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Phoenix Mayoral Candidate Wes Gullett Didn't Declare Appropriate Conflict of Interest While on Phoenix Planning Commission, Opponents Say

Phoenix mayoral candidate Wes Gullett failed to declare a conflict of interest while he was serving on the Phoenix Planning Commission in 2008.

That is the latest message coming out of the Greg Stanton for Mayor camp.

Here is the issue:

Back in 2008, the Planning Commission considered whether to pursue an increase of development fees, money that developers pay to the city to cover growth-related costs, such as streets and waterlines.

Gullett, a founding partner of FirstStrategic Communications and Public Affairs, one of the state's largest lobbying firms, was on the Planning Commission and had the Arizona Association of Realtors on his firm's client list. 

An affiliate of the Arizona association -- the Phoenix Association of Realtors -- testified before the Planning Commission against the increase.

"Many of the changes will have a negative effect on affordability and prolong the current economic downturn," Marc Sher, a representative for the Phoenix Association of Realtors told the Commission on during its September 18, 2008 meeting.

Developers typically pass the additional fees on to the home buyer. And the more expensive homes are, the harder it is for Realtors to get business to stay in business.

Gullett acquiesced and voted no on raising impact fees. 

Minutes from that 2008 meeting show that Gullett participated in the discussion, and asked questions of people testifying on the issue. Gullett cast a losing vote in the Planning Commission's 6 to 2 decision to advance the issue to the City Council.

State law requires that any "public officer or employee who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any decision of a public agency shall make known such interest in the official records ... and shall refrain from participating in any manner."

A spokesman for Gullett told New Times there was no conflict. (More from Gullett's spokesman shortly.)

"As a lobbyist, Mr. Gullett abused the public trust to advance the interests of a paying client instead of the needs of Phoenix citizens," said Stanton campaign spokesman Robbie Sherwood in a press release. "Mr. Gullett is a smart man, and certainly understood that he had a conflict of interest.  But the fact that he thought it was appropriate to take a critical vote that stood to benefit his clients shows that he isn't ready to be the kind of mayor Phoenix needs."

It once again highlights an issue that has plagued Gullett since he entered the mayor's race: He has earned a living using his relationships and political ties to represent and advance the interests of his clients. How will he balance those interests if he is elected mayor?

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During a recent mayoral forum, Gullett reminded the audience of his 2008 vote shooting down impact fees. (Click here to watch that video.) And Gullett has also been endorsed by the Arizona Association of Realtors.

His opponents, including Stanton, have questioned whose interests Gullett will serve as mayor --  especially since Gullett initially planned take a leave of absence but remain on FirstStrategic's payroll as a silent partner even if he was elected mayor.

When the issue wouldn't die, Gullett announced that he will divest himself of any interest in the lobby firm -- if he is elected mayor.

But that doesn't put the issue to bed since Gullett's wife, Deb Gullett, is also a lobbyist for Gallagher and Kennedy, a Phoenix law firm with the City of Phoenix on its client list.

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