PHOENIX — The Arizona Attorney General’s office is conducting as many as two separate investigations of the Glendale City Council involving its negotiations of an arena management deal that keeps the Phoenix Coyotes playing at Jobing.com Arena.
The first investigation comes after the Attorney General’s office received complaints that the City Council violated the state’s open meetings law by conducting city business during three closed door meetings in May.
The second investigation was brought to light yesterday by the Rev. Jarrette Maupin, a Valley civil rights leader who is opposed to the arena deal. He claims that he and Glendale City Councilwoman Norma Alvarez have presented Attorney General Tom Horne with evidence that council members Gary Sherwood and Yvonne Knaack are guilty of conflict of interest.
He claims they stand to personally gain from the arena deal that was approved on a 4-3 vote earlier this month. Maupin did not elaborate on how the two would profit. Both voted in favor of the deal.
Horne is refusing to confirm the investigations.
“We have a practice of not confirming or denying ongoing investigations,” Horne said. “When we told him that an AG’s office Spokeswoman assured us that he would talk about the probes, I told her this morning that we can’t do that.”
But acting Glendale City Attorney Nick DiPiazza could confirm one of the investigations, and he did.
“On July 2, the Attorney General’s office sent a letter to the city of Glendale indicating that they are investigating an allegation of a possible open meeting law complaint against the city council,” DiPiazza said.
DiPiazza says he has conducted his own investigation, and has found no evidence of any wrongdoing. He says that no city business was conducted during the closed door meetings, and that they were simply “meet and greets” in which NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman introduced the Renaissance Sports and Entertainment Group to members of the City Council. That is the same group that has since entered into a 15-year, $225 million deal with Glendale to operate the arena.
“There was no business conducted at those gatherings,” DiPiazza insists. “It wasn’t a meeting within the meaning of the law. Upon review of the facts, and speaking with the City Manager and members of the City Council, there was no violation of the open meeting law, in my opinion.”
DiPiazza says he’ll present his findings on the Open Meeting complaint to the Attorney General by this Friday.
Council members could face fines and removal from office if they are found guilty of any wrongdoing. DiPiazza says the investigation will have no effect on the agreement between the city and RSE.
He did not have any information about the investigation that was reported by Maupin.
Maupin says that he, Alvarez and others have brought the evidence to Horne for the second investigation.
“[Tuesday] was about providing him with additional evidence about a second investigation into conflict of interest, into personal gain, and into whether or not members of the council violated the city charter,” Maupin told KTAR Monday. “That’s independent of the investigation into the open meeting law.”
Maupin hopes that Horne aggressively pursues action against Sherwood, Knaack, and any other council member who may have violated the law.
“If they’re cleared, and there was no conflict of interest, then God Bless Glendale,” Maupin said. “They should then make Detroit-like preparations for what comes in the near future.”
The city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy last week. Maupin believes that the deal that the city recently agreed to with RSE will put Glendale into the same situation.
KTAR reporter Cooper Rummell contributed to this report.