Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon's Not Releasing His "Conflict of Interest" List, Even as Rest of Phoenix City Council Releases Their Lists
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon apparently answers to no one. Well, maybe to one person.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon is refusing to release his "conflict-of-interest list," kept by the City Attorney's Office to help elected officials flag potential conflicts when they're casting votes at public meetings.
The rest of Phoenix City Council members managed to release their lists, which New Times requested on May 4.
This is one more item we can add to Gordon's super-secret-matters list. It goes along with his security detail logs, State of Downtown fund expenses, trips with his girlfriend to Super Bowls, and flights on private jets.
He's withholding all of it.
Phoenix City Attorney Gary Verburg maintains that the conflict-of-interest list is protected by "attorney/client because they are a communication to him to allow him to provide the mayor and council with legal advice," Toni Maccarone, a city spokeswoman, tells New Times.
Even if we could accept that a plain list of names that contains no legal advice or no indication of legal advice is protected by attorney-client privilege, all eight other members of the Phoenix City Council apparently had no problem waiving that privilege for the sake of transparency.
How can information that would plainly and openly reveal when elected officials have a potential conflict of interest on matters involving public business be shielded from Arizona Public Records Law?
Maccarone initially told New Times in an e-mail: "The Mayor will not be releasing his list at this time. Debra (Stark, Gordon's chief of staff) says this doesn't mean that he won't release the list, but he wants the opportunity to update the list."
When pressed to release the list as it exists now, and provide an updated list later, Stark said that "we've talked to the city attorney, and he says the mayor doesn't have to share it."
"He doesn't want to give it to you," she said.
Gordon, who has spoken about the importance of transparency, has become one of the Valley's most opaque politicians.
Gordon refuses to answer questions about what companies have hired his girlfriend and former fundraiser Elissa Mullany. Instead, his hired PR flacks to tell half-truths about who her clients are, obscuring the public's right to know whether Gordon has a conflict of interest as he conducts official city business. In e-mails, former spokesman Jason Rose has encouraged Gordon's staff to claim they are unaware of Mullany's clients.
The mayor refuses to release security detail logs from 2007, 2008 and 2009 because, his staff maintains, someone might use them to establish a pattern of his future movements and do him harm. Since Gordon routinely released his daily schedule and weekly calendars to the media, it's far more believable that Gordon wants to avoid disclosure of where his publicly funded security detail picked him up and dropped him off, who traveled with him, and how often security-detail officers were used to shuttle around people other than Gordon.
Rose had admitted that on at least one occasion, the security detail picked up Mullany from the airport and took her home. Gordon hired Rose last year to put a spin on Gordon's
relationship with Mullany.
Gordon refuses to answer questions about expenses from the State of Downtown fund, an account that receives donations from private and public organizations to market and promote downtown Phoenix. The fund reimbursed more than $3,000 to an unknown individual in 2008 for NFL charges.
While Gordon won't answer questions, Facebook photos of Mullany indicate that she was at the 2008 Super Bowl in Glendale. New photos have surfaced that suggest she, and presumably Gordon, were also at the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami,Florida.
Verburg said that elected officials could not accept tickets to sports or cultural events when he was defending Gordon and Mullany's trip to Qatar, which was paid for by government officials of that country, according to the Arizona Republic.
But Verburg has not returned phone calls about whether elected officials can accept tickets to the Super Bowl or flights on private jets to get there.
Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski didn't have a problem releasing his list.
"I'm about transparency," Nowakowski said. "One of the first things I did in office was to make sure our campaign finance reports were on the Internet. Claude Mattox had been working on it, but I was the one who pushed it through."
Indeed, easy access to online political financial reports revealed the more than $300,000 that Gordon was paying Mullany, whom he was dating while she was his political fundraiser and his political appointee to high-profile boards -- allowing the two to travel across the country and overseas together under the guise of a professional relationship.
Questions New Times posed to Gordon on April 19 about Super Bowl trips, State of Downtown fund expenses and accepting gifts from private developers remain unanswered.
Gordon's new flack, David Leibowitz, who is also working as a consultant for Governor Jan
Brewer's Proposition 100, a temporary sales tax initiative, said he wanted to "put a coat" on these ongoing questions of Gordon.
We're no public relations gurus or professional spin-doctors, like Leibowitz or Rose, but a really good first step would be to actually get clients to answer legitimate questions.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.