The Skinny

FORD EXCURSION: KXCI General Manager Tony Ford, the lightning rod of criticism during the community radio station's get-tough makeover, is out effective July 3. (Hey, that's today!) But hold off on the Independence Day celebration: Ford is hanging on for 30 days to act as a consultant. And that, too, can be extended depending upon the wishes of the board and needs of interim GM Randy Peterson.

Ford handed out trophy gifts--while he repeatedly mispronounced "tchochkes"--to three board members whose terms were up. They gushed high praise for the general manager whom station DJs, some founders and a pack of listeners see more as a hatchet man.

In his rapid-fire report, Ford told the board what it wanted to hear. Listeners? Up. Members? Up. Money? Up.

Dissidents watching were ready to throw. Up.

Ford arrived at KXCI in 1998. He performed a couple of purges that rankled old-timers in 2001 and again in 2002. Ford said KXCI's survival depended upon change. Longstanding shows were summarily dropped. DJs were given scant notice. Just when the dust began to settle from the 2001 overhaul, Ford canned a new round of shows, including Jim's Joke Joint, a hip-hop show and the popular Celtic Crosscurrents. He may have picked on the wrong clan.

Of Ford's resignation, Crosscurrent host John Murphy said: "That's the best thing that has happened since he got here."

The ouster of Murphy's Irish show built the basis of the ongoing protest against Ford's KXCI. That led to a successful lawsuit by Tucson lawyer Bill Risner, a KXCI founder, to get the list of KXCI's members in a drive for board and bylaw reform.

The defiance by Ford and outgoing Board President Rick Bacal was costly. The station squandered money for its own lawyer, Brad Miller, and then was ordered to pay most of Risner's costs.

The war, including the court battle, pickets and protests to embarrass KXCI's booth at the Fourth Avenue Street Fair, has taken a toll on Ford.

"Hey, who says stress is not a good thing?" says another former Celtic Crosscurrent host, Scott Egan, now an aide to Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll.

A search committee (this ain't no party, this ain't no disco) will scan the country for the next victim, stooge or inspiration. Tom Spendiarian, the senior member of KXCI's board, will head the committee.

Meanwhile, KXCI's draconian volunteer agreements have been re-done, but were left off last week's agenda for approval. They're still draconian, just more polite.

Bacal's departure is as important as Ford's, Murphy says.

Inflexible and arrogant to the end, Bacal refused to allow Jim Swope, of the axed Jim's Joke Joint, to have a minute to address the board.

Bacal, a lawyer who is more like a teacher's pet who gets off by enforcing the teacher's rules, said there was no call to the audience.

Memo to Swope: Don't you know by now that rubber-stamping is time-consuming?

Memo to Bacal's successor and the KXCI board: Ever hear of a point of personal privilege?

For his part, Peterson said he plans no wholesale changes as during his interim spin at the wheel. Peterson, a journalism major at Central Michigan who went on to work in political campaigns and the restaurant biz, is likely to seek the permanent job. For now, he said, things like "negotiating the cell-phone contract" and tidying up a grant are priorities for the acting boss.

CATHODE RAY: Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll, the Republican whose eastside and Green Valley District 4 was changed more than a decade ago to include Mount Lemmon, is living the life. The Chicago (South Side) native and Catholic school grad has become a sort of Rudy Giuliani of the Aspen Fire, repeatedly ascending the General Hitchcock Highway with fire and sheriff's authorities. He has done so, as a civilian member of the sheriff's department, to lend a hand and bear witness for constituents who could not see their properties.

He gave great quote. His colorful comments were the lead bites that shot around the world, via The New York Times, Fox News and CNN. Yeah, that was Sugar Ray speaking the language to the Spanish-language media. When more was needed, Carroll, a former commercial real estate broker of limited success, grabbed a camera and supplied his own footage and narrative for KGUN Channel 9. He worked well with Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano and didn't horn in on her session with Summerhaven's displaced. He provided conveyance and Mount Lemmon access to Joe Burchell of the Arizona Daily Star and to esteemed writer Chuck Bowden.

He neither forgot nor enlarged his supe role, working early on the emergency as well as the plans for whatever rebuilding there will be. And he repeatedly stressed that Mount Lemmon was not a District 4 issue, but a county, state and federal concern.

A moment on Inspiration Rock, feeling the forces of the wind that whipped the fire, snapped Carroll into focus with humility and humor.

"Please lord, don't let me be the fool who is airlifted out of here," he said.

NEW PIG FARMER AT TUSD: An optimistic examination of the new human resources director at the Tucson Unified School District, Susan Wybraniec, reveals that she is not part of the political patronage pork barrel. She arrives from Maricopa County government, which dwarfs TUSD. At first blush, she has to be a professional with the proper training and backbone to tell the pork-peddling Superintendent Stan "Nepotism" Paz and his pork-peddling board to butt out.

TUSD is a slum full of the forced hires of senior board members Joel T. Ireland and Mary Belle McCorkle. Too many favors, too many scams--including placement of sons, daughters, favorite students, political patrons, dates--and too little results.

NO MORE SWERVIN' IRVIN: The days in office are numbered for rogue Arizona Corporation Commissioner Jim Irvin. A Republican who has been hit with a $60 million civil judgment by a jury disgusted with his conduct in office, Irvin can rest assured now that Melvin McDonald has been appointed as a special counsel for the legislative move for impeachment. If he had any brains at all, Irvin would resign.

He won't. And we're ready to buy tickets to see McDonald rip him apart.

McDonald is a man of rare skill and drive. He was the U.S. attorney for Arizona when local prosecutors fumbled the cases of Michael and Patrick Poland, who hijacked an armored van, killed two guards and stashed the $288,000 back in 1977. McDonald received special permission from U.S. Attorney General William French Smith to work as a local prosecutor. He won convictions and death penalties against the Polands, who bound their victims in custom canvass bags weighted with rocks and dumped them in Lake Mead.

Yet McDonald was big enough, after Michael Poland was executed four years ago, to seek a life sentence for Patrick Poland. McDonald testified that evidence not known at trial showed that Michael was a bullying mastermind who compelled his younger brother to act. McDonald failed before the state Board of Executive Clemency, and Patrick Poland was executed three years ago.

In McDonald, Irvin has no one to toy with.

DO THE HUSTLE: Tucson's ace major media got hit twice in June by major hustles. First up was the story of a new Western about Jesse James' black daughter and her gang of bad-ass cowgirls scheduled to start shooting at Old Tucson and featuring several major actors like Sam Elliot. Old Tucson PR flacks, looking for some good news about actually having a movie shot there again, helped the story along, and the Tucson Film Office, desperate to show a pulse, also joined the cheerleaders.

Ooops. Turns out that was nothing more than a carload of jiveasses from L.A. with a flash roll. No flick, no Sam Elliot (who had a cameo "scheduled" anyway). Do not pass go, do not collect film credits.

Later, another phony hit town claiming to be hiring 200 folks at salaries between $80,000 and $150,000 per year. GTEC officials rolled out the red carpet and the media reported it all with a straight face. Now, after the obvious problems brought forward when phony entrepreneur Christopher J. Smith's checks started bouncing, both papers belatedly reported what they should've from the beginning: the facts about how big a fraud Smith was.

The GTEC officials take the grand prize in dumb questions when they responded after the expose by asking if they're supposed to check everybody out.

Well, yes.

And so should the media. Years of simply printing government handouts has clearly affected their ability to report on the private sector as well. A reasonably bright high-school reporter would have smelled the dead fish in both hustles. Neither was exactly hard to peg after a little effort. And that's the real story with both dailies and others: They're often too lazy and too gullible to check out the obvious.

SKINNY UNMASKS SKINHEAD: Ethical questions aside, if Phoenix New Times writer Susy Buchanan was going to protect the identity of a neo-Nazi to shield his elected official uncle, then she should've known that withholding the skinhead's last name wasn't enough. She left enough clues for us to connect the dots and make the relationship public.

In her cover story on the Phoenix neo-Nazi movement, Buchanan quoted and then preserved the anonymity of a violent, white supremacist skinhead nicknamed "Ben the Marauder." Identifying marks: a swastika tattoo on the shaft of his penis. Turn-ons: ethnic cleansing and 1800s Indian massacres.

The Marauder, ever-thoughtful of others, asked his last name be withheld because he didn't want to damage the reputation of his uncle, a state senator.

Ben the Marauder is the nephew of Sen. Thayer Verschoor, a Republican from Gilbert. We know this because Buchanan gave out way too much identifying information about the skinhead, such as: He's done time for drug possession, burglary, robbery and car theft, and his uncle is a state senator from the East Valley.

It took The Skinny all of three minutes to figure out The Marauder's given name. After all, there are only seven districts that could be considered East Valley, two of which are represented by female senators. That left five surnames to run through the Arizona Department of Corrections' online Inmate Locator. The name Ben Verschoor immediately popped up for a sentence served between 1998 and 2001. The 23-year-old's identity was confirmed through a posting on a white supremacist Web site's guest book. They even look alike.

Sen. Verschoor, as far as we know isn't a white supremacist.

However, we do know that Verschoor supported a resolution to create a Ronald Reagan Day, which is only slightly less evil than the creation of a David Duke Day. To his credit, Verschoor broke ranks to vote against the budget, which cut three-quarters of the funding for the Gang and Drug Prevention Resource Center.

DEVELOPING CRISIS: Republican City Council Member Kathleen Dunbar makes a good point when she complains that absentee landlords are taking unfair advantage of zoning laws to put mini-dorms on properties in the Jefferson Park neighborhood north of the UA. She's right to push for some kind of overlay zone that would prevent developers from buying up small houses and then building mammoth eight-bedroom "guest houses."

But the problem extends beyond Jefferson Park to the entire area surrounding the university, and ultimately, it comes back to the UA's own lack of planning for student housing. Until city staff and UA officials resolve that central conflict, the problems that are driving homeowners out of the area will continue to fester.

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