The Skinny

PLAYING KINO: Scott Floden, the fourth person to pass through the turnstile that is Kino Community Hospital administration in the last four years, is headed back to California. SoCal, in fact, he boasted to the morning daily, for a job with a for-profit hospital chain in a city that he declined to name. We will. It's Riverside.

Floden was liked by some--County Prime Minister Chuck Huckelberry and Kino Emperor Dr. William Nevin--but despised by others. Whatever, he was completely uninspiring as the boss of the county hospital that, through dedicated nurses, docs and staff, continues to provide outstanding care in spite of county administration and the Board of Supervisors. Their treatment of Kino ranges from outright neglect to horrendous meddling.

Floden was known for his constantly shifting organizational charts and haughty attitude to the devoted Kino medical staff that is in the trenches--not on a perch--every day. He should be keeping his new employer a secret. A former University Medical Center flunky, Floden squandered a golden opportunity to get the beleaguered county hospital back on track. He was not up to the challenge. Say this much about Richard Carmona, the SWAT doc who was cheated out of his job at the helm of Kino and the whole county healthy system in 1999: He rallied the troops. Carmona, now the U.S. Surgeon General, still inspires the Kino faithful.

From Kino revenue and taxpayers, Floden was paid $139,912 a year, less than most hospital administrators. He's bailing out as the public and the Board of Supervisors review a proposal by Huckelberry to eliminate surgery and med-surgery inpatient services at Kino--which, it must be understood, was never a full-service hospital--and convert the 25-year-old facility into primarily a psychiatric hospital. Huckelberry says Kino is losing $15 million a year. So what?

At the most, that is $90 in additional property taxes on, say, the $212,000 Sabino Canyon home Floden will now have to sell to make his way back to Cali.

Now, if we could only do something with that outrageous salary given to Nevin, who boldly proclaimed to Kino employees recently that regardless of Kino's mission he had a job for life. Nevin, Kino's medical director, is paid $205,000 a year. That makes him King of the Hill as the highest-paid county employee.

HE DON'T NEED NO STINKING BADGES: First, City Manager James Keene whined that citizens were complaining they wanted more information from City Hall. So he and his potted-plant City Council pissed away $1 million to promote the preposterous half-cent increase in the city sales tax to promote a preposterous transportation scheme that voters wisely crushed. Then Keene complained that the citizens wanted more information from City Hall. So he caved into UniSource Energy Jefe Jim Pignatelli and others to give Jay Gonzales a cushy landing--an $80,000-a-year job as city PR man.

Now Kommander Keene suggests the city should close pools in July, shut down youth recreation programs and make other cuts because he says the city is somewhere between $35 million and $60 million short on next year's budget. What he's not saying is short on a budget of what? $900 million? $950 million? $800 million?

For all the Kommander's supposed push for release of information, he has ordered that budget information from city departments be withheld. He also has a mid-level member of the city attorney's office denying access to a consultant's report on a Rio Nuevo aquarium. The Daily Star's Joe Burchell filed requests for both under the Arizona Public Records Law.

Laughably but predictably, the Star wrung its hands in an editorial criticizing the stooge city attorney for denying what is obviously public information. The Star steered clear of any criticism of the person who could fix all this--Mayor Bob Walkup.

Gonzales, meanwhile, is surely earning his money. He sent out a 151-word press release announcing the retirement of longtime city Finance Director Kay Gray. (It says she ain't leaving until February 21, but that Keene has already appointed Scott "One-Punch" Douthitt as acting finance boss).

The Jay Bird also was busy at the City Council meeting flying about Burchell and squatting in Burchell's seat in the press room. Hey Joe! You're lucky they let you in. A Tucson cop stopped Burchell outside the press room, demanded to know just where the hell he thought he was going and then demanded to see ID. Burchell's Star badge was not sufficient. The cop demanded the press pass issued by TPD--for the real reporters who may show up at a car wreck or cat rescue. Only then was Burchell, who has covered City Hall--on and off--for 21 years, allowed into the press cove.

A final note about the Ministry of Information. At last week's agenda committee, Keene and his followers, including Walkup, Republicans Fred Ronstadt and Kathleen Dunbar and Democrat Carol West, slapped down an effort by senior Councilman Steve Leal, a Democrat, to put the budget secrets on the council's agenda for public discussion.

SPINNING THEIR WHEELS: Republicans like to say they're going to run government like a business--and in Tucson, it seems as though they're doing just that: While low-level city workers get pink slips, top dogs like Mayor Bob Walkup and City Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar get brand-new cars.

As the morning daily reported over the weekend, Big Bob is already behind the wheel of his Toyota Prius, a nifty gas/electric hybrid that runs about $24,000, while Dunbar will be getting hers in just a few weeks. No word on whether former House Speaker Jeff Groscost, architect of Arizona's alt-fuel debacle, played an advisory role.

The cars get roughly 50 miles per gallon--which is nothing compared to the political mileage the Republicans' critics are gonna get out of this--and are outfitted with $1,900 navigation systems. Dunbar told the Star that the program would help her find her way around the ward--a damning admission on any number of levels. We suppose the navigation system will come in handy for Walkup's next chauffeur.

The Prius may be good for the environment. It may save gas and dollars over time. But this isn't the time to blow public bucks on top-of-the-line autos. Walkup and Dunbar should have picked some used cars out of the city's fleet, as their Democratic colleagues have, or had the city buy some cheap Hondas.

PISTOL WHIPPED: With apologies to Tennesee Williams, the closest thing to a cat on a hot tin roof around here has been Mayor Bob Walkup bobbing around on the topic of background checks on gun transactions by unlicensed sellers at the Tucson Convention Center.

Three members of the council want background checks on private sales. Three others don't. The city won the case which gives it the right to impose the checks, but the rub has been how to legally do it.

Regardless of which side of this issue you're on, you've got to wonder about Walkup's attitude toward the issue as he ducks, weaves, mumbles and misstates facts.

The worst item was his attempt, twice, to discuss the issue in the backroom in an executive session. Whoa! How come? Executive sessions are limited by Arizona's open-meeting law to certain circumstances; Mayor Bob wanting to hide the discussion isn't one of the provisions. A brown-nosing city attorney ruled otherwise, and actually had the audacity to say publicly to the Mayor: "However you want it."

Does anybody remember a few years back when a Pima County Attorney named Steve Neeley went after another Mayor and Council for dodging the same statute and bagged them in court? We find no difference now, but the issue got resolved in another way when Scott, Ibarra and Leal let it be known that they would avoid the executive session and deny it a quorum, so the issue was discussed--and ultimately dodged again--in open session. There will be background checks when all the conflicting federal, state and local statutes are resolved and in the meantime the gun shows will continue.

And Bob, expect a primary election next year.

MUSICAL CHAIRS: County Recorder Ann Rodriguez worked hard for Governor-elect Janet Napolitano, who has shown some of the old-school Democrat traits by surrounding herself with a group of simpatico pols who helped elect her. The Skinny has been told that Rodriguez may be in line for a post in Phoenix paying much better than the $54K she pulls down now.

We wish her well if it all works out. If so, the three Dems on the Pima County Board of Supes will be picking her replacement. State law requires that it be from the same party as the person being replaced, but after that it's anybody's guess.

The Dems had better pick a strong candidate. The GOP has, among others, a couple of narrowly defeated and highly competent former state representatives in Ed Poelstra and Carol Somers. Either one would make a top-notch contender in a county pretty close to even in partisan registration.

BASURTO SALE TUSD: Longtime maestro and Tucson Unified School District bilingual education czar Leonard Basurto is hanging up cap and gown and retiring after a nearly 30-year career.

Basurto will make his exit from his $81,000-a-year post at the end of the year. He has been on leave since September 23, when the husband of a TUSD employee dealt him a thrashing in the parking lot of TUSD headquarters, 1010 E. 10th St.

Superintendent Stan Paz stopped Gail Walton's beating of Basurto (he only had to touch Walton, who was profusely apologetic) and then put Basurto on paid administrative leave while TUSD's bumbling lawyers did what they do best: They stammered, then wasted taxpayer money by hiring one of TUSD's many suits-for-hire, Lyle Aldridge, to conduct an investigation into the incident and into Basurto's, uh, management techniques. It's a report that TUSD is sitting on.

Despite having his face rearranged, Basurto declined to press charges when Tucson's finest arrived on that early autumn day. His wife, Amelia, also is a TUSD bureaucrat.

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