City Hall

Is Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon's Plan Simply to Avoid Media Asking Tough Questions? Apparently

Apparently New Times isn't alone in trying to get Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon to answer legitimate questions he finds tough or uncomfortable.

Gordon & Co. also are blowing off Fox 10 because, according to a story posted on its Web site, Gordon didn't like its line of questioning.

Who does the mayor think he is? Head of the bus company the city contracts with?  

Fox has been dogging Gordon and members of the Phoenix City Council for answers on why they approved a nearly $100,000 no-bid contract for David Leibowitz to work as a personal media consultant for the mayor.

"Actually, we were told the mayor may not be talking with us because the mayor didn't like our line of questioning last week when we talked to him about his budget," Fox reported.

Sound familiar?

Not long ago, Gordon shut down and refused to answer questions from New Times about his decisions regarding companies that have Elissa Mullany, his girlfriend, on their payroll.

He also won't talk about his use of money donated to his office for improvements to downtown Phoenix, his conflict of interests, or his use of the taxpayer-funded security detail that shadows him throughout the day.

Approving Leibowitz's contract at a time when city officials, namely Gordon, are bragging about how much they've cut from the city budget doesn't make sense.

They argue that hiring Leibowitz on a $100K contract is cheaper than hiring a staffer? He's not even working full-time for Gordon.

It also doesn't make sense to use tax dollars so Gordon can have a personal media rep when the city already employs a team of at least 30 public-information officers and media contacts citywide -- including one in his own office. None of them are qualified to do the job?

Hiring Leibowitz on a no-bid contract at a time when there are many professional, qualified, and experienced people out of work makes this move smell all the more.

But no surprise since a no-bid contract is also how the mayor's hired relatives of his girlfriend's business partner. Remember Sue Lindmeier's contract?

And remember former City Manager Frank Fairbanks' comments at that time?

"The city shouldn't just be hiring people out of the blue because they know someone. There should be a competitive process," Fairbanks told New Times.

So what exactly do taxpayers get for $100,000?

According to the City Council agenda, Leibowitz Solo will provide "professional services to the Mayor's Office in the areas of external communications including local, state, national, and international communications, media inquires, and coordinating messaging and media outreach between the Mayor's Office, City Council Offices, and City of Phoenix management, including the Public Information Office and City Manager's Office."

Not sure how that is supposed to happen when his strategy is to "avoid the media," according a tweet he posted yesterday.

"To me, the lesson these days is just avoid the media," he wrote. "There are more effective, more authentic ways to get out stories."

And I'm sure that those "more effective, more authentic" avenues will not subject Gordon to the discomfort of a tough line of questioning.

To his credit, just a few days on the job and Leibowitz already is doing a bang-up job of getting out the stance of the Phoenix Mayor's Office: Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

Our experience with Liebowitz, a former Arizona Republic columnist, is that when he deigns to deal with us, he attacks the messenger instead of trying to answer valid questions about his benefactor's public actions. Which must be why Gordon's willing to make a hypocrite out of himself by hiring this flack.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo