By the numbers: Scottsdale City Council gifts reported

Scottsdale Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp and Mayor Jim Lane during a recent public hearing at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Records show over the last three fiscal years the elected leaders of Scottsdale have accepted a total of $37,972.74 in gifts with Mayor Jim Lane accepting the lion’s share of those offers.

The vast majority of accepted gifts over the last three fiscal years — and thus far this fiscal year — were provided in VIP tickets to keystone events oftentimes featuring community advocacy, champagne flutes and gourmet bites.

The Scottsdale Independent, through a public records request, sought any and all gift declarations made by members of Scottsdale City Council, which garnered about 100 pages of receipts.

By the numbers, these are the dollar amounts for an overwhelmingly majority of VIP tickets to fundraising efforts, luxury galas and legislative luncheons:

• Suzanne Klapp — $5,215

• Virginia Korte — $3,234

• Jim Lane — $17,596

• Kathy Littlefield — $5,201

• Linda Milhaven — $1,646

• David Smith — $200

A few similarities exist between members of council and the annual events they attend. Affairs like the annual gala to benefit Scottsdale Public Art or the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction, which is held at WestWorld of Scottsdale.

Upon submission of the records request in early July, Mayor Lane’s Chief of Staff, Rachel Smetana, outlines in a letter to the Independent the nature of the majority of the gift declarations.

“It is important to note that it is Mayor Lane’s own policy to generate a gift declaration for anything he receives or any event he attends,” she wrote in the July 9 response. “He prefers this additional transparency even though most of the events were attended in his ‘official capacity’ on ‘behalf of the city’ for ‘civic purposes’ and thus don’t qualify as gifts.”

She offers Scottsdale city code section 14-135 as an example of how gift declarations can be interpreted in municipal hallways. The code, in part, states certain activities are within fair bounds of public service and are not required to be declared as a gift.

The code states certain items are not technically gifts, which are:

  • Admission to events (that) are sponsored or funded in whole or in part by the city, if furnished by the city or sponsors of such events;
  • Reasonable hosting, including meals and refreshments, travel and related expenses, furnished in connection with official speaking engagements ceremonies or other work-related appearances on behalf of the city, when public purposes are served;
  • Gifts of goodwill or other tokens of appreciation accepted on behalf of the city or in the case of food, accepted and shared with others in the work place; and
  • Items received and donated to a charitable organization.

Scottsdale Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp contends she and her fellow elected leaders declare all items to help keep the public aware of any and all financial benefits due to the holding of public office.

“I will accept certain gifts to attend certain events certainly if they are asking for council members to be there,” she said pointing out her role as an elected leader is typically a public one. “Occasionally, I have gone to luncheons or different events in the capacity of a council member. If I were paying for that myself — it sometimes is very expensive. So, as a gift, I will attend. Those gifts I accept and declare.”

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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