Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon may be refusing to answer questions about a $3,200 payment made to the NFL in 2008 out of a fund meant to promote downtown Phoenix -- but a Facebook photo of his girlfriend may provide a clue about that expense.
In the photo, Elissa Mullany (left front), Gordon's girlfriend and former political fundraiser, is standing with country-music legend Willie Nelson and Michelle Angle, who works for PMT Ambulance.
A man behind Mullany is wearing a New York Giants cap, and the background clearly shows that the picture was taken inside of a stadium.
The Giants played the New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl hosted at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. And at what other stadium event would you see Willie Nelson, a guy in a Giants cap, and these two prominent Valley women?
So was the $3,221 from the State of Downtown fund used to buy tickets for Gordon and Mullany to get into the gig game? And is that an appropriate use of the money?
In March, when Qatar picked up the tab for Gordon and Mullany's "working vacation" to that country, Phoenix City Attorney Gary Verburg told the Arizona Republic that was permissible. He said that Arizona's entertainment ban only prohibits elected officials from accepting tickets to sporting and cultural events.
If that's the case, then it raises the question about who paid for Gordon and Mullany to go to this year's Super Bowl in Miami?
We know the two were there based on a review of four weeks' worth of Gordon's e-mails.
In one e-mail, a man tells Gordon that it was nice to see him again and to meet Mullany in Miami. In his reply, Gordon makes reference to getting invited by Phoenix developer Steve Ellman to a suite at the 2010 Super Bowl.
And we know they didn't travel on a commercial flight because they told City Hall staffers that on the flight back to Phoenix from Miami, they slept in the aisle of the plane. Did they travel on Ellman's private jet?
That's another question that Gordon won't answer.
Wouldn't those security-detail logs that document the mayor's travels come in handy right about now? We could look and see where Gordon's security-detail drivers took him and Mullany.
New Times and others have requested the logs, but Gordon has refused to release the years' old logs, citing present-day security fears about individuals who might do him harm by establishing a pattern of his movements.
Gordon's unwillingness to comment only generates more questions. One is whether the State of Downtown fund is public or private account.
Debra Stark, Gordon's chief of staff, said it's a private fund operated by Downtown Phoenix Partnership. Dave Roderique, president of the downtown organization, says it simply administers the account and cuts checks when they're requested by the Mayor's Office.
If State of Downtown is a private account, elected officials believe that transactions aren't subject to public review. But its money is donated -- at times by publicly funded organizations like Metro Light Rail -- to the Mayor's Office for the purpose of promoting and marketing downtown Phoenix.
It's not a personal donation to Phil Gordon. It's not a slush fund to keep Gordon and his friends entertained.
Even if it were a "private" fund that was part of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, that organization receives city funding and has taxing authority over downtown properties. It's financial transactions should also be subject to public-records laws.
Roderique has been forthcoming with records, but record-keeping for that fund was pretty shoddy before his arrival in 2008.
He said the fund's records "show a reimbursement of $3,221 for NFL Charges in February 2008 but that the invoice does not list any specifics on attendees.
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"I would suggest you contact the Mayor's Office to see if they know who attended," he said several months ago, when the information was first requested.
There are other expenses that list only "city events" as an explanation for the use of the money. New Times questions to Gordon for more details about those events also remain unanswered.
If the Super Bowl tickets were raffled off to raise money for a charity or some other worthy cause, Gordon should just speak up.
Otherwise, questions get raised about whether he's accepting sports tickets or other freebies from businessmen like Ellman, who hired Mullany in 2009 and also has a redevelopment project working its way through a city development process.