Last week the daily reported that the eight-member Phoenix City Council and Mayor Phil Gordon, would be conducting closed-door, executive session, interviews to find a replacement for retiring City Manager Frank Fairbanks. And although lip service is paid to the issue of “transparency,” there was none evident in this exclusive selection process.
In light of past disciplinary actions, council members also stressed the importance of ethics.
“We’ve had some lively debates and I want to share with you that integrity is of the utmost importance from here on forward,” said councilwoman Peggy Neely.
That pesky integrity issue might have accounted for the lack of allowable public scrutiny of the process that would put the ultimate winner in charge of 14,000 city employees and a $3.6 billion annual budget.
Yet in an 8-1 vote, the council appointed 22-year Phoenix employee David Cavazos, 49, described in the newspaper report as a “Hispanic, and the first minority to hold the highest non-elected office in the nation’s fifth-largest city.”
In 2006, David Cavazos, then an acting deputy city manager was suspended for a week without pay after an internal investigation found that city workers spent more than $280,000 in taxpayer money on questionable travel expenses.
But not to worry. City leaders warned Cavazos that any future unethical behavior would not be tolerated.
Councilman Michael Nowakowski, also identified by the daily as Hispanic, defended Cavazos as the most qualified candidate for the job, not downplaying the ethnicity angle. “It’s sending a message out there that we are going to be diverse, not only diverse within the Latino community, but we also have a large African-American, Asian, Native American and LGBT community,” said Nowakowski, who nominated Cavazos. “So it’s diversity, and our management should look like the city of Phoenix.”
Councilman Michael Johnson cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he had serious concerns about Cavazos’ suspension for violating city travel policies and setting a tone that allowed his employees to abuse city funds. Cavazos, then an acting deputy city manager, who at the time served as assistant aviation director was forced to repay the city $911 following the investigation into travel abuses at the city.
The four finalists, all Phoenix deputy city managers, were Cavazos, David Krietor, Rick Naimark and Ed Zuercher. Of course, the closed-door interviews allowed for no public comment.
The manager’s annual pay range is $163,592 to $257,670.
* Absolute and utter sarcasm in view of the fact that diversity trumped integrity and there was zero transparency in the closed door interviews.