Only in Arizona could big business and environmental lobbyists be interchangeable.
The Flash has learned that Arizona Department of Environmental Quality director Russell Rhoades has hired Marcus Osborn as DEQ's lobbyist to work with legislators.
The 27-year-old Osborn is a former lobbyist for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, a powerful industry group known for its zeal for dismantling environmental laws.
Osborn says the fact that he once worked for the chamber is "pretty helpful" because he knows how to "negotiate" with industry.
And "negotiating" with industry is even easier for Osborn because Jim Norton, DEQ's former legislative lobbyist, is now working for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.
Rhoades is so despised by environmentalists that they asked Governor Jane Hull to fire him last month. Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, complained that Rhoades, who's known as Mr. Marshmallow, supports amending laws and regulations to undercut DEQ's authority to protect the public from industrial pollution.
Did the Tribune err in letting a reporter who had accepted a job with the City of Scottsdale write front-page stories trashing two city council candidates just days before an election?
That was the charge made by the journalistic gadflies at Sonoran News in two separate articles which they backed up with city records.
The plot line: In December, Tribune reporter Mike Phillips applies for a job as a flack with the same city government he's been covering.
On February 25, the city offers Phillips a job as media relations manager, and the following day he accepts. He actually goes on the city payroll March 15.
On March 1, however, days after he has accepted the city job, two Tribune front-page stories carry Phillips' byline. Opens one: "Hannah Goldstein and George Zraket may be running for City Council, but their challenge to Scottsdale authority extends well beyond the election." The second story describes Goldstein's problems paying back taxes and other unsavory details culled from public records.
Seethed Sonoran News writer Ed Schneider: "Even as [Phillips] penned the assaults he became a Scottsdale employee, paid with your money to disseminate City Hall droppings."
A calmer, second story by Sonoran News editor Grant Smith dropped the conspiracy angle and got to the real question: Why had the Trib allowed Phillips to write about city politics after accepting a city job?
Phillips' editor, Hal DeKeyser, tells the Flash he doesn't remember the reporter telling him his decision to accept the city job was final. "I recall trying to talk him out of it [accepting the city job], and that wouldn't have happened if I had thought he was definitely going to take it," DeKeyser says.
He also points out that Phillips, along with several other reporters, had researched all 10 city council candidates much earlier. Data on Goldstein's trouble with back taxes and other matters had emerged during that period. "They were solid stories that would have been legitimate in any jurisdiction," he insists.
"The story appeared after he had accepted the job if the time line you're suggesting is true, but we weren't going to give up all of that reporting that had been done. And is that story solid? I would say yes it is," adds the editor.
The question Trib honchos should have asked: Should we allow someone who owes his professional allegiance to the City of Scottsdale to write about city issues, let alone council candidates?
Or perhaps they might have wondered whether a journalist who goes to work as a PR flack should be immediately but humanely destroyed.
Arizona Republic sports columnist Dan Bickley dropped a real bombshell in Sunday's edition with a piece about how Arizona Diamondbanks' managing partner Jerry Colangelo had stormed off the set during an interview with an "investigative" reporter from HBO.
The HBO show Real Sports was to air Colangelo's snit-fit Tuesday evening. Colangelo reportedly became upset over a reporter's questions about how much he stood to make on the Diamondbanks, despite his having invested only a pittance of his own money.
Bickley disclosed that the HBO reporter, Armen Keteyian, had "obtained a copy of the limited partnership agreement set up for Diamondba[n]k investors."
Funny. Bickley could have scored his own copy by waltzing to the top floor of the Republic's office building. The Republic's parent company, Phoenix Newspapers Inc., is a limited partner, with a $6 million investment.
Furthermore, the sweet deal Colangelo cut for himself has been common knowledge for three years. On June 22, 1995, New Times reported that a prospectus circulated to potential investors by Colangelo indicated that Big Jer and his management group would reap an annual fee of at least $2 million, of which Colangelo would garner 80 percent.
The team was also projecting to rake in $45 million in profits after only six years of play. The strong earnings would allow Colangelo to quickly repay limited partners and thereby increase his management team's share of profits to 25 percent. The prospectus reported at the time that Colangelo had put up only $800,000 of his own money.
The Flash finds it interesting that while HBO called on Bickley to pimp its stunning expose, it called New Times when it was reporting the story.
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