Council Berates Citzen Over Prison Questions – by Gary Gibbs

by Gary Gibbs

The following email, written on Aug. 10, the day of the public hearing on Perryville prison expansion, is from Romina Khananisho, city of Goodyear government affairs person, to city manager John Fischbach. It is unedited, unvarnished and unexpurgated:


I am a little concerned with us saying that the city is opposing the expansion of the prison. We have been approached by the private prison company over and over asking us if we have issues, if we needed information and what our position was. We told the CEO we didn’t have a position because we had not gone to council. In fact we told him we weren’t planning on taking it to council because we didn’t feel we really had a choice when it came to the decisions of the department of corrections.

I have been working with his team to prepare documents and information for us. They have provided us with everything we have asked for and more. They continue to ask me if anyone has brought forward any concerns and I have given them the ones we have talked about, taxes, zoning, etc. But no one ever said we were opposed to the expansion.

In fact, when we spoke about it, we said this could be a good thing for us financially. So I am confused that our statement is now we are opposed. I understand we were opposed back in the 80’s but this is a new council and this is private prison with a different scenario. In addition, we have not stated any opposition before right now. We asked them to talk to Luke, and they did. LAFB is not opposed so we don’t have that excuse.

I am not in the office at the moment. I just wanted I shared with you my concerns. This is a bit of a surprise to me and frankly it looks like I totally lied to this team of people this entire 2 months we have been working with them.

Thanks, Romina K.

Forty minutes after receiving this note, Fischbach replies:

Romina, I don’t know what you’re talking about. We have never said that we are opposed. Call me or come and see me later.

Here’s the test. Let’s see how you do. Based on what a reasonable person would conclude after reading the above, the following statements are either True or False:

1.  The city has been steadfast in its opposition to Perryville prison expansion.

2.  The city values citizen property values and an upscale image more than tax revenue.

3.  The city respects the concerns of businesses and schools near the prison site.

4.  Romina is a mid-level city functionary who ran amok, acted on her own and should be fired.

5.  The city manager was acting on his own and kept the mayor and council in the dark.

6.  The mayor had no idea that, as late as Aug. 10, the city was not opposed to expansion.

7.  All along, the city made it clear to the private prison company that it would oppose its plans.

8.  The city has been completely transparent and open about this entire issue.

9.  The city always makes decisions with your best interests in mind.

10. To think that the city played footsy with the prison company to gain millions in tax revenue down the road is just one big conspiracy theory.

My test answers are that all of the statements are false. How about yours?

At the last council meeting (Sept. 12), I took my citizen’s three minutes to share concerns with the council that, had the city made it clear to the prison company early on that it wanted no part of expansion, it is possible the company would have backed away from a fight and bid on another state location. It was my contention that this entire matter could have been put to rest in early June.

For my trouble, I was publicly excoriated. The Lord Mayor was righteously pissed and engaged in her usual bullying and intimidation tactics, accusing me of just playing politics, wasting city time and resources by filing Freedom of Information requests (actually, Howard Brodbeck is “guilty” of that. I just read the stuff), said I was just reading what I wanted to into the information obtained and accused me of dealing in conspiracy theory.

Sheri Lauritano managed to work in the fact that she is an attorney, as she does at almost every meeting, and came preciously close to threatening to sue me for . . . something. After stating publicly that it would have been illegal for him to attend the Aug. 10 public meeting, Bill Stipp said I was wrong to say he wouldn’t have attended even if he had not had a conflict. Joe Pizzillo waved his right to attorney client privilege and got city attorney Rorick Massey to acknowledge that Joe has been on record opposing prison expansion since April 2010.

If you would like to see how your elected representatives treat a citizen who has the temerity to question their actions, view the video on the city’s website. They swatted a mosquito with a sledgehammer. Their virulent over-reaction brings to mind the phrase, “They doth protest too much.”


16 Responses

  1. Well written. It is nice to see someone keeping the elected officials answering public questions.

  2. OK. So Georgia Lord is not a people person. What’s new? But she is a…..

    I’m sorry. I don’t know what she is. But it certainly isn’t competent, fair, knowledgeable, educated or experienced at anything. I understand most people are still waiting to see what it is that the West Valley View said was Georgia’s experience and that she was the one for the job. So far, her experience is looking to Massey to find out what is her opinion?

    While each of the Council members has repeatedly proven they are quite shallow and reactionary rather than proactive, Ms Lauritano has often displayed the most intelligence of them all. But I am curious for what she would sue you. What would a judge consider when he sees a motion to sue a citizen for speaking publicly at a public meeting? I am perplexed.

    Let’s review. The Council was opposed to the prison expansion. No wait. The Council was not opposed to the prison expansion. Luke Air Force Base is not opposed to the prison expansion. Who cares? Ms. Khananisho wrote to ask for a clarification. The City manager said she was wrong with her assumptions altogether?

    Why does Ms. Khananisho have opinions about City policy? Is it possible the City is run by a “mid-level city functionary”? Or is it more likely that Ms. Khananisho has been told to fall on her sword to protect the incompetence and subterfuge of the City Council? Someone, if not all of them, is lying. If Mr. Fischbach really doesn’t know what Romina is talking about, let’s refresh his memory. Here’s a link to an article published in the AZ Republic on August 24, 2011.

    Did Mr. Yantis make all this up?

    So exactly what is it that this all new City Council has done for Goodyear beside berate private citizens for having an opinion? Is it true that all Gary is doing is playing politics? Isn’t that what this is? That’s all Georgy girl has been doing for the past six years. All she knows how to do is play.

    Have the citizens of Goodyear experienced some financial relief in this hard economic time. Actually, no. They got their taxes raised. Well maybe we have a nice new mall to help generate some revenue and will help with financial relief. Nope. Still just an eyesore empty lot. Maybe we have a few new fine upscale restaurants. Sorry! But we do have a couple new Mexican fast food places. Maybe it’s property values. That’s it. Our property values have all increased because of the dynamic forethought of our judicious City Council. Well, maybe next year?

    Perhaps there is a lot of dynamic and philosophical wisdom we can all enjoy. Ooopps. Nope. Just a lot of back peddling, excuses and unawareness on the part of most of the Council. At lease Bill Stipp knows enough not come around. He doesn’t even bother to be there so no one can criticize his shallowness. He thinks it’s just another taxpayer funded No-Show “job” like the other one he has.

    Where’s Jim Cavanaugh when you need him? Let’s get a petition to bring Jim back so we can stop the deception and get some things done here.

    • Well Kemosabe, let’s review indeed! You quote the August 10 exchange where Khaninisho questions Fischbach and he replies “when did we say we were opposed.” So as supposed proof that they indeed did say that, you offer the August 22 Council resolution. Beam me up, Scottie. (Oops – wrong show)

      You ask why Khananisho has concerns about policy, and take that further to then wonder whether she’s running the City. I’m sure that somewhere in your career you questioned management while knowing full well that you were not in charge. Would you prefer employees who have no concern about what they are doing, especially if they feel a disconnect between policy and their instructions? But wait, no – I forgot – you have only a “faithful companion.”

      I’d be open to your arguments if they made any sense.

      Where’s Jim Cavanaugh? – probably enjoying the fruits of his real estate deal with CTCA.

      • Scott, you seem to be rearranging deck chairs on Clayton’s tonge in cheek comment. Are denying over indisputable evidence that at least Georgia and probably all of them knew what was happening and just let it go for the money and what they perceived at the time was low risk of any public resistance? That is really what is at issue isn’t it? That and the fact that none of them can bring themselves to man up and admit it to the public.

      • Scott–
        I agree completely that if Mr. Cavenanugh received compensation (while still Mayor) from the selling of the land to CTCA that is completely unethical. However, I have tried to find out if that is true through public records to no avail. Can you provide the source for your statement “probably enjoying the fruits of his labor from his real estate deal with CTCA”? That statement implies that you know something, but alas I am afraid that whatever it is you think you know is just hearsay from the gossip at the fire station just outside PebbleCreek. I would like to take your comments seriously but you cheapen yourself by your jab at Mr. Cavenaugh and that puts all of us on notice that you are probably a city (union) employee of some type.

      • Aaron, I find it interesting that neither you or Howard chose to address the issue I posed, simply that Clayton’s contention that the August 22 resolution opposed to the expansion somehow proves anything about the meaning of memos and discussions of August 10. I come here to listen to the points of view. It seems that the argument is that the City did not come out in opposition fast enough and therefore must have been in favor. Sorry but to me that is not yet “indisputable evidence” to use Howard’s phrase.

        But instead you answer with riddles about deck chairs and the need to speculate on where I work or live. Mr. Cavanaugh was a realtor before he was mayor, while he was mayor and after he was mayor which is when he worked with CTCA as such. I admire him and am sorry he left public service. I hope that each of us enjoys the fruits of our labors. I made no statement that his dealings were inappropriate. I do not “know” anything and have not tried to “find out” anything. As you say you have. I guess Clayton’s comments can be tongue in cheek but mine cannot.

        I’m not yet a believer, so you can continue to try to convince me, or you can continue to think you have read my mind and just give up.

  3. Gary, Thank you for the courage to speak. In America, it should not take courage but you’re in Arizona. If this is how you were treated in your own town can you imagine how you would be treated at the state level where the private prison expansion and the selling of the state buildings has been going on for years behind closed doors. The officials from the bottom to the top do NOT want citizen/taxpayer input — they just want our money. You’ve opened the door for all to see and it’s not a pretty picture. Vote these people out of office!

    • And to think I gave up watching Monday Night Football and the Tea Party Express Republican presidential candidate debate from Tampa just to get my butt chewed out by our city council members.

      • And since I had the audacity to be sitting next to you that evening I am sure privately or through their favorite fake names they are raking me over the coals as well, lol. You know Mac77, Sam Patel, Edgar where are you????

  4. It’s “She doth protest too much, methinks…” if you are to use quotes.

    Howard rocks!

  5. Of course they knew. So why wasn’t the public informed? Why were the Goodyear officials missing at the public hearing (a sham hearing with decisions made behind closed doors). “Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law” : NPR

  6. The subject of this specific blog has digressed at least in part from the subject of council berating a citizen to the entirely unrelated subject that I may have acted inappropriately and unethically in a real estate transaction with Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I assume the comments stem from a letter to the editor, West Valley View, dated March 1, 2011 from a Ms. Jewel White.
    Ms. White made three specific accusations regarding CTCA and me. First, she stated that my company received a commission of $8.2 Million from a land deal with CTCA. Not sure where she received her info, but she needs to seek out more reliable and dependable resources. Actually, the commission my wife received was handsome for our small company but less than one per cent of Ms. White’s allegation—-that’s right, less than one per cent. I was never involved in the transaction as a realtor nor as mayor, and CTCA was never on the council agenda during the year or so that negotiations took place between the private parties.
    Her second accusation was that CTCA came to Goodyear because I engineered a deal giving them significant tax breaks. Apparently to the sly Ms.White, the land deal commission was a payoff. Let me summarize the facts regarding CTCA coming to Goodyear. When CTCA announced that they were interested in coming to Arizona, three cities vied for the beddown; Tempe, Phoenix, and Goodyear. I and several others met on several occasions with CTCA leadership to press the Goodyear opportunity. However, CTCA chose Phoenix in its Maryville section. After notification that Phoenix had won, I called the vice chairman of CTCA to express our understanding and respect for their process. I never expected to hear from them again. But then, you never know. Negotiations between Phoenix and CTCA got bogged down on the subject of GPLET, a very valuable incentive that results in a reduction in property taxes. Phoenix provided the incentive to companies in downtown Phoenix but not in Maryville and wouldn’t budge. CTCA called our economic development folks and inquired whether Goodyear used GPLETs. As I recall we had not used the incentive but it was authorized for use in the broad land area in which CTCA wanted to build a hospital. We quickly came to agreement and CTCA came on board. Candidly, I did not know what a GPLET was until this transaction and did not engage in the negotiations regarding incentives. To allege that I engineered the deal is ludicrous. In the past couple months, leadership has changed at CTCA. I do not know the current CEO but I did know his predecessor, Dave Veillette. No private organization did more for Goodyear than Veillette and CTCA, nor did any public official. CTCA is great for Goodyear but far more valuable to the patients whose lives they are saving.
    Ms. White’s last accusation was that CTCA and Cavanaugh were trying to buy the election and the citizens should expect their candidates to cut deals for them to the detriment of the City. I have no idea what CTCA contributed in campaign funding. Sadly, in view of the election results, Ms. White will never know whether CTCA “bought” the candidates they supported. However, if she pays attention, she’ll find out if the thousands of dollars given to the Lord group by her non-Goodyear supporters who own land and intend to develop in Goodyear, the police and fire unions from throughout the State, APS, Cox, and the Homebuilders Association of Central Arizona “bought” their candidates.

    • I appreciate your coming on this blog and setting the record straight. By the way, if you are a follower of this blog you will note that Ms. Jewel White has been previously identified by Howard to be non other that Bill Stipp’s sister living in PebblerCreek.

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