Valley Business Owners (and Concerned Citizens), a nonprofit group that's pushed referendums in Mesa and Gilbert, says it's not associated with an ongoing drive to recall Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman.
In a statement distributed Friday afternoon, the group objected to one of Berman's campaign fliers that states: "The chairman of the (recall) effort is a man named Fred Phillis. Mr. Phillis and his front group, the so-called Valley Business Owners, has been active over the last several years in pushing referendums in Mesa to undermine and oppose new economic development efforts in that city."
Phillis, who heads the End Corruption in Gilbert political committee formed to campaign for Berman's recall, is also a vocal member of the VBO group.
In the group's statement, VBO president David Molina said while he personally agrees with Berman's critics, his organization would be breaking the law if it associated itself with the recall campaign.
Doing so would violate state campaign finance laws and would jeopardize VBO's nonprofit tax status with the Internal Revenue Service.
Berman is in Gilbert's sister city, Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland, this week, and could not be reached for comment.
Phillis' political committee was most recently ordered to pay the town a $1,391 civil fine for raising and spending money on the campaign before the group had filed required paperwork.
According to a letter sent to the committee by attorney David A. Pennartz, the recall group violated state law by spending money on campaign signs before filing a statement of organization with the town clerk's office.
Phillis would not say Friday whether his group intends to pay the fine. But in a letter sent to Pennartz on Friday, Phillis told the attorney the complaint was not specific enough and asked Pennartz "to respond by listing each (statute) you claim has been violated."