Whitehead: ‘I would not try nor ever want to obstruct justice’

Scottsdale Councilwoman Solange Whitehead (File photo)

Scottsdale Councilwoman Solange Whitehead denies she would nor has she ever knowingly sought to obstruct justice.

On Thursday, Aug. 29 former Scottsdale City Councilman David Smith filed an ethics complaint against the freshman councilwoman for what she contends was an impassioned defense of a local resident.

A file photo of former Scottsdale City Councilman David Smith

“I would not try nor ever want to obstruct justice,” she said in her defense of the ethics allegation.

“I wrote a strong appeal believing that constituents should be protected from what seemed to me to be a duplicate campaign finance complaint. The constituent, Jason Alexander, had already paid a $5,000 fine to the city for a campaign violation complaint.”

However, in his precise ethics complaint — where Mr. Smith claims Ms. Whitehead violated the City of Scottsdale Code of Ethical Behavior or Revised Code, Sections 2-47 through 2-58 — it outlines the infraction was a June 21 email between the councilwoman and City Manager Jim Thompson.

According to records filed, it appears Ms. Whitehead did send an email directly in response to Scottsdale City Clerk Carolyn Jagger’s 16-page opinion now a part of a separate campaign finance violation.

“I just reviewed Carolyn’s response to Jason Alexander,” she wrote in the June 21 email to Mr. Thompson. “I am writing to request that this be dropped immediately. A city’s job is to protect its citizens and the community as a whole. The laws and ordinances are designed for that purpose.”

City Manager Jim Thompson (File photo)

Ms. Whitehead adamantly defends Mr. Alexander, whom she refers to as a constituent.

“Jason Alexander is a dad that took on the city government,” she wrote.

“That is what differentiates America from totalitarian regimes. He was victorious after giving more than two years of his life to protect a preserve for future generations and he won. Like every great grassroots story — his began with no experience, no money and a passion for his community and future generations. He was the David that beat Goliath, which happens to be the City of Scottsdale.”

Ms. Whitehead explains, in the letter, Mr. Alexander has already paid thousands of dollars in fines and perceptions, political or otherwise, matter.

“A city should demonstrate equitable treatment but hold its elected officials to a much higher standard,” she wrote.

“We must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that decisions are not politically motivated. Yet, two ethics violations, with proof, were filed against a sitting councilwoman were dropped by the City Attorney. This is what the citizens see: A City Attorney protects his boss and penalizes tax-paying citizens that challenge his bosses. Perception matters 100% in government.”

— Councilwoman Solange Whitehead in a June 21 email to City Manager Jim Thompson

Ms. Whitehead confirms her steadfast defense of Mr. Alexander was in response to a second campaign finance complaint, which Mr. Smith filed.

“This is America and I am glad that we have transparency,” she told Independent Newsmedia. “I am grateful for that. I believe in the process.”

A view of Scottsdale City Hall in Old Town Scottsdale Tuesday, March 21. (File photo)

Same complaint, different factors

Earlier this summer, Ms. Jagger — in a 16-page opinion a part of a more than 150-page document — found reasonable cause to believe the NoDDC organization, its affiliates and agents may have violated Arizona law.

This campaign finance complaint names Mr. Alexander among others. However, Mr. Alexander was also named in a previous campaign finance complaint where he agreed to settle. But each of the three legal filings — ethical or campaign finance — have been filed by Mr. Smith.

The complaint, which was originally filed in May, is separated into three sections:

  • Contributions made to NoDDC; NoDDC Inc.; and NoDDC PAC have been misrepresented and/or not disclosed;
  • Donor information has not been disclosed in accordance with Arizona Statutes governing disclosure of donor information; and
  • Funds donated to and held by NoDDC PAC have been and continue to be converted to personal use.

A $5,000 fine was levied, and paid by personal check drawn on the Bank of America account of “Jason Alexander and Rebecca Holmes.”

According to Mr. Smith’s complaint, investigation into the initial campaign finance complaint, and a review of NoDDC PAC financial disclosure reports, “lead to the conclusion that the violations of Arizona campaign finance laws by the named entities and the named individuals have been (and continue to be) more pervasive, systemic and serious than identified in the Sept. 17, 2018 complaint.”

At its core, Mr. Smith alleges PayPal contributions were not made to NoDDC Inc., and presumptively, the contributions were instead made to the personal bank account of a NoDDC Inc. director, who is not named.

The PayPal account summaries that were provided to the city covered only a portion of the dormancy period, from March 7, 2018 through Oct. 18, 2018, but disclosed more than 100 individual donations, the complaint states.

The same PayPal report shows four account withdraws, totaling $8,156.24, without giving indication of whether such withdraws were deposited to the account of NoDDC Inc., or the personal bank account of a NoDDC Inc. director.

“I quickly ran out of places the money would have gone,” Mr. Smith told Independent Newsmedia last month of his investigative efforts. “It, the money, came in and went out. To tell you the truth I don’t really know where it went and is part of what the complaint is about. It would seem surprising to me that the only way they were collecting money was through PayPal and I am not sure the PayPal account didn’t show records they actually enjoyed.”

Ms. Whitehead says she now realizes while both complaints are connected, they are separate.

“I am now aware the complaint sites different possible violations therefore is not duplicating the first,” Ms. Whitehead said. “Scottsdale’s City Attorney referred the complaint to the City of Phoenix which I believe is a good decision. No decision has been made.”

As of Sept. 5, the Phoenix City Attorney’s Office has yet to render an opinion in the matter.

In terms of the ethics violation, Scottsdale Public Affairs Director Kelly Corsette confirms it was received Thursday, Aug. 29 and no later than 15 days from that date a legal opinion will be rendered.

“Per city code Section 2-57, the complaint was forwarded to an independent ethics officer for review and initial screening,” he said. “While the screening is being conducted, the city will not discuss or comment on the complaint.”

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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