondavano was the project coordinator, not the manager.

Phoenix Police Detective Mark Stribling presented the results of his investigation into Kosobucki's allegation and his conclusion that she was a front--including allegations that Mondavano was really the one doing the hiring for the club, a duty specifically reserved under state law for the manager. However, liquor board chairman Jim Shaw did not allow the Phoenix police report documenting Kosobucki's recollections of meetings and taped phone conversations into the record. Kosobucki also testified.

After hearing testimony on February 5, the board took separate votes on qualification and location, and voted 4-3 both times to grant a license to Expos‚ Cabaret.

Jim Tidwell, a retired cattle rancher from Globe, cast the deciding votes, and, in doing so, made personal history; by his own calculation, the former president of the Gila County Republicans and 3 1/2-year veteran of the liquor board has never voted to license a sex-oriented business. In fact, when the liquor board had first considered Expos‚ Cabaret's license in April 1994, Tidwell had voted against it.

Tidwell says the City of Phoenix did a poor job from the beginning, by not registering its protesters in the prescribed time and by presenting what he views as a shoddy case February 5. Moreover, he suggests that a political turf war had a bearing on the Expos‚ Cabaret case. Tidwell says he doesn't want city councils to think they can tell the board what to do.

He tells New Times, "There's a lot of political posturing on behalf of city councils who want to supersede state law, the authority of the liquor board. I think you're going to see a lot more confrontation."

As for Kosobucki, Tidwell says, "She was not a big factor in the case in my opinion. They tried to make her one."

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