Lax Phoenix Recordkeeping Allows City Officials to Enjoy Lavish Off-the-Book Perks

As Phoenix residents sacrificed during one of the harshest budget years in the city's history — receiving fewer municipal services and paying a new food tax — certain city officials continued to enjoy lavish perks.

Tickets to a luxury suite to watch big-name performers and Phoenix Suns playoff games are among the advantages at least a few city leaders have enjoyed.

The Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau, funded in part by taxpayers, paid for Peggy Neely, who just resigned her councilwoman post to launch a campaign for mayor, to fly to Hawaii on a six-night, seven-day junket to woo a youth-soccer tournament that didn't need wooing.

Phoenix officials have a luxury suite at their disposal, and they use it without having their names revealed in city records.
Phoenix officials have a luxury suite at their disposal, and they use it without having their names revealed in city records.

Phoenix taxpayers picked up the tab for Neely's meals, car rental, and posh accommodations on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.

City Manager David Cavazos went to four Suns playoff games in a city-owned suite in US Airways Center (one in 2010 and three in 2006). He also sat in the suite for at least 12 other events, according to city records.

Phoenix owns the arena, as well as one of its 12-seat suites — which, the city says, is to be used for hosting potential business prospects, visiting dignitaries, or youth groups.

Cavazos tells New Times he can't recall whether he attended the games he attended: "If [the record] says I was there, then I was there, but I don't remember."

Former Councilman Greg Stanton, another mayoral candidate, says he never took such perks.

"The city should sell back the tickets to bring in much-needed revenue," Stanton says, "and eliminate a culture of entitlement."

Selling the suite tickets to other organizations is an option that would put money back in the city's pocket. And given that city officials are pinching pennies to overcome a $59 million budget shortfall, why wouldn't they seize the opportunity to raise extra revenue?

In the past five years, the city has sold the suite only 35 times, bringing in $77,000.

Cavazos says the last four times he has accepted tickets to the suite, he's written a $100 check each time to offset the cost of his attendance. He says the money went to Phoenix Economic Partners, a not-for-profit organization that foots the bill for catering the suite.

When asked about records of those checks, he says he isn't sure whether he wrote any checks, but he thinks he might have.

Alison Herring, whom Cavazos says is the keeper of such records in the Phoenix Community and Economic Development Department, has not returned repeated calls from New Times.

Councilman Claude Mattox, also a mayoral candidate, attended at least three rock concerts at US Airways Center: Bob Seger and The Who in 2007 and Billy Joel/Elton John in 2009.

Though he got the tickets for the Joel/John concert through the city, Mattox says, he paid for them out of his own pocket. He also says he didn't sit in the city's suite for that show.

City records, however, put him in the luxury box for that performance, along with former economic development director Don Maxwell and an unnamed business prospect from Washington, D.C.

As they were with Cavazos, details are sketchy regarding Mattox's use of the suite.

Mattox says he's been to so many concerts over the years that he can't remember whether he attended or sat in the suite for performances by Eric Clapton, The Police, and The Eagles. And, if he was there, he says he can't remember if he paid his own way.

Records that would answer such questions should be readily available from the Community and Economic Development Department, which city policy dictates is responsible for managing the use of the suite.

But New Times discovered that — for at least five years — the department has violated city policy by releasing tickets to the suite without first getting the names, business affiliations, and job titles of suite guests.

The shoddy recordkeeping leaves the suite open to abuse, and allows elected officials to attend events and keep their names off the books (Mattox's name was left off city records at least twice), which raises the question: Is what New Times found for this article just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the pricey perk for city officials?

The fact that council members make more than the average Phoenix resident and can afford tickets on their own apparently doesn't enter into the thinking of the likes of Cavazos and Mattox. Council members make $61,610 a year, while Cavazos makes $236,000 annually.

Former Councilwoman Neely says she attended one US Airways Center event, but her name also is absent from the records provided New Times.

As for her nearly $4,000 trip to Hawaii, Neely defends it, saying it resulted in Phoenix's landing the 2012 U.S. Youth Soccer regional tournament. She says it will mean 4,000 hotel room nights for each day of the weeklong tournament.

"That's huge," she tells New Times. "We were successful. It was just one of those things that happened to be in Hawaii that year. We believe it was the best thing to do."

Travel logs show that the Convention and Visitors Bureau picked up the tab for Neely to fly to Hawaii from June 14 to June 20, 2008, to recruit the tournament — at the same time the city was sliding into a $67 million budget deficit.

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25 comments
FRIENDORLOVER
FRIENDORLOVER

WOW I SHOULD BECOME A POLITICIAN...WHAT REALLY SUXS IS POLITICIANS LIVE THE GOOD LIFE..BUT PEOPLE LIKE MY GIRL FRIEND WHO HAS Acute lymphoblastic leukemiaA TYPE OF CANCER,SHE CANT WORK BECAUSE OF THE TYPE OF CHEMO MEDS (GLEVAC) SHE IS TAKING AND IS DENIED SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY..

FRIENDORLOVER@YAHOO.COM
FRIENDORLOVER@YAHOO.COM

WOW I SHOULD BECOME A POLITICIAN...WHAT REALLY SUXS IS POLITICIANS LIVE THE GOOD LIFE..BUT PEOPLE LIKE MY GIRL FRIEND WHO HAS Acute lymphoblastic leukemiaA TYPE OF CANCER,SHE CANT WORK BECAUSE OF THEY CHEMO MEDS (GLEVAC)SHE CANT WORK,BUT IS BEING DENIED SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY..

Phxtrio
Phxtrio

what in the world is wrong with everyone. They micromanage everything else in the City and do not accept accountability for themselves

SCURVY WAFERS
SCURVY WAFERS

typical. the snarky elitist and thier 'do as i say, not as i do' paradigm. and we actually VOTE for these chumps? time to rewrite the rules, throw the parasites out of office and DEMAND POLITICAL TRANSPARANCY. only then will you get the 'CHANGE' you seek. until then, stop complaining cos nothing is going to be any different at any time soon

tom
tom

If I " borrowed" other people's money, used it for these luxuries to make me appear wealthier. I would go to prison for felony burglary and you would not see or hear from me for a long time. Where is our gun ho Sherriff Joe to catch these criminal thugs..

CORRUPTED & DISGUSTED!
CORRUPTED & DISGUSTED!

Where is the surprise or revealing shock?? Government is CORRUPT!! Throw the bums out is right! Transparency? What a joke! Start at the top to cut the budget! Government is fat and distrustful! That is right, the people in government are the corrupted ones and elitist!

sacmando
sacmando

Time to throw ALL the bums out.

Neely, Maddox & Cavazos what a bunch of clowns!

How stupid or greedy do you have to be to pull this crap!!

Unbelievable contempt for each and every taxpayer.

Coz
Coz

Ahhh...Maricopa County, the land of the have and have not. Politicians have and get it all and the tax payers, as usual, get fucked.

Coz
Coz

Neely is just another political HACK.

Coz
Coz

But of course, what did you expect from those that write the self serving rules.

Steve
Steve

Nice...the chief retires, keeps his bloated pension and nothing happends to him.....what a joke....that why the citizens dont respect the Phoenix Police

linto4
linto4

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Former Republican
Former Republican

Will not support Peggy Neely. It's time to clean house in Phoenix.

Guest
Guest

Rugged idividualism has degenerated into "self help' and wide spread thievery.Keep voting loosers and sqaundrels in.......good job citizens of Phoenix.Congratulations."'

Clif Freedman
Clif Freedman

Peggy Neely will NEVER be elected Mayor of Phoenix. As a trusted representative of District 2 she violated her fiduciary obligation to her electors. She has "sold out" to commercial interests like Westcor. She has a clear conflict of interest by having Paul Gilbert, a zoning attorney for Westcor on her campaign staff helping to raise money for her failed bid for Mayor. As head of Transportation for the City of Phoenix as a City Council member, Peggy Neely gerrymandered Sonoran Blvd, a road that was supposed to link the new 303-loop east to Route 51. Upon information and belief she was paid off by Westcor with the help of attorney Paul Gilbert to not only change the name of Sonoran Blvd but to actually build the road so that it aligns with Westcor's property in Northern Phoenix and NOT Route 303. This, of course, enhances the value of Westcor's 80 acre commercial parcel of property. Why is this important? Because now motorists who are traveling on the new extension of 303 won't be able to travel east of I-17 to get to Route 51. Peggy Neely for political purposes "broke" the loop and has caused motorists irreparable harm. Not only that but because of her blind ambition to become Mayor, the road Peggy Neely is building, the NEW Sonoran Blvd., will dead end in a Phoenix residential community causing massive traffic and confusion for NOT only the local residents but for the folks who will be traveling WEST from North Scottsdale, Cave Creek Road area, and Carefree who think they are going to I-17 or 303. They will dead end at the intersection of North Valley Parkway and the NEW Neely Sonoran Blvd. This is called the Road To Nowhere. However, there a simple solution, build the Road To Somewhere. The Road To Somewhere is where the road was originally supposed to be built. This road is ONE mile south of the Neely-Westcor Freeway and perfectly aligns with the new Route 303. In fact, there is funding for this road and not for the Neely-Westcor Road. I am President of the Sonoran Citizens Improvement Association. My name is Clif Freedman. See www.sornorancitizens.com

Walter Concrete
Walter Concrete

Unfortunately we can't fire these lying, low life dick heads. What can we do? Who's in charge of policing these jerk offs and making them pay for their criminal misdeeds? Would that be the Arizona State Attorney General's Office? I think that's a possibility. Just having some other department tell them they've been bad and not to do it again is ludicrous. I give the New Times credit for pursuing these people as they continue to lie in public and guaranteeing their place in hell if there is one. They have no conscience because they're psychopaths in their natural position of fleecing the public's money. What marvelous leaders and role models they are for us all. They are all interchangeable. There's no difference between them except for the amount they've defrauded from the public. The best liars go the furthest. Look at who leads our nation. That is the best sock puppet we've had in awhile. Did you know he and his wife swam in the Gulf of Mexico to show how safe and non toxic it is? Of course he did...didn't he?

81 Mesa Arizona
81 Mesa Arizona

most of the people you speak of are clean cut short haired white males. you cant trust guys like that. not even Donald Trump. or Sheriff Joe.

Anon
Anon

Accidently hit the "like" button. This is an Arizona issue not a national issue.

Guest23
Guest23

Arizona passing the anti-immigration bill influenced other states to do the same... as well as the bill making a law that only the federal govt can make... which makes it a national issue.

 
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