Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and his girlfriend, Elissa Mullany, have evolved over the past year - and not in a good way.
The couple used to try and hide the fact that they were using the Mayor's Office to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to Mullany's company. She was getting paid (generously) by Gordon for political fund-raising or managing inactive campaign accounts or organizing events in downtown Phoenix. That she was working for companies doing business with Phoenix.
These days, the two are flaunting their arrangement - one that violates the spirit of the conflict of interest law because it clearly gives preferential treatment to someone romantically involved with the mayor. Preferential treatment that comes with significant earning power.
Gordon tells the Arizona Republic that Mullany got the job organizing meetings with Bahraini business leaders because he gave her name to the consulting firm hired by those foreign officials. And, Mullany, makes no qualms about getting $8,000 out of the deal.
So, a company wants to bring in business leaders from an uber wealthy country to explore investment and business opportunities and what does the mayor of the fifth largest city in the United States do?
He puts them in touch with the Phoenix Community and Economic Development Department? No. Connects them with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council? No. The Arizona Commerce Authority? No.
The conflict of interest laws are obviously in place to prevent elected officials from using their public office to give special treatment or financial benefits to family members. And since Gordon and Mullany aren't married - Mullany is still married to James Mullany - there is no legal violation.
(Their divorce case was dismissed, but court records show they got the ball rolling again at the beginning of the year.)
Using his influence to get companies doing business with (or in) Phoenix to put Mullany on their payroll is good example of how Gordon is inappropriately using his office to feather his girlfriend's nest.
But it is not the only one.
Mullany got a consulting contract with Phoenix developer Steve Ellman, who was in the market for some foreign investors to help with some of his development projects.
She got paid, some sources said she was raking in as much as $20,000 a month, and Ellman got special access to Gordon. He attended staff meetings in the Mayor's Office, traveled with Gordon to Mexico City to meet dignitaries in those countries, and was invited to dinners set up so he could have face-time with foreign leaders.
Mullany was also on the payroll of Veolia Transportation, the French transit company that won a $386 million contract to operate Phoenix city buses. She helped the company put together its winning bid and Gordon, although he declared a conflict of interest, worked behind the scenes to help the company sucker an extra $30 million from Phoenix.
There is also a "global connections" company that she apparently started up - reaping the benefits of international travel with Gordon to places like Dubai, Suadi Arabia, Qatar and Mexico.
And it is almost embarrassing that they just don't get it. Or, that they try to justify their conduct and mask it behind eye-catching headlines about foreign investments possibly creating local jobs.
Mullany told the Republic that "she sees no ethical conflict" even as her own comments that follow spell out exactly why it is there is an ethical conflict
"People might think that I'm abusing my role with him (Gordon)."
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Why would people possibly think that? Because she gets special treatment from the Mayor's Office? Because she is asking him to give special attention to your clients? Because she is financially benefiting from her relationship with him and his elected post?
Well, yes. That's exactly what she told the Republic: "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."
That she can so freely make that statement, and it just seems to roll right past Phoenix "leaders" is a testament to how desensitized they have become to the pay-to-play system that Gordon has fostered during his tenure.