AZ AG Continues Glendale Financial Investigation

Mary K. Reinhart reported in the Arizona Republic yesterday that Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne finally received documents he requested from the City of Glendale three months ago in the course of investigating financial mismanagement and possible violations of state law.

I note that former Scottsdale City Attorney Deborah Robberson was named in the article as Glendale’s deputy city attorney, and she is involved in Glendale’s response to Horne’s investigation.

Among other things, Reinhart reports:

…a City Council member has asked the state’s top law-enforcement agency to broaden the investigation to include previous development deals, including the Camelback Ranch Glendale spring-training ballpark.

…In August, Glendale leaders asked Attorney General Tom Horne’s office to investigate financial and personnel issues, days after a city-commissioned audit concluded that city administrators improperly transferred more than $6 million among city trust funds to cover the true costs of an early-retirement program.

I note further that Deborah Robberson was the Scottsdale City Attorney at the time the disastrous “Retirement Incentive Program” was instituted in 2009. That program resulted in millions of dollars in unanticipated city obligations to the state retirement system.

The City of Scottsdale has been playing fast and loose with finances, “development deals,” and contracts related to city-owned real estate for several years. I hope Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane, the City Council, new city manager Behring, and city attorney Washburn are watching the Glendale investigation closely.

Here’s Reinhart’s article:

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has received the documents it requested from Glendale nearly three months ago in connection with an investigation into the city’s past financial practices.

City officials hand-delivered electronic copies of documents to the Attorney General’s Office on Dec. 6 to assist with an inquiry into whether former Glendale administrators accused of mismanaging millions of taxpayer dollars broke any laws.

Meanwhile, a City Council member has asked the state’s top law-enforcement agency to broaden the investigation to include previous development deals, including the Camelback Ranch Glendale spring-training ballpark.

Stephanie Grisham, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said investigators will review documents the council member provided, as well as paperwork the city submitted in response to the state’s request. From there, state investigators will decide whether there’s enough evidence to proceed with a civil or criminal case.

“We’re going to have to spend considerable effort going through everything,” Grisham said.

In August, Glendale leaders asked Attorney General Tom Horne’s office to investigate financial and personnel issues, days after a city-commissioned audit concluded that city administrators improperly transferred more than $6 million among city trust funds to cover the true costs of an early-retirement program.

The audit also criticizes former City Manager Ed Beasley’s arrangements with the former human-resources director and the former deputy city manager, in which one worked from Mississippi for nearly a year at full pay and the other made more than $930,000 as a city consultant over about three years after he took an early-retirement buyout.

There was some immediate fallout. City Manager Brenda Fischer, on the job since July, terminated two administrators and accepted resignations from two others. Beasley and other administrators highlighted in the audit had already retired.

Last month, City Councilwoman Norma Alvarez said she met with Dan Woods, assistant chief special agent in the Attorney General’s Office, and asked that he broaden the investigation beyond the scope of the audit.

Alvarez said she delivered, among other things, copies of contracts involving the Camelback Ranch ballpark and surrounding developments. The city borrowed $200 million to build the spring-training facility, but the recession killed plans for a high-end commercial center and delayed promised sports and tourism funding.

Alvarez said she doesn’t know if any laws were broken, but she hopes state investigators can help taxpayers understand why former staff and council members made agreements she believes were not in the city’s best interest.

“I want to know how they made a deal for $200 million … and we don’t get anything out of it,” she said. “Why did we do all those deals?”

Interim Assistant City Manager Julie Frisoni said she wasn’t aware that Alvarez had visited with state investigators, but she said it was not the first time the councilwoman has requested an attorney general’s investigation.

She said the city will wait and see what state investigators decide.

“It’s all in their hands now. We’ve delivered what they’ve requested of us,” Frisoni said.

Woods requested 25 separate types of documents in mid-September, according to e-mails The Arizona Republic obtained through a public-records request.

The documents include details about the city’s early-retirement program and trust funds, supportive documents to show whether staff provided false information to the City Council, employment agreements with two former administrators and a legal analysis indicating that former employees may have broken state laws against knowingly mishandling public funds.

On Oct. 7, City Attorney Michael Bailey and Deputy City Attorney Deborah Robberson met with Woods and other investigators at the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix, according to the e-mails.

About a month later, Woods e-mailed the city’s attorneys, asking if they had a timeline for providing the requested documents. Bailey agreed to submit the documents the week before Thanksgiving, but e-mailed Woods to say that would be delayed. City officials then agreed to deliver the files the week after Thanksgiving, and they did so Dec. 6.

Bailey said compiling the data, and ensuring it was the right information, was time-consuming.

“I think it was just the amount of documents they were asking for. There was no delay,” Bailey said. “When you’re looking at a comprehensive investigation, it takes time.”

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