The battle between supporters of Tempe mayoral candidates Mark Mitchell and Michael Monti over whether "your" public employees can endorse people in campaign signs seemed to end with City Manager Charlie Meyer's ruling that it was all pretty much OK.
That question apparently has not been completely answered, thanks to a complaint filed against Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman.
The issue started when Legislative District 17 Republicans chairman A.J. LaFaro, a Monti supporter, filed a complaint over campaign signs saying "your" firefighters support Mitchell for mayor.
The thought on that was people would think "your" firefighters are from the Tempe Fire Department -- which they weren't, according to the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association, which produced the signs.
Then Randy Keating, chairman of the Legislative District 17 Democrats, filed his complaint with the city alleging a similar problem with Monti signs -- because "your" law enforcement supports Monti, according to the signs.
Meyer's decision was that the campaigns had to either take down the signs, remove the word "your," or the easy option, "confirm that the signs do not reflect an endorsement of any City employees in their official capacity, and that City employees had no role in the creation or the placement of the signs."
In this new complaint against Hallman, filed by Mario Martinez, he points out that Hallman's campaign finance committee is still taking open and taking contributions, and Hallman's website states that he has the endorsements of the Arizona Republic, a bunch of community members, and sure enough, "Tempe firefighters and police."
Whereas the Monti and Mitchell complaints claimed the endorsement of "your" firefighters or police could be interpreted as meaning Tempe firefighters or police, Hallman's website just comes out and says it's Tempe firefighters and police who endorsed him.
Hallman's website featured a button soliciting donations for the "Friends of Hugh Hallman" political-action committee, on the same page of Hallman's apparent endorsement from Tempe firefighters and cops, according to the complaint.
Martinez did the math, and the Hallman PAC banked $7,340 through online fundraising from June 2010 to the end of last year, although Martinez acknowledges those contibutions probably didn't all come from Hallman's website.
Still, the apparent endorsement would seem to be a violation of city personnel rules, according to how City Manager Meyer explained the rules to Monti and Mitchell.
Martinez met with Meyer and City Attorney Andrew Ching a few weeks ago to talk about this issue, and interestingly enough, here's how Martinez says it went down, according to his complaint:
City Attorney Andrew Ching informed me that he saw nothing improper about the use of the "Tempe firefighters" term by Mayor Hallman. At the time, Mr. Ching mentioned nothing about the fundraising aspect of this web page. Mr. Ching will have that opportunity now. Mr. Meyer and Mr. Ching assured me that they were completely impartial and independent as far as their official duties were concerned.
"If City Manager Charles Meyer and City Attorney Andrew Ching are impartial and independent as they claim they are, they will take prompt effective comprehensive action on this matter," Martinez' complaint states. "This comprehensive action should include reporting on the propriety and legality of Mayor Hallman's documented actions.
"If the City Manager can state that the term 'Tempe Firefighters' should not be displayed on campaign signs, while at the same time Mayor Hallman is using a false claim of a 'Tempe firefighter and police' endorsement in his fundraising efforts, the true Tempe City Hall lack of effectual ethics speak for themselves," Martinez' complaint continues.
The donate button on Hallman's website has since disappeared, but Martinez tells New Times today that he hasn't received any word from the city regarding his complaint.