Ben Bethel, Phoenix City Council Candidate, Pleaded Guilty in '96 to Selling Drugs; Clarendon Hotel Owner Had Rights Restored

Want to make sure the whole world finds out about your drug-dealing past?

Run for political office.

If Ben Bethel, owner of the Clarendon Hotel, hadn't filed paperwork to run for the Phoenix City Council's District 7 seat, we'd never have known or cared about his past convictions. Now, having discovered his secret during a quickie background search of current candidates, we feel compelled to pass this tidbit on to potential voters.

Court records show that Bethel pleaded guilty in 1996 to one count of selling dangerous drugs and to another count of selling narcotics. He was sentenced to probation and got his rights restored a few years later.

When we reached him this morning, he wasn't too keen on dredging up the past. Bethel even hinted that reporting the gossipy tidbit about him might be open up New Times to a libel lawsuit. A few years ago, he had his lawyer scare off the Arizona Republic from printing anything about the convictions, he says.

"All that stuff was dropped," Bethel says of the restoration-of-rights process. "It's like it never happened." 


We reminded him that, in fact, it did happen. And we can't help but be curious: What kind of drugs was he slinging? Meth? Heroin? Or just plain ol' weed?

Bethel would only say that "it was a stupid time in my life," and that he'd been "hanging out with the wrong crowd."

He's turned his life around, he notes, and has been involved in local community politics in the last few years. The entrepreneur hasn't done too badly by himself, either -- our own Jackalope Ranch featured his swank penthouse in an October article. (The article notes that he'll take nearly anyone as a roommate except a Republican, so he still may be your candidate regardless of his rap sheet.)

"Hopefully, the past won't cost me" in the election, Bethel says.

One of his many ideas on his candidate Web site briefly hints that he's had his share of personal challenges:


I've had the idea to build a "Museum of Consequence & Reality" for years now: to get children and adults to realize that there are consequences to all actions that can affect their lives and the lives of everyone around them. I'd like to put this into a thought-provoking format that gets people to think about topics such as child-hood pregnancy, staying in school, driving under the influence, texting and driving, substance abuse, gang violence, child abuse, bullying, racism, discrimination, hatred, etc. After my own experiences and struggles almost two decades ago, I decided to turn my life around, give back to the community, and do everything within my ability to make this the best community possible.

The election is scheduled for August 30.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern