Goodyear Stood Aside for $13 mil CST from GEO, Won’t Answer Resident Questions

The City of Goodyear refused to respond to clarifying questions for this article that were submitted in writing to Goodyear Intergovernmental Programs Manager Romina Khananisho*.

City of Goodyear internal emails that were obtained by howardsgoodyearblog under an August 11 Freedom of Information request show that not only were Georgia Lord and others in top city management apparently complicit in encouraging GEO Corp and its lobbyists to submit a private prison expansion proposal for Goodyear’s Perryville site, ( GEOrgia knew smiley face email ) but from June until August Goodyear employees were in contact with and enabled GEO in completing their private prison expansion proposal.( Awesome GEO)

Once the proposal became public in early August, Goodyear employees then sought and received assistance from GEO’s lobbyists to prepare positive talking points memos for “a few” council members and city media representatives to use in order to deal with questions they were receiving from constituents about GEO’s proposed private prison expansion. In an August 3 email from Goodyear’s Intergovernmental Programs Manager Romina Khananisho to GEO lobbyist Kristin Boilini, Khananisho wrote, “I need something shorter for council members. They are starting to get calls from constituents asking what is going on. What a few have asked for is the basic info… and how the city benefits from a private facility with respect to taxes, public safety fees etc. This way they can speak positively about it.”( talking points for council members )

One of the questions I submitted to Ms. Khananisho that Goodyear has refused to answer was, “which council members were asking for the benefits information?”

At 3:51 pm on July 27, 2011, one day after Arizona Department of Corrections updated its RFQ #110054DC for a private prison expansion of up to 5,000 male prisoners, GEO lobbyist Boilini (KRB) emailed an overview of GEO’s ADC proposal to Khananisho.  In her email reply 21 minutes later at 4:12 pm Khananisho wrote back, “Awesome. I will get with my management asap and get back to you!”  “Thanks!!!” Awesome GEO

In the same July 27 KRB email, Boilini updates Khananisho with the progress of her investigation with Luke Air Force base in order to resolve in advance any issues which might come up to derail the private prison expansion due to its location in Luke’s high noise area. Boilini told Khananisho that she had been able to determine that, “The proposal is not in the danger contour.” And, “Nick and I met with Randy Mitchell (from Luke) … He said Luke won’t have any concerns about the development.”

In an August 16, email from Khananisho to Fischbach after public outcry apparently caused internal back pedaling, in an email entitled, “Possible response for Joanne on the Luke part” Khananisho gives Fischbach language for Osborne to send to constituents. Part of the language is, “initially we shared your concerns with the expansion of Perryville having a negative impact to Luke AFB.  However, after staff research and discussions with appropriate stakeholders, we found that State Statutes allow…”  The irony of this statement, included in a communication for constituents to convince them Goodyear was working against the proposal, is that based upon the email dialog between Khananisho and Boilini, Goodyear’s June/July concerns about any Luke impact were not aimed at stopping the project, but were aimed at paving the way for the expansion proposal to be successful.

One gets more of a sense of the attitude in city hall to residents’ objections reading another Khananisho email in which after describing Goodyear’s previous enabling work as “concerns” Khananisho ends the email to Fischbach with, “However, there are a number of other problems we face as a community with the possible expansion of the prison. Blah, blah, blah…..”   Blah, blah, blah? Khananisho appears to think Fischbach knows the rest of the drill to in responses to residents. ( blah blah blah )

In June, Khananisho wrote to Fischbach in an email that she had told Georgia about ADC sending GEO to look for Goodyear’s support for GEO’s proposal which according to GEO would provide $6 to $13 mil increased city construction taxes. By July 27 Goodyear had an overview of GEO’s proposal and described it as “Awesome”.

We know from the email to Fischbach that Georgia knew what was going on and according to Khananisho’s August 3 email to KRB, “a few” other council members were looking for positive talking points.  It is difficult to believe that just about everyone in city hall did not know by then about the possible $13 million construction sales tax (CST) windfall that was out there for the taking if Goodyear simply stood aside and let it happen.

It is important to understand the scale of GEO’s CST claim.  Goodyear is a near bankrupt city with $300 million in debt from a mall that is years behind schedule, a stadium that will never be paid off, property valuations falling to where Goodyear could exceed its debt limit and a possible $13 million windfall of CST shows up in the form of a prison expansion.  Goodyear’s recently passed 2011-12 Total General Fund Budgeted Revenue is only $62 million. Goodyear was staring at additional CST revenue equivalent to nearly 25% of their entire General Fund Budgeted revenue.

In my next post I will further describe;

  1. The evolution of the positive talking points memo for council which by August 3, a week prior to the public meeting, GEO was already working on.
  2. GEO’s lobbyist meeting at least one council member on the same day as a lunch meeting between Kananisho, Wally, Georgia, and Lauritano.
  3. How GEO’s lobbyist Kristen Boilini (the woman who represented GEO at Georgia’s public meeting) was actually invited by Goodyear’s city council to make her presentation in defense of GEO at the August 22 meeting.

* In an email response to 5 clarifying questions asked of Ms. Khananisho, Goodyear attorney Sarah Chilton wrote, ” I was asked to respond to the e-mail that you sent Romina Khananisho today.  We will not be responding to this request as it is beyond the scope of Arizona’s public records law.” I have responded to Ms. Chilton that I do not know what public records laws have to do with my questions since I am a Goodyear resident asking simple, straightforward questions of a city employee of the town in which I pay taxes.


4 Responses

  1. Howard,

    Just wanted to commend you for the outstanding public service you are providing Goodyear citizens by exposing the charade the council almost got away with. Please keep up this important investigative reporting. The citizens of Goodyear have a right to know.

  2. I’ll keep saying it from the highest mountain, RECALL RECALL RECALL. You have to be able to trust your leaders, can this group be trusted?

  3. What is galling to me is the attempted cover-up by the council. If they had just been honest and said “yes” we encouraged GEO to pursue Goodyear because of the tax monies the city would receive” I could understand it. But to come along and suddenly be against the expansion only AFTER the public outcry from Goodyear’s citizens is so cunning. I am very disappointed with Joanne. She may be an airhead, but at least I thought she was an honest airhead. Now to read that city staff acted as a laison for Joanne in getting the lobbyist to draft a “positive response” in support of the expansion for Joanne’s constituents is disgusting. I agree with CL in that any trust I had in the council has been eroded beyond repair. I would not be a part of gathering petitions for a recall, but I would definitely sign one.

  4. Well, what a surprise… good luck and I applaud you on your research… I am sure they are making you out to look as crazy as they tried to make me look when I started asking questions. Sarah Chilton is the front of the legal department – stuck there to be the bear, and believe me she can be one… I have a few emails you might be interested in regarding public records request – here are the links.…pdf

    The city employees actually think about whether or not they should
    use email or any kind of documenting record of events as evidenced by these… isn’t that illegal? I tried, and tried to get the public’s attention and I still follow the vultures that run Goodyear. I’ll never stop because of what they put me through…

    If you have never visited my website, feel free. I never finished it, but there is quite a lot of information there and it will give you some insight as to what kind of people run the city and how they handle those that speak up to wrong..

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