When El Mirage's current elected officials campaigned for office, they promised residents change and transparency -- a politically popular word these days.
In some ways, El Mirage Mayor Lana Mook and her cohorts on the City Council have delivered -- they increased the water and sewer rates by about 10 percent, laid off employees, and yet handed jobs to their political buddies.
Consider that City Manager Spencer Isom was assistant city manager before getting laid off by former City Manager B.J. Cornwall. He later was rehired to the top job by the new slate of council members.
Longtime residents tell New Times that during his time away from the city, the unemployed Isom spent time with Mook and her slate of political pals, meeting in his El Mirage home and attending council meetings and fundraisers with them, and meeting them for dinner at the Riff Raff Bar and Grill in El Mirage.
Once elected, Mook and company laid off Interim City Manager Rick Flaaen, the city attorney who was temporarily wearing the manager's hat. While city officials went through the motions of finding a new city manager, and even got some assistance from the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, the word is that they didn't actually interview other candidates.
They handed the job to Isom.
El Mirage officials did not return repeated calls from New Times. And here's a note that Isom sent to all employees prepping them on how to handle any media calls. Isom refuses to answer questions from New Times.
Of course, El Mirage needed a city attorney since it dismissed Flaaen (also without explanation). The job wasn't advertised, but the council agreed to bring in Robert M. Hall, an estate-planning attorney from New Mexico. That is, his office is physically located in Albuquerque.
You might wonder why would El Mirage officials have to go as far as New Mexico to find an attorney? And even then, why would they choose one that specializes in estate planning and probate cases?
Hall, it turns out, also is the attorney for Snowflake, Arizona, the town where Isom served as city manager before coming to El Mirage.
The sweet deal that Hall has with El Mirage is this:
He attends the city's regularly scheduled council meetings on the second and fourth Thursday each month and works Wednesday and Friday mornings of those meeting weeks -- essentially four days of work a month -- for a minimum of $7,000. Click here to view Hall's agreement.
That doesn't include Hall's $160-per-hour rate or his "reasonable out of pocket costs," according to his single page agreement with city.
Another interesting El Mirage hire is Leah Hubbard.
She and Phil Hubbard (relationship unknown), who used to work with Summit Consulting Group, ran the political campaigns for Mook and councilmen Joe Ramirez, Jim McPhetres, John Palladino, and Lynn Selby.
Leah Hubbard's ex-husband, Shawn Hubbard, of Lihue, Hawaii, designed mailers for the political crew and set up their websites.
After their victorious election, Leah Hubbard was hired as an interim assistant to the city manager -- a newly created position, formed in December 2010.
The job was advertised and at least three people were interviewed for the post, including Hubbard. Although another candidate received a higher score -- 90 out of 100 possible points -- Hubbard, who scored 70, was handed the job.
And then there is Bill Pupo, a familiar figure in the West Valley who served as former City Manager of Surprise.
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!
While she was campaigning, Mook told people that if she was elected, she would bring in someone to conduct a forensic audit. Apparently, that person was Pupo.
In a single-page memo dated January 5, El Mirage agreed to hire Pupo as a special assistant to the City Manager and pay him $38 per hour for up to 19 hours per week, without benefits.
Since these are the only terms outlined in the agreement, it's unclear how much the city shelled out to Pupo and exactly what he produced during the unspecified time. However, it may be a moot point since Pupo since has been hired full-time as deputy city manager.
Pupo could not be reached for comment.