Political Defense

Do city of Tucson job rules bar Ildefonso Green from the South Tucson City Council?

Ildefonso Arturo Green, the energetic first-time member of the South Tucson City Council and strong supporter of Police Chief Sixto Molina, may find himself in a battle to retain office.

With just 73 ballots cast--3.8 percent turnout in a city with nearly 6,000 residents in just more than a square-mile, Green trailed incumbents Pete Tadeo and Paul S. Diaz. That didn't matter in the three-up, three-in election among Democrats on May 17.

It was Green's second attempt for the local office, and he is likely to face another challenge: a battle over a provision in personnel rules at the city of Tucson, where Green works in street maintenance.

Green, 44, began his civil service job on Jan. 23. He is paid $11.87 an hour, or $24,689 a year, plus health and retirement benefits. While the Tucson Code permits a city worker to run for and hold elective, nonpartisan office and elective, partisan office, it does so with limitations:

"Federal law prohibits any candidacy for partisan elective office by an officer or employee in the classified service whose principal job is in connection with an activity wholly or partly funded by federal loans or grants. Violation of this prohibition can result in removal from employment."

A city employee in one of the six main departments that use federal funding cannot run for or hold elective, partisan office, such as the state Legislature or the Pima County Board of Supervisors. That would include the City Council in South Tucson, which like Tucson, is a rare Arizona city with partisan elections.

City lawyers directed the Weekly to Tucson's political guide for the restrictions for its nearly 6,000 employees. It lists housing, urban renewal and area development, public works, civil defense and emergency management, transportation, and law enforcement as departments that are dependent upon federal funding.

Green, who grew up in South Tucson, said he is in the clear. He said he examined that issue before running.

"I don't fall into that category," Green said. "My job is not from federal funds. My salary is being paid out of the city's general fund. Besides, the Hatch Act (which prohibits nearly all political activity by federal employees) is out."

The Hatch Act is not out, and the city has maintained most portions of its "Little Hatch Act."

Moreover, Tucson's guide for its employees makes no distinction whether an employee's salary is derived from federal funding.

"An employee need not exercise supervisory or discretionary authority over the administration of federal funds to be subject to this prohibition," the Tucson political guide states. "If the employee's duties make the prohibition applicable, it also does not matter whether federal funds are used to contribute directly to the employee's salary."

City of Tucson transportation receives at least 6 percent of its $121 million operating budget this year from federal grants, according to the city's budget. The city expects to collect more than $24 million in federal transportation grants for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Green was busy with a South Tucson neighborhood cleanup project Saturday, June 11, just three weeks after being sworn in and after attending the one scheduled council meeting.

He took office as Molina, a retired Tucson policeman who has won high marks for a sharp reduction in crime--South Tucson's Weed and Seed program also is credited--in his seven years as chief, went on an odd public relations campaign to say his job was in jeopardy. The soft-spoken Molina appeared on television and in daily papers, with changing stories that sometimes suggested how new Mayor Jennifer Eckstrom, a veteran Democratic member of the City Council, was targeting him. Eckstrom repeatedly denied the assertion.

Green also has another concern. He is behind on semiannual property tax payments on his new home on West 30th Street, according to the county Treasurer's Office. Green owes $827.06, including $387.69 in taxes and $41.35 in interest for the payment that was due Nov. 1. Green said he was unaware of the past due property taxes, which include payments used to pay for South Tucson police, and that he would consult with his bank that he said should have included the payments as part of his mortgage.

South Tucson Council members are paid $200 a month.

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