In recent weeks, Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath took many residents and elected officials by surprise when he took an official stance in the recall efforts of Councilman Mike Zinkin. His column ran in the Dec. 25 edition of The Explorer.
In his column, Mayor Hiremath stressed he felt it was his duty to speak up and protect the Town of Oro Valley, calling on residents to sign the recall petition. The call to recall Zinkin centers around complaints that have been filed against him by two female employees. With claims of sexual harassment, the mayor continues to stress he is protecting the town and its employees.
Mr. Zinkin responded to Hiremath’s column in the Jan. 1 edition of The Explorer. He said he meant no offense to the two female employees for whatever it is he said, and has apologized. Was it an admission of guilt to sexual harassment? No.
In the end, where do the two columns leave voters? The Explorer fielded several phone calls last week with readers asking plenty of questions about what is going on. Interestingly, The Explorer Newspaper was originally started 20 years ago because local residents wanted more information about ongoing recall efforts.
Now, here we are 20 years later under the same situation. Readers want more information, but what impressed me most about many of the phone calls is that none of them are interested in rumors, insinuations and gossip. Many of them pleaded with me for just the facts.
Unfortunately, the facts are tough in a “he said, she said” situation. Are there two complaints against Zinkin? Yes. Is the mayor right when he says in a private company someone being accused of such things would likely lose his job? Yes.
However, Zinkin is not employed by a private company, he is a town official elected by voters. One might inquire what happens if an elected official is accused of such a thing. For the most part, short of resigning or a recall, there’s not a lot of recourse that can be taken against an elected official.
Look at Paul Cunningham with the City of Tucson last year. He drank and was accused of harassing women during a conference in San Diego. He weathered the storm and remains in his elected seat.
The concern I have with the accusations coming out against Zinkin is how much of the negative attention centers around the Oro Valley Police Department.
Is the police department becoming too political? While I respect Chief Danny Sharp and the officers on the department, I do believe the department has become way too political.
Zinkin and Councilman Bill Garner do have a point when they say the department is managed by the council and therefore requires oversight. At times, Zinkin does appear to be a little overzealous in his constant questioning of the department, but in the end, isn’t that what we want elected officials to do?
Zinkin is going up against a strong opposition, he questions the authoritative manner in which the department is run, and he is facing an uphill battle as he continues to do so.
While Zinkin seems to need a filter between his brain and his mouth on occasion, the question is does Oro Valley need this type of political official running the town?
I believe in balance. I believe that when you only have yes men running any kind of board – the citizens lose in the end.
Having something more meaningful than seven votes of approval on every issue is important.
Garner and Zinkin may not be right in everything they question, or how often they push the issues – but they do bring up some good points and deserve a lot more attention than they receive on occasion.
As for Zinkin, more sensitivity training might serve him well moving forward.