Scandal spurs Scottsdale council write-ins - East Valley Tribune: Phoenix & The Valley Of The Sun

Scandal spurs Scottsdale council write-ins

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Posted: Friday, February 17, 2006 10:07 am | Updated: 4:48 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Stuart Reich sat by his wife’s side during the past year as she battled lung cancer and would read the newspaper with her, exchanging complaints about how Scottsdale is run.

After his wife died last month, Reich said he decided to stop groaning about city officials and instead try to replace them. Reich is one of seven write-in candidates running for Scottsdale City Council.

Nearly all of the write-in candidates say they joined the race to ensure Scottsdale voters have the chance to remove all three council incumbents in the wake of a political scandal that raises questions of backroom dealing.

While some of the write-in candidates have previously campaigned for office in Scottsdale — including Bill Crawford and Merlin Gindlesperger — most are first-time politicians who say they had not intended to run in the March 14 election.

Prior to the write-ins’ entrance to the race, only Tony Nelssen, a preservation activist, challenged councilmen Wayne Ecton, Bob Littlefield and Kevin Osterman.

The incumbents have been heavily criticized for obscuring their role in ousting another challenger, political newcomer Nan Nesvig, from the ballot.

The councilmen have said that one or more of their volunteers filed a complaint alleging Nesvig failed to gather sufficient voter signatures without their knowledge.

They have refused to name who is responsible for the complaint and belatedly acknowledged they are paying attorney’s fees for it.

An inspection of Nesvig’s signatures by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office found her 81 signatures short of the required 1,652.

However, Nesvig’s removal was addition by subtraction, as the seven write-in candidates signed on to fill her void.

“It gave them more justification to run as a write-in,” Nesvig said of her ouster.

“Perhaps they were leery of running or they had been victims of the system in the past.”

The Nesvig scandal has called into question the incumbents’ integrity and priorities, said Alan Kaufman, a longtime Scottsdale activist.

“How dare somebody run for public office and keep an issue like that higher than the public interest,” Kaufman said of the councilmen’s effort to protect whoever initiated the complaint.

“That’s a rather presumptuous thing to do.”

The write-in candidates have cluttered the city’s political scene as the scandal has strained relations on the council and other local groups.

The Coalition of Pinnacle Peak, a large north Scottsdale watchdog organization, has lost half of its board of directors over the issue.

Kaufman said he, along with Graham Kettle and Darlene Peterson, resigned from the board after the organization endorsed Ecton and Littlefield, despite sternly chastising them over the scandal.

Kaufman declined to speak directly about the divide.

Councilman Jim Lane was attacked politically by Tom Irvine, a Phoenix attorney representing the incumbents in the Nesvig matter, after Lane ridiculed the incumbents over their “possible deceit.”

In a letter to the city, Irvine accused Lane of colluding with Nesvig against his clients, which Lane vehemently denies.

While the scandal has become the focus of candidate forums and Scottsdale’s political grapevine, the incumbents and their supporters question what the Nesvig complaint has to do with managing the city.

“No one that I know cares about it,” said Cassidy Campana, a volunteer for Osterman and daughter of former Scottsdale Mayor Sam Campana.

“They want to know what’s going to happen in five years with downtown. I want to make sure that my property values are going to increase and what are the councilmen going to do to make sure that happens.”

Campana labeled the Nesvig scandal “inside baseball.”

But Kaufman argued it is central to analyzing how the incumbents do business.

What if the person they are protecting is someone who goes before the council, asking for a contract or a zoning change? he asked.

“Can we trust any case before the council?” Kaufman said.

Write-in candidates

With seven write-in candidates, there are now 11 Scottsdale residents running for City Council. Voters do not have to remember how to spell their names exactly, but it must be written clearly enough to determine who the vote is for.

The write-in candidates are:

GARY BOYD Age: 69

Issues: Wants government to be more open and argues that Chaparral Road should be widened.

Work: Retired real estate agent

BILL CRAWFORD Age: 52

Issues: Wants government to be more open and contends the city has not done enough to ease traffic congestion.

Work: Personal trainer

MERLIN GINDLESPERGER Age: 74

Issues: Wants government to be more open and argues that the city should be divided into political districts.

Work: Retired

PHIL HUGUS Age: 42

Issues: Wants Scottsdale’s government to be more open.

Work: Telecom consultant

RICHARD LOOMIS Age: 58

Issues: Wants Scottsdale to consider a mass transportation alternative to light rail, such as an overhead monorail.

Work: Game designer

STUART REICH Age: 63

Issues: Wants government to be more open, questions the city’s spending habits and opposes photo enforcement on Loop 101.

Work: Retired businessman

RAY STAFFORD

Did not respond to Tribune requests for information.

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