It was a near-empty council chamber by 10:20 p.m., but it was about that time the last item on the Jan. 16 agenda was addressed – and it proved to be one that sparked some heated rhetoric between the members of the Oro Valley Town Council.
The item, the potential reappointment of Gil Alexander to the Conceptual Design Review Board, was met with a flurry of heated opinions on opposite spectrums – clearly the result of pent up frustrations from preexisting conversations, or, according to some members of the council, a complete lack thereof.
In a letter sent out by Mayor Satish Hiremath, Alexander was informed his eligibility for reappointment to the CDRB was to be declined due to an alleged conflict of interest. The collective determination was made by the CDRB director, former Town Attorney, and CDRB council liaison.
According to Alexander, whose three-year term on the CDRB officially expired on Dec. 31, the letter from Hiremath states, “The primary concern is the frequency in which you have chosen to address the council during call to the audience regarding (items) that have or will come before the CDRB…”
Alexander refuted any conflict of interest, pointing out that he only spoke on related items when requested by council, or prior to a training in which he was informed that speaking on related issues could be considered grounds for conflict.
“I don’t know what I did wrong, and I would like to request reappointment,” said Alexander.
Hiremath was the first to refute Alexander’s innocence, clearly supporting his intention to deny reappointment.
“The former Town Attorney, (CDRB) Director, and Liaison of the CDRB consulted, and all up and down that spectrum that was the course of action recommended,” he said.
Regardless, Councilman Bill Garner did not believe the mayor’s letter was sent out with the correct representation, taking issue with the fact the letterhead included “council” as an acting body in the denial of Alexander’s appointment.
“When you’re putting the word ‘council’ in there it implies we made the decision as a group because they (the CDRB) do serve at the pleasure of the council,” said Garner.
Hiremath interjected, acknowledging fault for not appropriately labeling the sender as the “council liaison,” rather than merely “council.” The current council liaison is Vice Mayor Lou Waters.
Garner pressed on, arguing that in past situations where similar circumstances have arisen, the council has instead voted on the issue.
“The same offer should have been extended to Mr. Alexander, and it wasn’t, and it’s almost like, I don’t care who you consult with, you can’t use the term council, because that implies four individuals made a decision,,” Garner said.
Hiremath, however, argued there is room for interpretation.
“Can you tell me the singular word for council?” he asked Garner. “If a councilmember and I walk into the rooms is it not fair for somebody to say, ‘There is the Mayor and Council of the Town of Oro Valley? There is no singular word for council.”
Garner resumed his call for proper procedure before Hiremath abruptly made a motion to deny Alexander’s reappointment. Waters seconded the motion, which reopened the item for further discussion, at which point councilman Mike Zinkin also spoke out against Alexander’s possible denial to the CDRB on the basis of hypocrisy.
“We have a written document from the Town Attorney which states a certain member we have reappointed is in violation of Appendix C, and what we are doing here with Mr. Alexander is putting him through the ringer with a bunch of hearsay,” said Zinkin.
Then it was back to Garner, who questioned the mayor as to the specifics of Alexander’s violations, at which point Hiremath told Garner the information was included in the packet, and then, calling for a point of order, slammed down the gavel and called for a final vote.
Though further (tense) dialogue continued before the eventual vote was taken, it appeared things were heading back to a state of normalcy.
That was short-lived when Councilman Brendan Burns acknowledged it was he who had seconded the motion to bring the item to public meeting, “…because Bill (Garner) asked me to second it,” he said. “I didn’t know any of the information about what was going on. It just seems there has been a lot of conversation back and forth between members…I’d suggest in the future to avoid that, we might do something in a public hearing.”
Burns, who finished his commentary by acknowledging for a second time that he was not intimate on the details of the situation, proceeded to participate in voting in favor of Alexander’s reappointment as opposed to abstaining.
Garner and Zinkin also voted on Alexander’s behalf, but the votes of Hiremath, Waters, Councilwoman Mary Snider, and Councilman Joe Hornat against reappointment were enough to end Alexander’s term.
It was not announced at the time whether or not Alexander’s seat has already been filled.