The Scottsdale Independent published a report Wednesday, Jan. 11 revealing the amount of gifts provided to members of Scottsdale City Council.
The report shows members of Scottsdale City Council accepted $32,572 in gifts that primarily were meant to have elected leaders appear at VIP events and fundraising endeavors.
Members of city council are allowed to accept gifts defined as “entertainment, hospitality, transportation and token mementos directly associated with events that an official is attending as a representative of the city,” Scottsdale Ordinance No. 3675 states.
The ordinance clarifies that all gifts permissible that exceed a value of $25 must be declared while any gift that could potentially enrich the beneficiary or a relative of that beneficiary is prohibited.
Some say accepting tickets to events of community significance is part of the job of being an elected leader. Still others question if those gifts could influence policy decisions made on the local dais.
The total number of gifts reported over the last three calendar years include former councilmen Dennis Robbins — $1,065 in 2014 — and Bob Littlefield — $560 in 2014.
The Independent reached out to Mr. Robbins, who is now executive director of the Scottsdale Charros, to better understand his philosophy of accepting gifts and the kind of effect those gifts may or may not have on an elected leader.
Mr. Robbins served two terms on Scottsdale City Council and this is what he had to say:
•When you were an elected member of Scottsdale City Council how did you perceive gifts?
Very cautiously! We have an established gift ordinance that is very restrictive and must be followed by every councilmember and city employee. But whether or not I would accept a gift goes beyond just following the law. How you are perceived as a public official is important. You have to be very careful about the appearance of taking gifts for only a personal benefit.
•How did you decide what gifts to accept and what gifts to not?
I usually only accepted tickets to events that were sponsored by the city of Scottsdale. These were signature events where the city supported an event with bed-tax dollars that benefited our tourism industry. For example, the Arabian Horse show or Barrett-Jackson car auction.
•When you were a member of city council attending an event for free, what role did you try to play when there?
I think it is important for public officials to attend events that improve our economy and our tourism industry. These events are part of what makes Scottsdale special and allows our sales and property taxes to remain among the lowest in the Valley.
•What kind of perspective can you offer looking back at being a member of Scottsdale City Council in regard to what some might consider a perk?
I remember when the Super Bowl first came to the Valley. Each city paid the NFL with bed-tax dollars, as part of the host committee, for the privilege of having the game in Phoenix. Councilmembers were allowed to purchase the tickets at face value. The game wasn’t in Scottsdale and the perception of purchasing the tickets, even for face value, looked very bad. It was using your office to get something that most others cannot get. It was a bad idea and I would not do it.
North Valley News Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at 623-445-2774 or at firstname.lastname@example.org