Scottsdale’s city attorney lives in Paradise Valley, an offense that merits tossing Deborah Robberson from the top legal post, one neighborhood activist argues.
George Knowlton, a regular critic of Mayor Mary Manross and numerous other city officials, filed a complaint last week that questions whether Robberson lives within Scottsdale city limits. Under the city charter, Knowlton argued, Robberson was required to move into Scottsdale within six months of her hiring in November.
If she did not relocate by last month, she cannot continue as city attorney, the complaint states.
Robberson has not moved from her house at the eastern base of Mummy Mountain in Paradise Valley, just blocks from Scottsdale’s border.
And she does not have to, said Pat Dodds, a city spokesman.
While the charter mandates that “officers of the city” reside in Scottsdale, the city attorney is not given that title.
The city manager, clerk, auditor and treasurer are all “charter officers” who answer directly to the City Council. The city attorney serves the council, but without the title of “officer.”
Therefore, Robberson does not have to live in Scottsdale, Dodds said.
Knowlton has sought Robberson’s removal since she was hired, alleging the selection process was rigged to ensure the lawyer, a Scottsdale staff attorney for years, was promoted. When provided the city rebuttal to his argument on Robberson’s residence, Knowlton said: “She most certainly is” an officer.
“They can argue all day long,” he said, “but public opinion will bury them.”
This flap is just the most recent over charter officers’ nesting in Scottsdale.
In 1991, Scottsdale’s new city manager, Dick Bowers, did not want to to leave his ranch-style house, which happened to stand on the Paradise Valley side of the municipalities’ border, Tribune archives show.
So rather than force Bowers to move to Scottsdale, the city — literally —
moved to him. Former Mayor Herb Drinkwater struck a deal with Paradise Valley officials to allow the city to temporarily annex Bowers’ house from the town, allowing Bowers to meet the charter requirement.
“The jurisdictional boundaries were a dotted line around my house,” Bowers said last week. When Bowers retired from the city in 1999, the house rejoined Paradise Valley.
More recently, City Manager Jan Dolan took over as treasurer in 2001 when Jim Jenkins retired. Dolan argued that the treasurer’s position is unnecessary since the duties are filled by Craig Clifford, Scottsdale’s chief financial officer, a Tempe resident uninterested in moving.
Several council members now say they intend to fill the vacant post to provide oversight to the city’s finances.
The city attorney position was created as equal to the other charter officers. In fact, the only significant difference between them in the charter is that the attorney is not labeled an “officer.”
“The speculation is that it was intentional because at the time Scottsdale was founded, you have to remember, there was a population of about 2,000 people,” Dodds said.
Small towns often contract with outside attorneys for legal counsel, rather than pay the salary of a full-time city attorney. Dodds said it is believed the charter was worded that way so Scottsdale could do that.
Though the city has long had an in-house legal team, the charter was never changed to reflect that.
Robberson deferred questions on the issue to Dodds.