Monday, May 22, 2017

Guest View: Diane Peters ~ The abject favoritism of the OV Town Council. Part 1.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a pattern of favoritism on the OV Town Council whereby there seems to be one set of rules for residents (and even council members) who are supportive of the mayor’s plans for the town and another set of rules for the residents and council members who are critical of his ideas.

In a recent two-part article, “The Great Bond Caper,” I addressed the difference in how the Town Council waffled on applying Call to Audience rules during the April 5th Town Council meeting; strictly applying the rules to one resident (a critic) while waiving the rules for another resident (a supporter). In that case, the rule in question was: ”any member of the public is allowed to address the Mayor and Town Council on any issue not listed on today’s agenda.”

Today’s article will address the rule that states…”Per Town Council Parliamentary Rules and Procedures, you must address the Council as a whole.”

When partiality supersedes objectivity
The mayor and council waived the above rule during an October 2016 council meeting when Steve Solomon (a friend of theirs who has since become a council member) specifically called out then-Councilmember Mike Zinkin, accusing him of spending more on travel than what his travel budget allowed. Solomon specifically called out “Mr. Zinkin” four times during his speech. No Point of Order was called at any time. (As usual, Solomon was incorrect in his assertions and this will be discussed in Part 2).

This raises the question: Are these rules a mandate or is enforcement at the whim of the mayor? I am in the process of obtaining clarification from the Town on this question. If it turns out that enforcing the rules is at the mayor’s discretion, then the next logical question would be: Why does the mayor enforce Town Council Parliamentary Rules for his critics while waiving them for his supporters?

Solomon’s Hypocrisy
Solomon’s speech that night raises another question as well. Why was Solomon so concerned about Councilmember Zinkin’s travel expenses (all approved by then-Town Manager, Greg Caton) yet he never criticized the Town Manager for approving them?

Even more telling is that after Solomon became a council member in November 2016, he said nothing when, just two months later, Mayor Hiremath and Interim Town Manager, Danny Sharp, spent over $3000 for a one-day trip to the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington, DC just so the mayor could receive a “2017 Public Leadership in the Arts Award.”

They arrived in Washington, DC on January 18th at 7:00 PM and they left DC on January 19th at 1:00 PM. They were in DC for less than 24 hours. What benefit did Oro Valley taxpayers derive from this $3000 trip?

Mayor Hiremath’s trip expenses were as follows:

Airfare        1048.46
Hotel           528.85 (for one night)*
Meals          87.50

TOTAL     $1664.81

*NOTE: Mayor Hiremath cancelled his original hotel room (Hilton Alexandria Old Town) when he found another room (Hilton Homewood Suites) closer to the event location. The cancelled room was NON-REFUNDABLE at $209.39. The new hotel room was $319.46, bringing the Grand Total for a one-night hotel stay to $528.85.

Getting closer to the venue would make sense if the mayor was staying there for a week and needed to go to that venue every day, but he only had to go there one day and for this he stiffed the taxpayers an additional $209. The mayor should reimburse the town. After all, that’s what they would have expected Mike Zinkin to do. (This will be explained further in Part 2)

Interim Town Manager, Danny Sharp’s trip expenses were as follows:

Airfare        1048.47
Hotel           313.07 (for one night)
Meals          87.50
Taxi             45.18

TOTAL      $1494.22

Grand total to the taxpayers for Mayor Hiremath to receive an award in Washington, DC was $3,159.03.

Is it lonely at the top?
What was the necessity of having the Interim Town Manager accompany Mayor Hiremath on this trip? It served the town of Oro Valley no purpose to drag the Town Manager along on a purely ceremonial junket. If the mayor hadn’t invited Danny Sharp to accompany him and he hadn’t cancelled his original hotel room, the Grand Total would have been just $1345.35. It’s funny how Steve Solomon never complained about or questioned any of these unnecessary expenses.

Part 2 of this article will be published on Wednesday.