February 2 - February 8, 1995

[The Skinny]

CATALINA HIGH, WHERE THE NEW PEP CHEER IS STOP, DROP AND ROLL: While adding up all the fires at Catalina High School we've noted for the last few weeks, we thought we'd take a peek at how many times our ace fire department has actually been called upon to respond to the school and its burning issues, and what, pray tell, all these dumpster flames set by blaze-dazed students are costing us.

First a quick rundown: Since October the Tucson Fire Department has responded with one engine, accompanied by four personnel, to the school a total of 12 times for trash, grass and locker fires--seven times in January alone. TFD also made a trip to the school for a bleacher fire in early August. TFD's Randy Ogden says each trip costs around $125. Okay students, calculators ready, set, light 'em up. We figure that comes out of our pocket to the jingle-jangle of $1,625.

To return some of that money, maybe the Catalina administration can sell bumper stickers to parents that say, "My child is a firestarter at Catalina High School."

C. DIANE SCHMUCKFACE'S BIG BUY-OUT: The recent move by newly elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham to cancel the agency's testing program for a variety of grades was a total rejection of a favorite project of Graham's predecessor, C. Diane Bishop.

Bishop currently holds the post of education advisor to Gov. J. Fife Whiteguy III at $75,000 a year. We've said all along this position was a political payoff for Bishop, a supposed Democrat, for having endorsed the Republican Guv in the last election. The lack of influence Bishop had on Graham's decision to can her pet testing program proves it.

It also has to be one of the more expensive pay-offs in Arizona political history. Counting bennies, if Bishop hangs around for the three years needed to max out her teacher's pension (in addition to the 20 grand or so she'll get from elected official's retirement), the cost to the taxpayer for having C. Diane support J. Fife will be more than $300,000.

One mouth, one vote. How many people gave a big rat's ass about what C. Diane thought or who she planned to vote for anyway?

JUST A COUPLA TWISTED, POMPOUS WHITE GUYS: We may have mentioned this before, but ever notice how similar Pima County Supervisor Big Ed Moore and TUSD School Board Dude Joel Ireland really are? Both are loud-mouthed, irrational, self-centered bullies who have a personal vendetta against a portion of the government they are charged with administering.

Moore has an almost pathological hatred of Kino Hospital, while Ireland is totally obsessed with destroying Catalina High School. Both have continually thrown temper tantrums when they could no longer control their colleagues' votes. And both go absolutely bonkers when opposed by strong, intelligent women.

Maybe we could have an inter-governmental agreement where they both share the same shrink.

MIKEY, DIM BULB AND BIG ED JUST KEEP ON SPENDING: The tap keeps flowing--or the milking goes on--or whatever you want to call it when Pima County taxpayers keep getting bills for the aftermath of last year's hearings about our now-recalled county assessor Alan Lang.

Si Schorr of Lewis and Roca just scored again with yet another bill, this one dated January 19, 1995, for yet another $2,900.79.

When will some member of this Board of Supervisors (hint hint, Raul and Dan) make a motion to terminate this hemorrhaging of taxpayer dollars and end the agony, or at least force the three Republican turkeys on the Board to take public responsibility for this insanity?

MEANWHILE, DIM BULB DUMPS ON SMALL BUSINESS: Supes Chair Paul "Dim Bulb" Marsh held a news conference last week with Ed King, his counterpart in Maricopa County, to promote efforts in the Legislature to reduce the assessed value of owner-occupied homes.

Under Arizona's property tax code, that would simply shift massive tax liability to small business, the one group that hasn't had a powerful enough lobby to get enough exemptions from the tax system to keep out of harm's way.

Marsh and other proponents of this tax shift figure small businesses can just pass increased taxes along to consumers.

Now you know one of the many reasons why we call him Dim Bulb.

Of course, some businesses may not be able to pass along those costs, particularly if they're competing in non-local markets. Others who compete locally would be butting heads with Wal-Mart-types, whose large corporate asses are covered by other tax breaks.

Marsh, who's supposed to be a "small businessman," is either totally ignorant of the problems of that constituency or has simply learned how to pander to his large, retired, home-owning constituency.

Paul, baby, how about cutting some of that "wasteful spending" you're always talking about? You could start by reviewing all the outside lawyers you're still paying for the Alan Lang fiasco.

SCHIZOID LEGAL FUN: In a case separate from the famous "Tuesday Massacre Seven"--those high-level Pima County employees canned on camera two years ago by then-County Administrator Manoj Vyas--former County Manager Enrique Serna is awaiting the word from Superior Court Judge Bernardo Velasco.

Serna's case differs from the others. He had a specific contract with Pima County which included a termination clause and severance pay--pretty clear-cut. Only Pima County is still supporting the view Big Ed Moore force fed to his wimpy GOP colleagues: Serna's contract was invalid because it was made by a prior board and they couldn't legally bind the next group.

Pima County, via another contract lawyer, John Gabroy, is arguing the Moore position in front of Velasco.

The concept that allows a new board to disavow the contracts made by its predecessor is ludicrous and borders on the attitude of some fourth-string banana republic military junta: "Contracts? We don't gotta pay no stinkin' contracts."

This argument would prohibit any form of long-term contracting, and would almost preclude a board from budgeting the full fiscal year during the last year of its term.

In fact, knowing this is a shaky argument, Pima County just settled another lawsuit, this one from Schaller-Anderson, the management firm that once ran Kino Hospital before Moore's mob went wacko and canned them, too.

The Schaller-Anderson contract included a 90-day severance clause. That Pima County wasn't that confident in Moore's legal thesis is born out by the amount of the settlement--close to $100,000, or better than two thirds of the contractual amount.

The Skinny, among others, warned that the clumsy, stupid and--at times--schizoid actions of the supervisors ultimately would cost taxpayers a bundle. Consider that hundred grand to Schaller-Anderson the first of many payments.

BIG ED BITES LOCAL DOCTORS: In Big Ed Moore's constant desire to wage war on Kino Hospital, we're told he is now focusing on doctors who, he feels, perform too many amputations.

Perhaps it's time Big Ed answered the following simple question:

Kino Hospital no longer directly employs any doctors--it contracts their services. Most Kino docs are shared with all the other hospitals in town; so, Ed, why are these docs supposedly providing inferior care at one place and nowhere else?

C'mon, big guy, you've sent letters to us before.

DIAMOND'S DELAY: We reported the flap between the almost-new owners of Foothills Mall, including legendary land speculator Don Diamond, and Tom Hassey of radio station KTUC.

Hassey had--he thought--a lease and county permit to construct an antenna/pole for his FM affiliate, 97.5 CD, on the mall site. Until Diamond decided he didn't want him to, and got Pima County to pull Hassey's permit faster than county bureaucrats normally react to a fire on top of their own desks. Hassey got a hearing to get his permit back scheduled for January 25, and the Board of Supes quaked at the thought of having to publically pick between Diamond and Hassey.

So at the request of the Diamond group, and with Hassey's concurrence, the hearing has been delayed for 30 days while the players "work things out."

Translation: Diamond tried intimidation, but the only people it worked on were the gutless flacks who work for Pima County Developmental Services. Hassey hung tight and the supervisors waffled from their usual position of obedient lackeys. Diamond is now trying to back away without losing any more face.

AND SINCE WE'RE NOT SPEAKING OF O.J.: Unconvicted murderer Mark Austin and his attorney, Robert Hirsh, apparently aren't satisfied with getting away with murder. A little less than six years after slashing his estranged wife, Laura Griffin-Austin, to death and almost killing her friend, Timothy Lawrence, Austin wants an unconditional release.

He tried to do this without anyone knowing, including the Pima County Attorney's Office and the families of the victims. Through his attorney, Austin says he shouldn't have to inform them, arguing that once he was conditionally released, his placement in a mental treatment program transformed his commitment from a criminal to a civil affair.

Nice try, killer.

But the Arizona State Hospital says no dice. They argue the burden is still on the defendant to prove he's no longer suffering from a mental disease or defect and is no longer a danger to himself or others. This may be difficult for Austin, because tucked away in his file is a recent affidavit from a psychiatrist saying Austin continues to suffer a personality disorder and thus possibly poses a future risk.

Oddly, upon investigating this appeal, we find that in March 1993 Pima County Superior Court Judge Harry Gin, the same guy who presided over Austin's trial, agreed to change five other conditions imposed on the defendant. Gin agreed that Austin could resume martial arts training--as long as no weapons were involved, and that he could discontinue going to an outpatient alcohol rehabilitation program. The judge changed Austin's weekly counseling sessions to counseling when needed. He's also no longer required to live with his parents.

And now Austin wants no conditions whatsoever. His hearing date is scheduled for later this month.

Wonderful legal system we've got, ain't it?

AFFIRMATIVE INACTION: Albert Bender conducted a one-person sit-in last Friday when he refused to leave County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry's office.

Bender, a Native American attorney, was fired from his position in the Pima County Office of Equal Employment Opportunity before he was able to complete his six-month probationary period.

Under county rules, Bender has no recourse for a review of his termination unless he believes himself to be a victim of discrimination.

So Bender filed a timely claim of employment discrimination against director Jorge Lespron shortly after he was released from his position in August of last year.

In an attempt to secure an impartial review, Huckelberry sent Bender's case to City of Tucson EEO Officer Floyd Thompson.

Thompson completed his review of Bender's case and sent his report back to the county several weeks ago--but Bender hasn't seen it. Instead, the county sent him a letter informing him the dismissal was upheld.

Bender requested a copy of the official findings of fact from the county administrator. A week passed. Still no findings.

Bender, a quiet man, informed Huckelberry's secretary he would arrive Friday morning and was prepared to wait until their office provided him with the findings.

After several hours of patiently waiting, Bender was handed an abbreviated report. To his dismay he found the document had deleted witness names and statements.

Bender is ready to conduct another sit-in. "They say I have not been treated differently. They are treating me differently now," he says. "A claimant is always allowed to see witness statements."

HEEEEEEEE'S BACK--WELL, MAYBE: Former GOP Constable Lee Archer resigned from office under a cloud last year when there was an investigation going on concerning his allegedly improper use of county vehicles and phones. Archer claimed a disability, and in one last bizarre act switched his registration to Democrat, much to the chagrin of several long-time GOP friends and supporters.

Archer has resurfaced, apparently fully healed, as a potential Democratic candidate for the Ward Two City Council seat now held by Janet Marcus. Archer is one of several folks who have taken out a candidate's packet from the City Clerk's office.

Only problem is, Archer gave as his address 7739 E. Broadway, which may be in Ward Two, but it is also listed in the phone book as one of the many outlets of Mail Boxes, Etc., hardly a legal residence.

Normally, we'd tell Lee to get a life. Looks like first he better get an address.

CHOPPING WOODS: For many years, particularly under Attorney General Bob Corbin and his flunky, Steve Twist, the budget of the state's AG office grew like topsy. Currently that budget exceeds the total of the AG budgets in the states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah combined.

Most of this was lawyer pork, allowing the AG's office to provide all counsel to all state agencies and, in many cases, to micro-manage those agencies as well as numerous boards and commissions.

Woods ran against these and other abuses of the Corbin/Twist era, but he immediately rolled over after being elected and was basically co-opted by the staff--which is why many folks consider him a gutless weasel.

Under Corbin, no one besides Gov. Ev Mecham and a few of his staffers like Sam Steiger had the guts to propose cuts in the bloated AG staffs--and this had a habit of getting them hit with criminal indictments, often on shaky charges.

Only now we have some new players, and the staff of Governor J. Fife Whiteguy III as well as several key legislators have decided that since Woods isn't playing ball with many of his fellow Republicans, maybe it's time to re-visit the issue of allowing the AG all that pork and power.

You don't have to like the motivation to understand this could become one of the better reforms of the second Symington administration.

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February 2 - February 8, 1995

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