Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio has promised to be a "forceful voice" in the ongoing controversy over the proposed extension of the
But DiCiccio should think twice about opening his mouth on this one. Records obtained by New Times show that DiCiccio appears to have a conflict of interest on the issue: His real estate development company currently has a lease on 150 tribal-owned acres in the area -- and those acres would clearly increase in value with improved freeway access, should the extension become reality.
Currently, the Loop 202 freeway stops at
ADOT hopes to extend the freeway west along
But as long as the extension is completed, DiCiccio's business holdings would likely benefit -- regardless of which route is ultimately chosen.
One of the parcels is located at
The record clearly indicates that DiCiccio has been participating in the process, if not, per se, a "transaction." Whether he's violated the law is, at this point, only a question.
Neither DiCiccio nor his staff responded to repeated requests for comment Thursday. The councilman is up for re-election and faces challenger Dana Marie Kennedy on November 3; early voting is already under way.
At a candidate's debate sponsored by the Ahwatukee Foothills News, DiCiccio actually boasted about his involvement on the freeway project. He told the audience that he was "the first person" to set up a meeting with the Arizona Department of Transportation, the Maricopa Association of Governments, and Congressmen Harry Mitchell and Ed Pastor to discuss the freeway. (A video of his remarks is online here.) It's not clear if he disclosed his financial interest to those officials.
DiCiccio's City Council district stretches from
But at a neighborhood meeting in June, the then-newly appointed councilman announced, in essence, that the extension was coming and the neighborhood better get used to the idea. That position contrasted starkly to the neighborhood's former representative on the City Council, Greg Stanton, who'd worked to stop the project.
In a candidates' debate more recently, DiCiccio claimed to oppose the freeway. But activists are suspicious: DiCiccio mostly seems intent on developing a "unified" voice for the neighborhood, they say. And that might actually help move the much-delayed project forward.
Last month, in fact, DiCiccio appointed a citizens committee to work on the issue, urging the neighborhood to "reach consensus" on a location for the extension. The committee met for just a few weeks before announcing that it supports building the freeway through the Gila River Indian Community.
Tribal records show that even as DiCiccio sits on the Phoenix City Council, he's been working, along with attorney Paul Gilbert, to develop a use for the property with the Gila River community. Tribal spokeswoman Alia Maisonet did not return calls for comment Thursday.
DiCiccio is the sole owner of his company, Zenith Development of Arizona. On the
DiCiccio has lived in Ahwatukee for 23 years. He represented the neighborhood on the city council for six years before leaving office in 2000 to run for Congress.
DiCiccio lost, and founded Zenith Development three years later. Zenith formed its partnership with Levine and Davidson in 2005, according to state records.
Their joint venture, LDR-Zenith, obtained leases on the two 75-acre parcels in December 2007 and January 2008, according to DiCiccio's disclosure forms.
Just one year later, the area's longtime councilman, Stanton, announced he was resigning -- and DiCiccio mounted an intense campaign to be appointed as his replacement. He was voted in, and almost immediately began campaigning to be elected to a four-year term.
When he failed to gain a plurality in the September primary, DiCiccio was forced to face challenger Dana Marie Kennedy in the run-off election on November 3.
In a recent debate, DiCiccio stressed his connections to Ahwatukee.
"I live out here," he said. "I am impacted by these same decisions I'm involved in."
He didn't mention his company's lease.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.