Scottsdale ethics complaint against Councilwoman Whitehead dismissed

A file photo of Scottsdale Councilwoman Solange Whitehead during last year’s City Council debate held at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

The ethics complaint filed against Scottsdale Councilwoman Solange Whitehead has been dismissed.

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.

The independent investigator agrees Ms. Whitehead was providing constituent advocation — provided clarification to her point moments after an initial internal message — and was not seeking to obstruct an investigation into a connected, but separate, campaign finance complaint.

Former Scottsdale Councilman David Smith

Mr. Smith made claims Ms. Whitehead violated the City of Scottsdale Code of Ethical Behavior or Revised Code, Sections 2-47 through 2-58, which he claimed was an infraction during a June 21 email exchange 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.

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 Jason 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.

However, Independent Ethics Officer Kenneth L. Fields confirms Ms. Whitehead did not violate state law — nor Scottsdale municipal guidelines.

“I find there is no factual basis in his complaint to support such allegations,” he said in his Sept. 9 recommendation letter to Acting City Attorney Joe Padilla.

“A review of the two emails does not support Mr. Smith’s allegation. The councilmember termed her message as a ‘request’ that the matter be dropped in the email at 4:54 p.m. of June 21, 2019. In her clarification in a separate email at 5:03 p.m. of the same date the communication expressed a ‘want’ that the matter be dropped. In both bodies of both email messages, she went on to explain her position by attempted persuasion not a threat of using of her official position.”

— Independent Ethics Officer Kenneth L. Fields

Mr. Fields goes on to explain Ms. Whitehead never made any threats and he believes she was working in the best interests of the City of Scottsdale.

The seal of the city of Scottsdale. (File photo)

“She was communicating her policy position to the appropriate city official, the city manager. SRC section, 2-54, requires council members to submit such requests to the city manager and not city employees such as the city attorney or city clerk,” he said

Mr. Fields included the Merriam-Webster dictionary of the definition of the word, “threat” to further explain Mr. Whitehead’s word were not threatening — and no threats of retaliation ever occurred.

For Ms. Whitehead, she says her faith in the process remains intact.

“I am pleased that the independent ethics officer found the complaint to have no factual basis,” she said.

“I especially appreciated that he recognized and wrote that my ‘message appears to be argument regarding the best interest of the city.’ That said, I wholeheartedly support the ability of citizens to challenge their elected officials.”

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

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