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Putting the "X" in Xmas
J. Fife Symington III--bankrupt fraud and disgraced former governor--must have been looking forward to one last starring appearance before his February sentencing in federal court.

But his swan-song social event--one of Phoenix's most festive Christmastime gatherings of the rich and powerful--has been canceled.

Probably just as well. Some of the political, social, corporate and media glitterati who attend the annual December lawn party of Francie and Dick Mallery may have decided to steer clear this year, what with the ranks of known convicted felons attending the bash having doubled.

So, the Mallerys sent out postcards announcing cancellation of a party that had become a tradition with the high and the mighty for several decades. The cover story is thin, but workable.

"Dear Friends: Times change! Christmas has become the one season of the year for our family to get together now. It's the time for us to have time for them. Therefore, we won't be having our annual party. But we do hope to see you over the holidays. As always, Francie and Dick."

The Mallery lawn party was all the rage because of its well-stocked buffet table, generous bars and also that invitees were asked to bring their children and grandchildren, who frolicked with clowns and petting animals in one section of the large Mallery yard on east Georgia, while parents and grandparents mingled and lingered elsewhere, exchanging gossip about politics, business, profits, influence.

One centerpiece for years has been Santa Claus--played by a convincing Gary Driggs, the convicted Western Savings & Loan felon who played Santa Claus year-round with the family business until sinking under crushing debt that was shifted to taxpayers. Driggs was convicted of two felonies in connection with the Western Savings failure, and paid the Resolution Trust Corporation $1.5 million to settle a civil suit against him.

The other centerpiece of the Mallery bash was the arrival of the Grinch, er, the Fifester, who considered Richard Mallery a close friend and confidant.

A party featuring two prominent Arizona felons would've proved immensely embarrassing to a number of the Mallerys' regulars--U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Bishop Thomas O'Brien of the Catholic Diocese, a number of area mayors and legislators, ASU president Lattie Coor, former state school chief Carolyn Warner, to name a few.

And, of course, Dick Mallery--one of Phoenix's preeminent legal eagles with a reputation for connections, and the Fifester's real estate attorney--is casting his own shadow. During Symington's trial, Mallery's name came up in connection with his correspondence to banks on Symington's behalf, statements that were characterized as untrue. And the Department of Justice has informed Mallery in writing that he is a target of continuing investigations.

110 Percent
In a recent column, Arizona Republic scribe E.J. Montini beatified Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kent Graham, who was booed when he replaced Cards' rookie QB Jake Plummer in the fourth quarter of a game. Graham, who had been the Cards' starting signal-caller earlier in the year, promptly brought the Cardinals from behind to win the game.

Montini acknowledged that the popular Plummer is the Cards' quarterback of the future, but that Graham has handled his demotion with class. At the same time, Graham knows that Plummer, the former ASU QB, is being groomed as his replacement.

Montini concluded, "Each of us, no matter what we do, has a Jake the Snake in our lives."

Yes, E.J., we do. In your case, his name is David Leibowitz.

Architectural Digress
The City of Phoenix last month dropped a lawsuit alleging that architect William P. Bruder and another Valley firm made mistakes which caused $435,000 in cost overruns at the recently completed Phoenix Central Library.

The city's action follows months of negotiations between the city and the designers over a series of glitches which cropped up during construction of the $28 million library. Overall, the project went $1.24 million over its projected construction budget, although the city never contested the remaining $805,000 in overruns.

Brad Holm, an attorney specializing in construction matters who represented the city, said officials were willing to pay the additional costs because they represented upgrades that increased the building's worth.

The rest, he said, only added cost--not value--to the project. They included: moving a concrete slab on which an electrical transformer was to be place because it was in the wrong location; strengthening beams which were not big enough to support shutters on the library's south side; and modifying concrete steps running up the center of the library because they posed a trip hazard.

At the time the suit was filed, Holm said, Bruder and his associates had seemed "reluctant to come to the table," an assertion Bruder disputes.

"All I can say is that we have worked continuously, back and forth, with all the delays, since the moment they occurred, to try to resolve this, and we have been negotiating in good faith," Bruder said.

Bruder called $1.24 million in overruns "ridiculously low" for a project of the library's size. Kenny Harris, the city engineer handling negotiations with the designers, said the changes resulted in some "budget stress," but acknowledged that they fell well within the 5 percent to 8 percent in contingency funds usually set aside for such projects.

When it first opened two years ago, just about everyone, it seems, had something nice to say about the library. Critics from around the world unleashed reams of glowing articles about the copper-clad building on Central Avenue. Bruder was also praised for delivering the project at a cost of slightly more than $97 per square foot--less than half the cost of projects of similar scope.

Meanwhile, an article in the recent issue of Metropolis, a national magazine focusing on architecture and design, discusses a new architectural ethics course offered at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Among the topics discussed by fledgling architects: a house in Phoenix designed by Bruder that came in at more than double the client's budget.

But it's not what you think. (Or, it's not what the Flash thought.) Bruder's project was cited because of the way it evolved over time, the course's creator, Atlanta architect Matt Scogin, says. The Phoenix home was used as an example of the challenges architects face, according to Scogin.

"The client ended up with a very reasonably priced home, and the client seemed pleased with it," Scogin says.

Bruder says, "It was a home that was overbudget, and we worked to bring it into budget. There was a happy ending and a happy owner."

Last week, doing time on Bob Mohan's KFYI-FM radio show, U.S. Representative John Shadegg revealed what other congress people think of him.

A caller complained that Republican lawmakers have squandered their majority status in Congress and have been acting like "limp-wristed castrati."

"I couldn't agree with you more," Shadegg replied in his best soprano.
But his calls to action, Shadegg griped, have resulted in his colleagues calling him a "nut case."

For some of them, he admitted, it's enough to point out that he's from Arizona.

If you ask the Flash, it's Shadegg's fealty to Newt Gingrich that takes the cake.

Citizenship is Gnarly
Some weeks ago, New Times wrote about Celeste Lopez, the teenage powerhouse behind True Liberty, a newspaper sold by homeless people. Now the Flash hears that Lopez, who recently turned 18, has just received a 1997 Citizenship Award from the Arizona State Constitutional Commemoration Committee, presented to her by Senator David Petersen.

Lopez first came to our attention when she roasted Sheriff Joke Arpaio at a press conference for student journalists. The Flash likes to see Joke-baiters start young.

She apparently has no plans as yet to run for governor. Pity. The kid would get the Flash's vote.

One Elusive Viper
Viper Team defendant Christopher Floyd's jury has heard evidence that the 22-year-old actually handled explosives and lighted fuses in the militia's infamous wilderness outings of 1995 and 1996.

That's a change from Chuck Knight, the only other Viper defendant whose case went to trial. Although Knight had not handled or possessed illegal weapons or explosives, the former militia member was convicted of conspiracy in June and sentenced to 57 months in federal prison.

But court observers say that despite Floyd's greater involvement with explosives, the government may have a tougher time convicting him of conspiracy in his trial, which is expected to go to the jury on Friday.

Knight was convicted primarily by what he said, not what he did. Prosecutors relied heavily on what Knight said in undercover videotapes of Viper meetings--statements about preventing the discovery of Viper explosives, for example, which implied that Knight knew the group was breaking laws and that it should take precautions to prevent its detection.

Prosecutors hammered home Knight's thought-crime by showing the jury books such as The Anarchist's Cookbook, a book about home-built booby traps. Knight's attorney, Ivan Abrams, pointed out that the Cookbook has been available commercially for more than 20 years. But that didn't stop prosecutors from entering it and other commercially published books as evidence of Knight's guilt, even though they had been recovered from the other defendants' homes.

Floyd, on the other hand, said little in Viper meetings and stopped going to them altogether well before the militia's July 1 arrest. The Flash has heard that prosecutors are worried that, despite Floyd's fun with explosives, it will be tougher to prove that the youngster thought bad thoughts.

And that would be double plus ungood for federal prosecutors.

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