Susan Bitter-Smith, Corporate Regulator, Part Deux

Bitter-Smith2Last week I commented on Kristena Hansen’s work at KJZZ in breaking the story on Arizona Corporation Commission chair (and former Scottsdale City Council member) Susan Bitter-Smith’s conflict of interests. Today, the Arizona Republic’s Ryan Randazzo ups the ante with a direct connection from Bitter-Smith to a Scottsdale planning and zoning case involving Arizona Public Service:

[Chandler attorney Tom] Ryan submitted information [to the Arizona Attorney General] that a client of Bitter Smith’s public relations firm, Scottsdale National Golf Club, hired Bitter Smith to assist in getting the city of Scottsdale’s planning approval to move a planned Arizona Public Service Co. substation. APS is the largest company the Corporation Commission regulates.

Bitter Smith’s company, Technical Solutions, was retained by the club to work on community outreach. It is unclear whether Bitter Smith was involved in the negotiations with APS to relocate the substation.

Bob Parsons, GoDaddy founder, owns the course, and plans a new 18-hole championship course, practice course and lodging for members on 650 acres next to Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, according to plans submitted to the city earlier this year.

The walls and landscaping for the substation have been completed, but the golf course needs to relocate it to accommodate the expansion.

“Commissioner Bitter Smith and her company … should not have been within 100 miles of this project since it involved moving an APS (power) line and substation,” the complaint from Ryan said. “And yet there they were.”

Scottsdale public records show Bitter Smith attended at least one meeting to discuss the new substation location with concerned residents and an APS representative present.

“Requests from customers for us to relocate APS equipment are fairly routine,” APS spokesman Jim McDonald said Wednesday. “In this instance, we worked directly with the customer, the customer paid for the work and all associated expenses, and the substation is pending relocation. Any questions about Chairman Bitter Smith’s role should be directed to her”…

Bitter Smith issued a statement though an attorney, calling the complaint “frivolous and without merit.”

I think Ms. Bitter-Smith should look up the term “honest services.”

In my opinion, a closer inspection of this situation will reveal more favors done for Mr. Parsons by elected elected representatives and public officials. The City of Scottsdale has a history of doing favors for individuals and private businesses, especially when it involves golf. Recent examples include millions of dollars in forgiven maintenance obligations and subsequent subsidies to the PGA and Phil Mickelson.

And, as in a federal criminal investigation reported in Palm Springs this week, city officials have facilitated no-bid sales of millions of dollars of taxpayer-owned properties to favored developers…including a large sale to Scottsdale Healthcare, now “Honor Health.” I’ve complained about these egregious transactions at every opportunity.

I’m glad to see that Council members David Smith and Kathy Littlefield have taken up that issue, though it has only been directed to be placed on a future city council agenda. I’m not holding my breath that anything will actually get done, especially since Mayor Jim Lane and the council majority (including Virginia Korte and Linda Milhaven) have strongly supported such sales in the past.

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