Councilman Sal DiCiccio Could Make a Mint if a Freeway Extension Goes Through – But His Neighborhood Hates the Idea

For months, as Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio stockpiled his campaign war chest with thousands of dollars from developers and their representatives, the big question at City Hall was whether he'd use his position on the Council to benefit his donors.

But now City Hall is abuzz with a new — and more troubling — question. Namely, is DiCiccio using his position to benefit himself?

As I first reported on New Times' Valley Fever blog last Friday, DiCiccio's real estate development company has a long-term lease on 75 acres of tribal-owned land literally across the street from his City Council district. He also has a lease to develop another 75 acres, also tribal-owned, along State Route 347.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio is working to develop land on the Gila River Indian Community.
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Councilman Sal DiCiccio is working to develop land on the Gila River Indian Community.

That saddles DiCiccio with what's potentially a huge conflict between the interests of his constituents and his own business dealings.

It's not just that DiCiccio's partners on the plan are developer Gary Davidson and former billboard mogul William Levine. (That would make it awkward if DiCiccio votes on any other projects they're involved with.) And it's not just that DiCiccio has been working closely with zoning über-lawyer Paul Gilbert. (That could surely raise questions if DiCiccio weighs in on any of the roughly, oh, 10 zillion development projects that Gilbert represents at City Hall.)

Nope, it's that the single hottest issue in DiCiccio's district is the proposed Loop 202 extension. And while most of Ahwatukee abhors the idea of a freeway tearing through the neighborhood, DiCiccio's commercial development plans would clearly benefit if the extension gets built.

One of the parcels that DiCiccio hopes to develop sits right at the mouth of where the freeway currently dead-ends — meaning the land will gain value no matter what location ADOT chooses for the long-stalled project, so long as it's built.

The other parcel, on State Route 347, could also benefit if ADOT chooses to move the route farther south into the Gila River Indian Community. Perhaps not so coincidentally, DiCiccio's been openly pushing neighbors to unify behind that option.

State law bars political officials from participating "in any manner" on matters in which they have a financial interest. Yet DiCiccio has thrust himself headlong into the Loop 202 debate, arranging meetings with congressmen and attempting to unite the neighborhood behind a potential alternative to the much-loathed Pecos Road alignment. Most of the key stakeholders I spoke with say they had no inkling of DiCiccio's business interests.

That doesn't appear to be illegal. But, to me, it is a problem.

Now, DiCiccio wouldn't talk to me about any of this, or even put his chief of staff on the phone. The only explanation I got was that DiCiccio's elderly mother was ill.

But clearly the story hit a nerve with someone. The minute our story broke online, it drew the most scurrilous comments I've garnered in my 10 years as a journalist — and that's saying something. (Ever been accused of being lesbian? What about a twat? What about a lesbian twat who gives blowjobs to her sources? Yes, the combination rather defies the imagination, but it's apparently the best these guys could come up with.)

Instead of ever calling me back, DiCiccio provided an alibi to the always-receptive Arizona Republic, which noted in a blog post that the councilman had obtained legal advice from City Attorney Gary Verburg back in March. Because the freeway will affect more than 10 people, Verburg decreed, DiCiccio needn't recuse himself from participating on it.

Huh?

So if DiCiccio wants to develop, say, a Wal-Mart, it's not a conflict for him to participate in council approval, because more than 10 people will shop there?

The mind reels.

Yes, the Loop 202 extension will affect all of Ahwatukee. But one person stands to benefit in a big way from it going through — while just about all the citizens he supposedly represents will suffer.

It's hard to imagine a bigger conflict of interest.


Most City Council districts have a wide array of boring-yet-important details for their council members to deal with: trash pickup, graffiti, the occasional zoning case.

Not so in the Phoenix City Council's sixth district. Here, at least in the Ahwatukee portion of the district, the Loop 202 extension blows all other potential controversies off the table.

The 202 currently circles through the East Valley, only to come to an abrupt halt in Ahwatukee, near 40th Street and Pecos. For decades, ADOT has dreamed of connecting the Loop 202 to the I-10 in west Phoenix. Its plan is to align the east-west portion of the new thoroughfare with Pecos Road.

The neighborhood opposes that vociferously, for obvious reasons. More than 250 homes would have to be destroyed. The character of quiet, pretty Ahwatukee would surely change.

So it's more than a little odd that the man now attempting to represent the neighborhood on the council has a financial interest in seeing that the freeway gets built.

And it hardly helps that DiCiccio has been so coy about his holdings. Yes, he disclosed his tribal leases on city-mandated disclosure forms, which were filed in May. And, yes, he quietly consulted City Attorney Verburg after taking office.

But in public, he's said nary a word about it.

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9 comments
Oliver
Oliver

I'm not so sure the "vast majority" of Ahwatukee residents oppose this freeway. I think the ones against it are actually a very loud minority.

James W McHugh
James W McHugh

what da hey, Deconcini, Renzi, DiCiccio- These bums are giving us a bad name! Al Capone

Balance
Balance

I am aware that Sarah is the journalist. I am waiting for Mr. Diciccio's opponent to use this opportunity to step up and show us her leadership skills. If she is going to take this office, she has an opportunity to do more than just complain about how her predecessor did things wrong. She can work to change the policy that allowed this to happen in the first place. She seems to be having too much fun with the conflict when she could be telling us how it should be done if it's going to be done better. She's wasting a wonderful opportunity. If she cannot do that, voting the incumbent out means putting an unknown quantity in...and I'm not convinced it is the better option. Action. Solutions. Stop the negative stuff and start showing us how it will be different.

SunDevilRick
SunDevilRick

To Balance:Sarah is not a candidate, she is a journalist. It is not her job to propose solutions it is her job to expose the problem. It is the job of the voters to fix the problem and vote Sal out.

Balance
Balance

Enough gloating already...that doesn't fix the identified problem.

I'm more interested in the candidate's point by point call for action regarding the situation. Does she have one?

What does she intend to do, specifically, as a council candidate to keep this kind of situation from happening again?

What kind of specific situations would she suggest, if she were in office, it would be appropriate and necessary for her to recuse herself from...and does she pledge to do so?

solutions
solutions

I am truly appalled that this has not already been brought out into the light of day, and I would certainly hope that the Arizona Republic, which "heartily" endorsed Sal, would write about this, and change their endorsement.

I absolutely hate these politicians who do it only for their own pocketbook, and that is exactly what Sal is doing - Sal and his pals.......we have got to get rid of these people!

And his mouthpeice, Jason Rose is ridiculously attacking Sal's opponent, Dana Kennedy because she makes a whopping 24k a year to run a non-profit group which helps women. Trust me, at 24k a year, she has definitely not mishandled the money!

As the matter of fact, as this article states, she has run an ethical hardworking campaign with a lot less money then Sal and his developer pals have. Seems to me, we should elect the honest candidate ( Kennedy) who knows how to stretch a buck , and actually cares about the city, not her pocketbook!

Mary
Mary

It's clear, Sal says one thing and always does another.

This guy created problems for Phoenix in the 90s and will keep doing so unless we get this guy out of office.

He just wants to make money off of the tax payees backs and I won't have it.

RJM
RJM

Thank you for pressing the hard issues. Our councilman is selling our interests for those of his developer buddies.

He needs to decide where his loyalty lies. Is it with his constituents or land development firms and his own self-interest?

I hope it that it is with his constituents. In which case he will excuse himself from all future debates about the Loop 202 both on the city council and his advocacy group.

Once an elected official, you cannot arbitrarily stop to operate in that position. His actions outside the council and on the council cannot be judged in two separate spheres as he is clearly using the influence of his position as a councilman in both spheres.

Please be honest with us councilman DiCiccio.

**To the rest of you, please refrain from personally attacking the journalist. Debate issues not some pseudo-character you invent.

JC GAL
JC GAL

I'm really confused because why would a Phoenix City Council member have to vote on a zoning project for a Walmart on the Gila reservation when the land does not reside in Phoenix?

 
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