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Mayor Phil Gordon Can Run, But -- Senate Bill 1070 or Not -- He Can't Hide

Where was Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon on the evening of July 27, 2009?

If you look at Gordon's official calendar, he was dining with his girlfriend and developer Steve Ellman at the Parlor, the hot new pizza place at Camelback and 20th Street.

But, as it turns out, there's a second version of that calendar — the version that Gordon's office released last month in response to a public records request from my colleague Monica Alonzo.

In that version, Gordon's girlfriend is nowhere to be seen. It's Gordon and Ellman, dining alone.

Initially, staffers at Gordon's office insisted to Alonzo that they hadn't redacted anything from the calendar other than contact information. And she might have believed them, if not for a fluke: I just happened to have notes from a previous records request that contradicted their statements.

Even though city officials apparently had forgotten all about it, I'd requested Gordon's calendar last fall, long before it was public knowledge that Gordon was dating Elissa Mullany. At that point, nobody redacted anything, and my notes clearly showed Mullany at the dinner with Ellman and Gordon.

So why redact now? Gordon's spokesman, David Leibowitz, insists that it was a mistake. A young assistant was overzealous — she thought it was her job to redact items related to Gordon's personal life — and erased more than she should have.

Surely, I could understand that.

And I could, maybe, if only Gordon's girlfriend really was just part of his personal life. Or, perhaps, if the facts surrounding the redactions weren't so damning.

Just after receiving the calendars, Alonzo questioned the very assistant who did the redactions. Had she removed anything other than phone numbers? "Just phone numbers and residential addresses," the assistant e-mailed back.

The assistant wrote that, we now know, after she'd already removed in their entirety several entries mentioning Mullany.

This wasn't an omission: It was deceit.

It's interesting, too, that the deceit just happened to include two dinners with Ellman, one in July and one in August. Gordon's staff was well aware that New Times was asking questions about his girlfriend's ties to the powerful developer. Alonzo already had questioned the mayor's spokesman on the matter and received nothing but evasions.

This was clearly information that Gordon's team didn't want getting out.

Indeed, even if it sounds innocuous that the mayor would bring his girlfriend to dinner with Ellman, it wasn't. For despite what Gordon may want us to believe, it's increasingly clear that Mullany's role in his life has just as much to do with business as with pleasure.

Mullany is Gordon's fundraiser and the biggest beneficiary of his numerous political action committees. In the past two years, even though Gordon hasn't been running for office, he's raked in a half-million dollars in donations — and funneled $215,000 of it to Mullany's limited-liability company.

Meanwhile, Gordon's also appointed Mullany to his now-defunct "global trade initiative," which earned her company another $12,000 in fees. And he helped her get a job as a fundraiser at the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, netting her business another $100,000.

Now New Times has learned that at the same time she served as Gordon's fundraiser, Mullany has taken on clients who do business with the city. She represented Ellman for a six-month period last year.

And that's not all.

In January, the city voted on a new contract for the transportation company Veolia, which has long managed bus service in Phoenix. The five-year contract was worth a staggering $388 million.

Gordon had to declare a conflict of interest and recuse himself from the vote. The reason, I'm told, is that Mullany had been hired by Veolia. (A Veolia spokeswoman didn't respond to my request for comment.)

In light of that, you can see why I'd be suspicious about any redactions from the mayor's calendar.

The personal and the professional aren't just vaguely connected for Phil Gordon and Elissa Mullany these days. They're Siamese twins, and there's not a surgeon in town who could separate them.


When I called the mayor's current spokesman, Leibowitz, last week to talk about all this, he was more than a bit patronizing.

"You're a great journalist, Sarah," he told me. "This story is beneath you."

I'd beg to differ on his assertion (although, hey, if anyone wants to tell me I'm awesome, I'm all ears). Gordon's girlfriend is an incredibly regular presence on his calendar, and not just during the dinner hour. She sits in on meetings about downtown development. She serves as a conduit for people trying to get face time with the mayor. She travels with him, and her bills are paid by his campaign-finance committees.

There's no question that the taxpayers deserve to know who else is paying her — and what those people are getting from City Hall.

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske