Indeed, New Times has been able to confirm that DiCiccio ousted more than a dozen longtime members in the days just before his re-election and the months immediately following.

He's stated that he didn't reappoint the members because they never indicated they were interested in staying on. But after talking to seven ousted members, it's clear that the councilman's claims are misleading, at best.

Village planning committees long have been handled in a disorganized fashion. A number of members, including Lynn Heath, told me they were originally appointed to a two-year term and stayed on for years on end without being asked to reapply, much less being warned at any point that their term was set to expire. All seven members told me that, had they been given a choice, they would have stayed on.

Almost all of Sal DiCiccio's new appointees to the Camelback East Village planning committee have direct ties to development.
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Almost all of Sal DiCiccio's new appointees to the Camelback East Village planning committee have direct ties to development.

And there's a common thread in the people who were asked to leave the committees. They tend to listen to neighborhood interests, not just side with the developers.

Here's a good example:

Jill Harris and Laurel Arndt were members of the Ahwatukee committee. Both women pressed DiCiccio at a meeting in February 2009 to take a stand one way or another on the Loop 202 extension proposed for their neighborhood. He declined to answer yes or no, according to those in attendance. (Only later did the members learn that the councilman actually has a development lease of his own that would benefit from the freeway extension.)

Just a few days before DiCiccio's election in November, both women were informed their services were no longer needed.

"I was told that, technically, my term is up, which is true," Harris told me. "When I asked why they didn't give me an opportunity to reapply, they told me they had 'other people' in mind."

The councilman claimed to the Arizona Republic at one point that he's looking for "dynamos," but Harris and Arndt would certainly meet that description. Both have master's degrees in planning from ASU, as Harris confirmed to me last week. Other ousted members include architects, lawyers, and even a pilot.

Meanwhile, DiCiccio chose to reappoint an elderly member of the committee, who often sleeps through the meetings. He also reappointed another 10-year veteran, a childhood friend.

And the decisions made regarding the Camelback East committee are potentially even more troubling. DiCiccio, strangely, has appointed a high school student to the committee: The Xavier student can't even vote in a city election, but DiCiccio wants her voting on development projects.

His other appointees? The CEO of a construction management firm, a lobbyist for the Phoenix Association of Realtors, and a commercial broker with retail giant DeRito Partners. All of them, it should be noted, have jobs that tie them directly to development interests.

Interestingly, I learned that DiCiccio once hoped to place even more of his people on the committee. Neighborhood activists can thank his fellow councilman, Michael Johnson, for scuttling that deal.

Johnson's district also includes a small part of the Camelback East Village. That gives him the right to appoint four members to the committee — far fewer than DiCiccio's 13, but still enough to make a dent.

Johnson confirmed that DiCiccio asked him whether he'd give up his Camelback East appointments. DiCiccio suggested a "swap": Johnson would agree to appoint DiCiccio's people, in exchange for DiCiccio's appointing Johnson's picks on the Ahwatukee committee.

Johnson said no.

"It's known that Sal DiCiccio and I have two different philosophies about what we need do with our community and development," Johnson told me. (Suffice it to say, Johnson is notoriously less friendly to developers bearing checkbooks.)

"I have a responsibility to see that the people who elected me are assigned to the village planning committees," Johnson continued, "so that people who share my views have a voice."

Indeed, DiCiccio's plans upset his colleague enough that Johnson quickly filled two vacancies on the committee with neighborhood-friendly people.

DiCiccio didn't respond to my request for comment.

But I know I'm not alone in wondering just what DiCiccio's end game is. One of the ousted Ahwatukee committee members told me that he suspects the councilman sees a committee appointment much like an ambassadorship: He's less interested in the result than the chance to reward financial supporters.

That may well be true in Ahwatukee. (After all, DiCiccio was willing to barter away his slots there.) But in Camelback East, I suspect DiCiccio has a plan.

Why else send an aide to make it clear to Lynn Heath that she had to stop voting immediately? Why else establish rookies as chair and vice chair at their very first meeting?

The neighborhood activists who fought so hard against Scott Schirmer's plans for 44th Street and Camelback worry that Schirmer ultimately has little interest in developing the property. They managed to dig up minutes from the group that actually owns the acreage in question, the Dallas Police and Fire Department Pension Plan. Those minutes clearly show that, at least in 2006, the group wanted to "get entitlements for the Camel Square property and then sell it." A more commercial zoning, of course, would greatly increase the property's value.

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Mea Rachael
Mea Rachael

Another move By Sal DICiccio that is bad for the people and the neighborhood. Repost this and pass it on to your neighbors so we can vote him out before he redevlops the entire Camelback Corridor and Arcadia!

Rick Rude
Rick Rude

Fenske, you must be paying these people or posting comments yourself, you sly doogie! What was the great piece of investigative reporting? A woman that was replaced by the Councilman, as it is his decision. She picked up the phone and sobbed her story to Fenske and she printed it verbatim!

Don't bother slamming me (while you hide behind your alias') I live in Chicago and don't give a rip what you think

Camelback Hideaway
Camelback Hideaway

Sarah, you did an OUTSTANDING job with your article! FANTASTIC facts and under cover work! It is remarkable that our political system allows for these types of actions to happen! Sal is NOT representing his constituants! His actions (and his partnering with Schirmer) are dispicable. His District should be ALARMED at what he has put in place, i.e. your article spells it out pretty clearly! What to do next? Hummmmmmmmmmmm....

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

First rate investigative reporting, Ms. Fenske. The way you dug beneath the surface, interviewed the players, and got the behind-the-scenes backstory, was outstanding, as was your analysis of DiCiccio's likely motives. This is exactly what local reporting should be about. Most impressive.

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