It's election night, and the crowd is exuberant inside the auditorium at Civic Space Park on Arizona State University's downtown Phoenix campus.
The celebration on August 20 is about the re-election of Councilman Michael Nowakowski and the victory of Greg Stanton, a mayoral candidate who ended the night with the most votes, securing a spot in a November showdown with runner-up Wes Gullett.
Though he has been working the crowd, Mayor Phil Gordon seems glum.
New Times feature story
Gordon's all-business security detail keeps a watchful eye on him as he pauses briefly to shake a hand, pat a shoulder, and exchange a few words.
A reporter spots him and, with notebook in hand, weaves through the crowd to elicit the mayor's thoughts about the election results and the two men who are competing to replace him.
Gordon isn't happy to see the member of the press. He has three months left in office, and his future plans are uncertain. It's also getting circulated that his romantic relationship with political fundraiser Elissa Mullany is over.
Like ASU's downtown Phoenix campus, which he helped make a reality and where this event is taking place, Gordon's love affair with Mullany will define his two terms as mayor of America's sixth-largest city.
Mullany publicly raised eyebrows when she ascended from Gordon's political fundraiser to his well-paid girlfriend. As the romantic relationship developed, she landed consulting gigs with executives — including high-profile developers, an international transportation firm, and foreign dignitaries — who benefited from their ties to Gordon.
Gordon barely looks up at the reporter, continuing to move through the crowd, only more quickly now. He doesn't respond to her request for comment about the election, only slightly shaking his head. He grabs a few more hands and, eyes cast down, scurries through the auditorium's double doors.
In the hallway, he runs into Greg Stanton. The two shake hands as the trailing reporter pulls out a camera in an attempt to capture the moment: one man winding down his city political career and another winding his up. Gordon spots the camera and guides Stanton farther down the corridor to avoid getting photographed.
They chat for just a few seconds before Gordon leaves the building, climbs into a dark vehicle driven by one of the Phoenix police officers charged with his safety, and disappears into the night.
Gordon didn't always duck the media.
During his first term and in the early days of his second, he gladly allowed reporters to roam his space on the 11th floor of City Hall. He was happy to share his daily calendar with anybody in the press who requested it.
Friendly Mayor Phil became secretive Mayor Gordon in 2009, when uncomfortable questions were first raised about whether Gordon was mixing city business with his personal life. Specifically: Did the mayor use the influence of his office to get his girlfriend and her company a financial and professional edge? Did he make it possible for her to get paid by powerful companies doing business with the city?
One of the companies that employed Elissa Mullany while she was Gordon's girlfriend was Veolia Transportation, which has a five-year, more-than-$380 million contract with the city to operate its bus fleet.
Mayor Phil Gordon first professed support for Veolia Transportation to win the city's huge bus contract at a June 2009 City Council meeting. The mayor's endorsement came even before competing business proposals were on the table and during a time when his relationship with Elissa Mullany was the stuff of City Hall rumors.
Causing concern, after the mayor said he wanted the contract to go to Veolia, was that the company had hired Mullany, his then-alleged love interest, as a consultant in 2007 and still was cutting her checks as it competed for the city's business.
Though Gordon insisted that she was just a good friend, Mullany spent a lot of time at the Mayor's Office as the contract was getting decided. Sometimes wearing revealing attire, she would flirt with the mayor in front of office staff.
The truth wouldn't stay hidden for long.
Gordon tried desperately to shield himself from questions about his relationship with Mullany, about what role she played in city business he conducted. He worked hard to keep documents secret that would expose what was going on.
But information about how their personal and professional relationships were commingled leaked in 2009 from sources with ties to Gordon.
It became public that Mullany was indeed Gordon's girlfriend and had gotten paid to represent, as a consultant, companies doing business with the city — that, during his travels allegedly on behalf of the city, Gordon solicited jobs for her and tried to help her establish connections for new business ventures.
The smitten Gordon's behavior was a far cry from the image he had cultivated for himself as a folksy neighborhood-watch politician and tireless cheerleader for Phoenix.
An attorney, he'd started out representing developers who wanted to tear down historic buildings in favor of retail projects. But he reinvented himself as an advocate for historic preservation, and the philosophical change gave his political career traction.
Under his leadership, downtown Phoenix experienced major redevelopment, from the expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center to establishment of ASU's downtown campus. He has backed such projects as the downtown Sheraton Hotel and CityScape, a mixed-use development that helped breathe life into downtown.
Gordon will be exalted, particularly in the Latino community, for eventually standing up to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and decrying the self-proclaimed America's toughest sheriff's criminal roundups targeting Hispanic minorities. He will be praised for speaking out loudly against Senate Bill 1070, a law under federal court challenge that allows any cop to act as an immigration officer in Arizona.
But he also will be remembered for compromising his ethics to help a sexy woman he described to confidants as his true love.
When Mayor Phil Gordon announced officially on December 8, 2009, that he was romantically involved with Elissa Mullany, he started refraining from votes tied to Veolia Transportation and the city bus contract — but only in public.
Behind the scenes, Gordon gave advice to the company on how to play hardball with the city.
Cash-strapped Phoenix agreed in 2010 to pay $27.5 million over five years to Veolia, which had Mullany on its payroll.
Although he claimed he was not involved with decisions about Veolia and its contract, the mayor stepped into the fray from late March to early April 2010, when the company wasn't getting its way during contract negotiations with the city. Gordon advised Veolia executives to tell city transit officials that it would walk away from its city bus contract, a Veolia insider tells New Times.
Representatives for Gordon's office and Veolia both confirmed that a Veolia representative and Gordon discussed the Veolia contract, despite Gordon's conflict because of his relationship with Mullany. During one of their meetings, the mayor advised Billy Shields, his good friend and lobbyist for Veolia, to tell his client to walk away from its Phoenix contract because city officials wouldn't agree to the company's demands for more money, the source says.
When Veolia followed through and reneged on the contract it was awarded, Phoenix officials flew to Chicago, where they agreed to pay Veolia nearly $30 million worth of concessions.
Critics complain that Mayor Gordon put his girlfriend's and the company's interests ahead of the city's
On Veolia's payroll since 2007, Mullany was paid by the transportation company the entire time she and Gordon dated.
Mullany, who served as a consultant for Veolia, helped the firm land its latest Phoenix contract, which company officials call "one of the biggest of its kind in the United States."
Company officials also confirm that Mullany was directly involved in the Phoenix contract, though they characterize her role as "brief."
A Veolia spokeswoman says, "Part of Ms. Mullany's ongoing duties, among many, included helping with the oral-presentation preparation. She did assist our staff in oral-presentation training for the [proposal's] evaluation/interview panels. She had a brief role in a three-day preparatory meeting."
Mullany was on a team coaching Veolia executives in November 2009 on how to answer questions posed by a city panel evaluating the two finalists for the bus contract — First Transit and Veolia.
The Veolia insider says Mullany advised company executives at that time on how to craft answers based on what the city wanted to hear.
Despite Mullany's role with the Phoenix contract and her romantic involvement with Gordon, the mayor still pulled strings behind the scenes, the source says.
Once Gordon declared a conflict of interest, according to the city's ethics policy, he no longer could participate in related city business in "any manner." But that didn't stop him from apparently actively participating during closed-door executive sessions in 2010 involving Veolia.
Although the City Attorney's Office and Gordon refuse to release even a simple list of the elected officials present during these meetings on April 27 and May 11, several council members confirmed Gordon's participation.
The city and Veolia were at odds over an expiring contract and a recently awarded contract, along with company executives' demands that Phoenix transit officials pay Veolia employees' pensions (which had become under-funded because of economic downturns) and pay for unused sick leave.
Veolia negotiators weren't getting the city to budge, so they turned to Billy Shields, the Phoenix firefighters' union boss turned lobbyist.
Erica Swerdlow, spokeswoman for Veolia Transportation, denies that Gordon spoke directly to Veolia executives but concedes that the mayor suggested to the company how contract negotiations should be handled.
"He did indicate to our lobbyist, Billy Shields, that he had removed himself from any involvement in negotiations over the old contract but suggested that, in order to get the matter resolved with the city — which was in everyone's interest — we needed to get it elevated to the city-manager level," Swerdlow says.
Apparently, Veolia's threatening to walk away from a city bus contract — leaving Phoenix with only two months of guaranteed bus service and the immediate need to find another transportation company — was an effective way of getting the city manager's attention.
After Gordon made his suggestion, the company told the city it was pulling out.
David Leibowitz, Gordon's hired spokesman, also confirmed the mayor's involvement but said Gordon did nothing wrong, much less illegal. He described Gordon's role as "minimal."
The mayor refused to speak directly to New Times on any matter related to this story, at one point insisting that all questions be submitted in writing to Leibowitz.
"What the mayor did do in reference to Veolia is affirm their belief that, in order to resolve the matter, they should elevate the negotiation conversation up the city's chain of command to the city manager. The mayor's thinking was, getting this resolved was in everyone's best interest and that the time had come to 'go upstairs,' so to speak," Leibowitz tells New Times in a statement.
Veolia fired off its written notice rejecting the five-year, $388 million contract Phoenix had awarded the company, and City Manager David Cavazos promptly flew to Chicago with several employees to strike a deal with the company.
To settle the old contract, Cavazos made $27.5 million worth of concessions to Veolia for the pension and sick-leave payments and agreed not to recoup $681,000 that the Phoenix Public Transit Department already had mistakenly paid for Veolia employees' sick days between 2000 and 2009. Despite the fact that sick-leave payments were Veolia's — not the city's — responsibility, nobody in the city's transit department noticed that the firm had been billing Phoenix for the cost for almost nine years.
Still, the company wanted more — so city officials also rewrote part of the new contract.
Not only did Phoenix eliminate a $50,000-a-day fine if workers went on strike and postpone all fines (for such problems as late buses, employees out of uniform, or customer complaints) for four months, it also slipped a clause into the updated contract that essentially allows Veolia to wiggle out of future fines if it concludes they are unfair.
Despite these obvious changes, Phoenix officials denied that the latest bus contract was altered in any way during a federal inquiry into how the contract was awarded.
A New Times story about Gordon's involvement with the contract while his girlfriend was actively working to help the company land the deal prompted a probe by the Federal Transit Administration, which provides Phoenix the bulk of its transportation budget.
The investigation is ongoing, as are the generous breaks that Veolia is getting.
So far, Phoenix has waived more than $2 million in poor-performance fines for Veolia, even though the fines were supposed to encourage better service and accountability to the public.
When Veolia first bid on the bus contract, it objected to all fines the city planned to assess. City transit officials told Veolia that unless it withdrew the objections, the company could not bid on the contract. Company officials withdrew them and were awarded the new contract in January 2010.
Perhaps emboldened by having friends in high places, Veolia once again brought up the fines after it had locked in the new contract.
Corporate executives complained that the fines weren't fair because they didn't have enough time to prepare for the new contract. Phoenix officials simply folded, even though their own legal advisers believed that Veolia's claim had no merit since it had delayed signing the contract. City officials were left without many options, given there could be a lapse in bus service if the company walked away.
"It was a way to get this [new] contract signed," Assistant City Manager Ed Zuercher says about the overall settlement.
The depth of Gordon's involvement in Veolia negotiations is unknown because the City Attorney's Office has shielded the mayor from any public accountability, siding with him in favor of keeping certain documents under wraps.
But New Times discovered that the mayor's helping Veolia muscle money out of Phoenix was only one example of his aiding a company paying his girlfriend.
When Mullany was hired by Phoenix mega-developer Steve Ellman, Gordon's calendars and other public records — including e-mail exchanges between his staff members — reveal that Ellman enjoyed unfettered access to the mayor. Ellman had dinners, set up by Mullany, with wealthy foreign dignitaries from the Middle East and even traveled with Gordon to meet deep-pocketed businessmen who could be potential investors in his development projects.
Gordon knew, at the very least, that it didn't look right that his girlfriend was getting jobs with companies doing business with the city. This is probably why he and Leibowitz's predecessor, public-relations agent Jason Rose, tried to cover up that Mullany was Ellman's consultant, earning as much as $20,000 a month. In an e-mail to Gordon's senior assistant, Rose instructed mayoral staff to say — if directly asked — that they didn't know whether Mullany was on Ellman's payroll.
Rose wrote in a March 2010 e-mail that if anyone poses questions about Mullany and Ellman, the following protocol should be followed:
"Suggest [that] the mayor can't, couldn't, and wouldn't vote on something that she was involved in. Don't know who she represents or represented for event planning and community relations . . . if asked, unaware of any work Elissa has done for Ellman or anyone else in the city of Phoenix."
Gordon, Rose, and others knew Mullany was working for Ellman. Despite Rose's posturing, internal e-mails between Gordon and Rose reveal that Mullany worked for Ellman for at least six months promoting investment opportunities for his development firm. Then came her job with Veolia to, among other things, help the company win the Phoenix bus contract.
City officials refused repeated requests to produce a copy of Gordon's conflict-of-interest list, which Gordon once said he would put Mullany on to make sure he didn't vote on anything related to her business interests.
All other members of the Phoenix City Council released their lists, but City Attorney Gary Verburg told New Times that Gordon's list was subject to attorney-client privilege.
When Phil Gordon stepped onto the political stage in Phoenix, he hardly looked the part of big-city mayor. Rudy Giuliani, he wasn't
Until near the end of his second term, his staff continually was after him about his rumpled clothes and mussed hair. No matter how many times he practiced a speech, he inevitably would inject awkward mid-sentence pauses and stumble over words. Those around him still joke about his tendency to fidget, about how he just can't sit still through a rubber-chicken luncheon.
But it was all part of his folksy charm. He didn't come across, in his early days as mayor, as a professional politician, and people liked that. It fit in with his agenda then, too — fighting slumlords, promoting front-porch benches as a way for residents to keep a watchful eye on their neighborhoods.
The over-caffeinated politico always was on the go, rarely turning down an invitation to an event. He would pop up all over town, if only for a few minutes at a time. He sometimes worked weekends, showing up at City Hall in jogging pants and a sweatshirt, without his security detail.
Gordon was a popular mayor. He first was elected in September 2003, with 72 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in September 2007, with 77 percent. In 2008, he was named Best Mayor in North America by London-based World Mayors Project. He serves as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Task Force on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
But there has been a transformation in the man who first charmed Phoenix voters and even the press. Once he met Elissa Mullany, 20 years younger than him, he started showing up in tailored clothes with a slick haircut.
Gordon's vision for Phoenix broadened during his years in the Mayor's Office. He became convinced that he could revive the city's economy by luring Middle Eastern businessmen to open companies, invest in local ventures, or relocate headquarters here.
But, other than a document or two that Gordon signed with foreign officials to agree to look for ways to work together, his efforts hardly have flourished.
Gordon was riding high after a successful bond-issue campaign in 2006, which earmarked the lion's share of the nearly $1 billion for ASU's downtown campus. After the campus opened, a deal was struck with the University of Arizona to also have a presence downtown.
The area started to bustle with construction — the city-backed Sheraton Hotel was going up, the Phoenix Convention Center was to be expanded, and deals were in the works for CityScape, a downtown development project touted to bring restaurants, bars, and gathering places to the heart of the city.
Gordon would look out his City Hall window and see giant cranes off in the distance — proof that his efforts were paying off.
City Hall insiders tell New Times that Gordon's ego started getting the best of him around that time, that he stopped listening even to his closest advisers.
At home, his marriage to Christa Severns was struggling in 2007. By February 2008, they were separated.
Gordon was developing stronger feelings toward Mullany, who was still married to her second husband, James Mullany, a partner at the real estate investment firm Old World Communities/Berkana Townhomes. She had just ended an affair with a Phoenix cop who was a member of the mayor's security detail.
Gordon knew all that, but he clearly was infatuated.
In March 2009, Gordon and his wife of 15 years confirmed that they were splitting up. They soon filed for divorce in Maricopa County Superior Court. Gordon claims he and Severns had been separated for a year and that Mullany had nothing to do with their divorce, which became final in January 2010.
It was the second divorce for Gordon, who has three adult children from his first marriage.
Friends of Gordon's say he grew more focused on the politics of his job.
They say he also focused on Mullany. He named her as a board member of the short-lived Global Trade Initiative in August 2008. The now-defunct program was billed as a way to spark economic development in Phoenix by reaching out to the leaders of other countries.
It did none of that, but the money raised through membership fees and political contributions from local businesses funded a trip by Mullany and three other Trade Initiative members to Dubai and a trip by Gordon to Israel (Mullany also was there, reportedly on her own dime). Mullany also was paid $12,000 in Trade Initiative money to organize a fundraising breakfast.
Mullany, a political fundraiser, seemed out of place on a committee that included ASU President Michael Crow, who served as its chairman; Bob Johnson, former president of Dubai Aerospace Enterprise; and Jan Lesher, then-Governor Janet Napolitano's chief of staff.
Although many had their suspicions at the time, Gordon continued to deny any romantic relationship with Mullany.
It all started to unravel after a reporter filed a public-records request for logs maintained by Gordon's security detail. These records documented where the security officers picked up and dropped off the mayor, whom he met with, how he spent his time, and anybody else they shuttled around.
Within minutes of the e-mailing of the request to the Phoenix Police Department, Gordon called the reporter to probe for more information about the nature of the inquiry. He seemed unsettled, and he made it clear that the records wouldn't be released.
Attorneys for the city later came up with a legal excuse for why the logs should be exempt from the Arizona Public Records Law. And a Maricopa County Superior Court judge eventually agreed, after Judicial Watch, a conservative think tank out of Washington, D.C., filed a lawsuit to get access to the records.
Gordon, who was separated but still married then, knew news stories were about to break in New Times about his love affair with Mullany and how much money the city had paid her — more than $340,000 between 2005 and 2010, most of it after the two became romantically involved.
Gordon paid MullanyWunder, a company Elissa started with Cate Wunder, out of mayoral campaign funds and from donations for downtown improvement to organize events and manage various political accounts, some of which had been inactive for years.
He needed to do damage control — and quickly.
Gordon called flack Jason Rose, who touts his ability to manage public-relations disasters. Before any news story regarding the mayor and Mullany appeared, Rose put out a press release in December 2009 announcing Gordon's relationship with Elissa and assuring the public that it would be vetted by City Attorney Verburg and former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas A. Zlaket.
Gordon hadn't violated any elections or conflict-of-interest laws by paying his chief fundraiser hundreds of thousands of dollars in private money, Rose later claimed, holding up the legal reviews that he and Gordon had commissioned from the pair as proof.
Zlaket, a Tucson attorney who had never met Gordon, said the mayor hadn't broken the state's conflict-of-interest law since neither he nor an immediate family member personally benefited from payouts to Mullany. Girlfriends are not covered in the statute.
But even handpicked legal expert Zlaket cautioned the mayor in a December 26, 2009, letter that "perception is sometimes as important as reality [and] certain actions or payments here may prompt legitimate questions."
The former chief justice's warning fell on deaf ears as Gordon has continued to look for ways to benefit Mullany.
When the Phoenix Global Trade Initiative folded in 2009, Gordon set out on his own to do what it was supposed to do — and Mullany made money off his efforts.
Earlier this year, Gordon helped Mullany land an $8,000 contract to organize meetings with Bahraini business leaders in Phoenix, after giving her name to the consulting firm hired by the foreign capitalists.
That is, he helped his girlfriend instead of turning over contacts from his global travels to the Phoenix Community and Economic Development Department, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, or the Arizona Commerce Authority.
The result was that she set up a few meetings, including one at ASU between local business leaders and Bahraini government officials. Gordon eventually signed a ceremonial agreement with Bahrain for future partnerships, but nothing has come of it.
Just this month, Gordon put an item on the City Council agenda to appoint Mullany to the powerful Phoenix Aviation Advisory Board, which decides on lucrative contracts at Sky Harbor International and smaller airports.
There was collective head-shaking at City Hall, and Gordon realized the item wouldn't win council approval. He pulled it at the last minute.
Despite all the hoopla over Gordon's efforts on behalf of her, Mullany told the Arizona Republic in February that she saw "no ethical conflict" in any of the actions.
"People might think that I'm abusing my role with him," she was quoted as saying about the mayor. "I might get his attention more than someone else, but I'm not asking him to do something that isn't good for the city and isn't benefiting anyone else."
A month later, in an interview with the Republic's Karina Bland, Mullany took an obvious jab at Gordon's ex-wife, hinting that Gordon lacked support at home.
Mullany said it was Gordon's "energy, his vision, and his drive to get all these big-picture things done" that attracted her to him.
She candidly told Bland, "It's not like I thought he had a great ass."
Mullany continued, "We were already friends. He was ready for someone in his personal life who could support him. We had a mutual passion for the same sort of projects."
One of her passions, at least, seemed to be any project that involved travel.
As for Gordon, he hated to leave town during his first years in office. So much so that he even grumbled about going on a family vacation.
But this all changed with Mullany by his side. Suddenly, he was jetting to the Middle East, Mexico, China, Canada, and across the United States.
Without Gordon, Mullany never could've afforded to travel on private jets to foreign lands seeking business opportunities.
Mullany and her then-husband endured their share of financial troubles. In June 2009, Capitol One won a $12,180 judgment against James Mullany when he failed to pay on his credit card. The state also filed a tax lien against the Mullanys for $2,092 in October 2009. In September 2010, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ordered the couple to pay $21,136 to a creditor. Another tax-lien notice was filed by the IRS in June 2011 against the Mullanys for nearly $47,000 in back taxes.
Her lifestyle at Gordon's side belied her financial portfolio.
"I get to see things I would normally never get to see and meet people I normally wouldn't get to meet. There are experiences I would never have experienced," she told the Republic's Bland, adding that on a trip to Mexico with Gordon, she and her kids got to pet a rare white tiger at a private zoo.
A private zoo, private jets, and worldwide globetrotting — but who was picking up the tab?
In some cases, foreign governments paid for such travel. In others, city records show, Gordon covered the costs with money from various campaign funds he had set up over the years.
But exactly how often he and Mullany jetted around the world and the nation, the purpose of the trips, and who picked up the tabs remain shrouded by Gordon.
Phoenix residents got a glimpse of how the travel might be more than a personal perk for Mullany in an October 2010 e-mail from Gordon to the assistant of a university president in Singapore.
"Will you let the president know that I will be in China at least from January 3 2011 to the 9th," Gordon wrote on October 8 to Tian Tian, assistant to the president of the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. "I am able to come earlier or stay longer if the president wants to meet in China or for me [to come to] Singapore. My significant other who has a small company focused on global connections will be with me."
Mullany hardly was running a "global connections" business before she hooked up with Gordon. Their relationship began when she did fundraising for local projects with which he was closely aligned — Metro light rail, ASU's downtown campus, expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center.
Neighbors say they liked Mullany when she moved into Central Phoenix's historic Medlock Place neighborhood in 2004. But they thought it was odd when Gordon became a frequent visitor to her home. She moved out of the Medlock house in 2007 and moved back in in 2008.
Neighbors report seeing security officers pull up to Mullany's home from time to time. They say the mayor's city car would be there 15 minutes or more until she came out of the house, dressed up, and climbed inside alone.
Other times, the car pulled up, and Gordon got out and went inside Mullany's home.
Leibowitz, Gordon's paid defender, says Mullany never worked for or represented the city and that the "mayor's travels — and those who travel with him — are not paid for with taxpayer money."
Dave Levinthal, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics, says that while he's not knowledgeable about the specifics of Gordon's relationship with Mullany, the facts as described by New Times raise concerns.
"In general, anytime you have a situation where a person in elected office is paying their close friend, family member, or a person they're romantically involved with, it raises serious questions," he said when news first broke about Gordon's payments to Mullany.
"The people who have donated to his campaign should take a pretty acute interest in anything like this," Levinthal added. "Political campaigns are run to win office. They shouldn't be a slush fund for your buddies."
Leibowitz also says Gordon isn't required to answer questions or reveal details about the trips, because they were paid for with private money.
These aren't the only questions that Gordon and his camp have refused to answer.
He's flown on private jets with his girlfriend (and at least once with her children and mother) to Mexico City, to a Super Bowl in Florida, and to destinations in the Middle East and around the world.
He won't disclose whom the planes belonged to, but sources say he has flown on jets with ties to Phoenix developer Steve Ellman and wealthy businessmen from Mexico City.
The mayor won't disclose who paid for the tickets that he and Mullany used to attend at least two Super Bowls or who paid for tickets to sit in posh seats at Chase Field during opening day for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Arizona law bans public officials from accepting tickets to sports or entertainment events.
Gordon's refusal to answer questions only furthers speculation about his motives, which he claims have always been about boosting Phoenix's economy.
Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke announced his resignation recently, and there has been speculation that Phil Gordon will make a bid for the seat.
But politicos point out that Gordon is unlikely to get the nod because he didn't support Barack Obama for president. Gordon, whom many people originally supported because they considered him a progressive, endorsed Arizona Senator John McCain.
While Gordon's name also has been floated for various congressional seats, it would be difficult for him to win in a Democratic district because of his onetime endorsements of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, both right-wing Republicans known for bashing immigrants.
In December 2007, Gordon was harangued by police-union leaders, including former Phoenix Law Enforcement Association president Mark Spencer, to reverse a city practice that prevents cops from inquiring about the immigration status of individuals or contacting immigration-enforcement officers.
Gordon finally caved in and said he couldn't support the policy anymore.
Just a few months later, in April 2008, Gordon redeemed himself a little in progressive Democratic circles when he did a public about-face and blasted Arpaio during a César Chávez luncheon.
He told the audience that Arpaio's "made-for-TV stunts" were accomplishing nothing but locking up brown people for having broken taillights.
That same month, Gordon wrote to then-U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, asking the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the FBI to investigate Arpaio for what he called a pattern of "discriminatory harassment, improper stops, searches and arrests."
Possibly realizing that mayor of Phoenix would be the highest political office he ever would hold, Gordon attempted twice to extend his term.
The first came in January 2009, when his camp formed a political committee to support changing the Phoenix charter to consolidate city elections. That is, all council members — including the mayor — would be elected at the same time.
In August 2009, Gordon paid $17,000 for a poll to gauge whether voters would support ending term limits for their mayor. Voters said no.
With just a few months left before he leaves office on January 3, Gordon has landed himself the first luxury townhouse at the Chateau on Central office-residential complex, signing a two-year lease with an option to buy the unit for more than $1.5 million.
Gordon's mayoral salary is a little more than $80,000 a year, prompting questions about how he can afford such upscale digs.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Gordon recently told the Associated Press that the townhouse will be a great place to reside since the space can double as an office, as he possibly makes a career out of putting deals together to foster economic development in Phoenix.
As for Gordon's legacy . . .
On AZTV's Pat McMahon Show, just before the August 20 primary, the host asked the then-six mayoral candidates: "You have predecessors — Phil Gordon, Paul Johnson, Skip Rimzsa, and Terry Goddard — and of those four, [whom] do you most admire?"
Nobody picked Gordon.