Bad blood between Oro Valley Town Council members and accusations of misconduct have culminated in a likely recall effort.
Friday, Oro Valley resident Jane Burge, who is the wife of Mayor Satish Hiremath’s elections treasurer, requested public documents on council behavior and an informational packet, which is used to recall a council member.
The documents included a four-page memo submitted to the town’s Human Resources department from Police Department union representatives, along with inter-town and cross-council conversations that cite threatening and demanding conduct of Councilman Brendan Burns, racist, sexist, profane remarks that Councilman Mike Zinkin has made during their tenures as council members, along with aggressive tones Hiremath has taken during private meetings.
Zinkin, who recently learned of the documents Burge had requested, feels the material has been gathered sometimes without his knowledge and also without him having a say in the matter.
“Most of that stuff was material that went between Hiremath or somebody else and they stuck it in someone’s file that I knew nothing about,” Zinkin said Monday. “The material she got is full of half-truths. I never got a chance to respond to it, because I never saw it. And it should be very obvious that this is an attempt to throw mud at me because I am not one of the boys and because I have pushed into the police department.”
Hiremath declined to comment.
The most recently submitted document is a memorandum from the town’s police officers association. It was filed on Sept. 16 and states; “The members of the Oro Valley Police Officers Association are becoming increasingly concerned reference the action and intentions of Council Member Mike Zinkin as it applies to the Town of Oro Valley Police Department and its members.”
The memorandum states that Zinkin has recently requested overtime submissions of paid police personnel but expressed concern that the police association found out that he was requesting the overtime submissions.
The memorandum stated the associated believed Zinkin either “has no confidence in the Chief of Police and his Command staff to properly monitor the Town of Oro Valley Police Department and its budget and operations” and/or he “has reason to accuse some or all of the commissioned officers” of the police department “of dishonesty and fraud as it concerns their submittal of requests for overtime reimbursement.”
Within the memorandum, Zinkin was requesting the submissions to monitor how much of the overtime budget was being spent and which programs were spending those funds.
“I have a legal right to that information,” Zinkin said. “That is freedom of information material. That is transparency in government and for them to be upset about that... you know, they don’t like that. The last time somebody started playing with the police department it was David Andrews, and we all know what happened to him.”
Andrews worked for the town for nearly two decades, his final three years as town manager, before the former town council pressured him to resign in September 2009.
Records also show Hiremath documented a conversation he had with Zinkin where the councilman said he didn’t wear a tie because, “we’re only meeting a bunch of Mexicans and Mexicans don’t wear ties anyways.”
Zinkin refuted the statement saying it was taken out of context and he was speaking about bolo tie.
The same record said the mayor believed that “Councilmember Zinkin has an issue with race, including me.”
Within the documents, there is a open meeting law complaint filed by Zinkin in December of 2012 accusing Hiremath of violating an open meeting law by sending out an email saying the town decided not to the reappoint Gil Alexander to the town’s Conceptual Design Review Board, but did not include council members Zinkin, Burns or Bill Gardner as recipients for the email.
Another letter, filed by Hiremath in July, informally accuses Zinkin and Burns of violating open meeting laws by approaching him on two separate times asking for his vote to move the Chief of Police under the town manager’s oversight prior to it being discussed in a public forum.
Also in July, President of the Fraternal Order of Police from Lodge #53, Kevin Mattocks, filed a formal complaint against Burns saying an email he received from the councilman was threatening, demanding, retaliatory and unprofessional.
The email conversation between Mattocks and Burns began with Burns requesting to attend the next FOP meeting in response to “a lot of bad blood going on” with the police department.
Mattocks responded to Burns with stating the FOP has “no interest in having private discussions after the comments and points made during recent council meetings.”
Burns responded with, “The FOP has been hostile towards me since I declared my candidacy. You would not even meet with me during the campaign. Like it or not, I am a sitting councilperson and I directly oversee Chief Sharp and the Police Department. Your lack of cooperation is noted.”
Burns went on to say that he has an open door policy and a non-retribution policy. He also reminded Mattocks that he has voted for every police department item that has come before him.
When the emails were forwarded to Ron Corbin, the human resources director for the town, Corbin did not find any evidence of harassment or retaliation and noted that Burns apologized for any inappropriate or unprofessional behavior on his part.
“The situation with Officer Mattocks was the result of an unfortunate miscommunication over email,” Burns said. “I have nothing but respect for the FOP and I value and appreciate their service to the community. I believe that we will put this issue behind us and move forward as partners to improve Oro Valley. While we may have differences, Oro Valley deserves a productive working relationship between the council and the FOP.”
But Burns said the conversation comes from the two different positions that Mattocks holds.
“At one point he wants to be seen as the FOP and engage in politics, make endorsements in the political process, and stand up and battle the council,” Burns said. “But whenever we try to engage him as the head of the FOP, how we should be, then he runs and evokes his roll as an employee. He can’t have it both ways. He is either the head of the FOP or he’s a town employee when he is speaking with us.”
Mattocks declined to comment.
In January, Zinkin sent a letter to Hiremath and the Attorney General as well as Oro Valley’s Human Resource Director, saying that during a meeting between the mayor and the councilman, the mayor’s demeanor became angry, disrespectful and threatening.
The letter stated Hiremath “got enraged, stood up for the table, walked away, and yelled ‘you’re through, you’re done.’” It also cited that this was the second time Zinkin has seen the Mayor show his temper and requested that any future conversations to have a third person present.
Another document was from Oro Valley Police Chief Danny Sharp, from November 2012. Within the memo, Sharp stated that when Zinkin met a woman on his staff, Zinkin told her she was better to look at than another person. The employee did not want to file a formal complaint but wanted the town to know the statement made her feel uncomfortable. Sharp and the employee later agreed to report the incident to Town Manager Greg Caton. Caton then spoke with Zinkin about the comment. Zinkin initially did not consider his comment inappropriate, but later realized the issue.
Sharp was unavailable for comment.
There is another document saying Zinkin had used inappropriate language around a female employee on three separate occasions, which was filed in August 2012.
In order to recall a council member, 2,131 signatures must be gathered and recall papers must be formally submitted.
Burge could not be reached for comment.