Opinion

Mayor Ortega: Scottsdale City Council must have higher standards to move forward

Posted 3/14/21

The Office of the Auditor regularly reports performance pertaining to all city boards and commissions. Such is the case for Planning Commission, which includes reporting total caseload, membership, …

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Opinion

Mayor Ortega: Scottsdale City Council must have higher standards to move forward

Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega
Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega
Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey
Posted

The Office of the Auditor regularly reports performance pertaining to all city boards and commissions. Such is the case for Planning Commission, which includes reporting total caseload, membership, absences, and individual recusals.

A detailed report, which was submitted last year to the former Mayor and City Council, indicates that over a period of four years, Planning Commissioner Prescott Smith was absent eight times and was recused 47 times. Altogether, on 55 occasions, Mr. Smith left his appointed seat due to other commitments or for conflicts of interest.

In response to Councilmember Milhaven’s Opinion: “Milhaven: Scottsdale volunteers beware” Ms. Milhaven fails to mention the Auditor’s report.

She reappointed Mr. Smith, aware that he is vice president of Technical Solutions, a sub-contractor to developer applicants, and to zoning attorneys who represent many cases heard by the Planning Commission.

As a professional subcontractor, Mr. Smith votes on zoning cases where he did not get the zoning case contract and does not vote on cases where he is paid. Councilmember Milhaven is fine knowing that it happened 55 times.

All board and commission members are appointed by the City Council and “serve at the pleasure of the Council,” according to the City Charter.

Last fall, Mayor Lane, Councilmembers Milhaven and Korte, and Councilwoman Klapp reappointed Mr. Smith knowing of his conflicts.

Among her accusations, she states, (Mayor)” Ortega thinks we should monitor recusals.”  No, Councilmember Milhaven, the City Auditor monitors Planning Commission performance and it is the oversight, duty of Mayor and Council to take action, when warranted.

For the record, on March 4 Supervisor Chucri and I spoke at a luncheon in Scottsdale. Mr. Smith attended and we spoke afterward. I complimented him on his business success, and I told him I was alarmed by his attendance and record-setting recusals.

I told him I could write a letter recognizing his service and his resignation. Or, take the matter to Council, his choice. Our conversation ended cordially and, he went silent for days, even after my staff followed-up.

Councilmember Milhaven also mentioned, that the past council did not take action on an Absences and Recusals Policy, which she actually blocked. I invite the current Council to consider an Absences and Recusals Policy.

If a new policy is enacted, it would not be retroactive in the Smith case, anyway. Appointments are made in the Kiva and can be withdrawn there. Whether Councilmember Milhaven voted in lockstep with Smith, is irrelevant.

Scottsdale is an outstanding city because of citizen volunteers on boards and commissions. As Mayor and working with all Council colleagues, I believe we should hold to higher standards and take actions when necessary.

I encourage residents to apply for Board or Commission at www.scottsdaleAZ.gov/commissions.

Editor's note: Mr. Ortega is the mayor of Scottsdale

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