Ethics complaint dismissed against former Granite Shoals mayor
The Granite Shoals Ethics Review Commission dismissed a complaint filed against former Mayor Aaron Garcia during the final hearing on the matter on Monday, May 22. The commission found that Garcia did not deliberately withhold documents from a public information request as the complaint against him alleged.
During the meeting, Garcia presented evidence that he had forwarded what he thought were all relevant documents in response to a Jan. 30 public information request made by City Secretary Dawn Wright. The request was for communications with executive recruitment firm Strategic Government Resources. The actual complaint, filed by Suzanne Ort on March 16, alleged Garcia had left out important attachments in his response to the public information request.
The evidence presented to the commission on Monday showed Garcia had forwarded his entire email thread between himself and an SGR employee, Lynn Barboza. Due to the nature of the Outlook email software, the actual attachments in the email thread were not included, but evidence of the attachments’ existence was in Garcia’s forwarded emails. Once this was made clear, the commission entered a short executive session and emerged with its decision to dismiss the charges.
“We did not find any intent to hide or destroy (city records), pursuant to section 2-167 (a) (3) (of the city’s Ethics Ordinance),” Commissioner Jeff Kahl said. “Because we found no intent, I’m going to make the motion that we dismiss this.”
With Kahl’s motion, the commission unanimously approved the dismissal.
“It’s over with. The evidence spoke for itself,” Garcia told DailyTrib.com after the hearing. “I’m glad that things turned out the way they did.”
Garcia chose not to run for re-election and has been officially out of his mayoral seat since May 16, when Kiel Arnone was sworn in as mayor.
This particular ethics complaint had several snags before Monday’s final hearing. Garcia attempted to present the evidence that ultimately led to the complaint’s dismissal during the commission’s preliminary hearing on April 12, but it was not accepted because he failed to provide it prior to the seven-day deadline required by protocol.
The hearing also took place beyond the 30-day deadline set by the city’s ethics ordinance. Also, a commission member resigned in the middle of the investigation. The final hearing was canceled and rescheduled twice.
Kahl acknowledged the challenges and mistakes that marred the commission’s hearings and investigation.
“This was a sloppy mess, all the way around,” he said. “We can do a better job with this folks, all of us, across the board.”
Ort, the complainant and wife of Place 6 Councilor Phil Ort, stood by her complaint but accepted the commission’s findings.
“I’m glad to have it over with,” she told DailyTrib.com. “I appreciate the ethics commission’s time. I do feel like there was some miscommunication with this and this hearing has been muddled from the beginning. The copy that I have from Mrs. Wright’s (public information request) does not show the attachments. Whether that was intentional or not, I can’t judge that.”