Mayor accused of targeting colleague | News

By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor
7 Min Read

Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson is being accused of arranging a meeting where it was suggested that her council nemesis be removed from an ethics subcommittee.

The allegation is the latest amendment to an ethics violation complaint Councilman Chuck Bongiovanni filed against the mayor in July. Bongiovanni’s original complaint is already under review by an outside investigator.

Peterson did not respond to a request for comment.

Bongiovanni’s complaint states that around the week of July 23, Peterson organized a meeting with former council member Bill Spence and Councilman Scott Anderson to discuss Spence’s issues and concerns with the Council’s June 20 adoption of a new ethics handbook.

Anderson chairs the Council Subcommittee on Code of Ethics.

“During that meeting, it was suggested that Councilmember Jim Torgeson be replaced on the ethics subcommittee,” the complaint claims.

Bongiovanni questions why the mayor was involved in a meeting – which he said should have remained between Anderson and Spence, a private citizen.

“The mayor’s presence in the meeting is suspicious to begin with,” Bongiovanni says. “Mr. Spence could have and should have organized this meeting by himself, and the mayor did not need to attend it.”

He wrote that Peterson’s presence was “inappropriate,” and questions the propriety of suggesting that Torgeson be removed from the subcommittee.

Bongiovanni says if the mayor had an issue with Torgeson’s ability to perform his duties on the subcommittee, she should have privately approached Anderson or Councilwoman Kathy Tilque, the other member on the subcommittee.

“Why include a Gilbert resident who is a political foe of Councilmember Torgeson in the discussion?” Bongiovanni wrote.

Torgeson successfully ran in the 2022 council election against candidates who included Spence.

“This behavior is not conducive of a team approach of supporting a fellow councilmember,” Bongiovanni’s complaint states. “It is a splitting behavior in its very appearance.

“Even if Mr. Spence felt that Councilmember Togeson shouldn’t be on the subcommittee, having the discussion with the mayor present indicates that she agreed with Mr. Spence,” he added.

Anderson last week said that there was “no direct conversation to remove Jim” at the meeting.

“Bill Spence’s most recent ethics policy complaint against the entire council did contain some language that there should possibly be consideration of a change on the committee,” Anderson said in an email. “No names were mentioned, but the intent was pretty clear.”

In his complaint, Spence alleged that Torgeson “has the means to influence the development of the Code of Ethics and complaint process, and that he intended to influence the development of a policy that would effectively eliminate current complaints made against him.”

At the Aug. 16 subcommittee meeting, Spence presented his concerns the handbook to the three members.

Anderson added that he has no issues with Torgeson serving on the subcommittee as “he has provided appropriate and valuable input.”

Bongiovanni also alleged that the meeting of the three supported his “overall belief that the mayor has been working behind the scene against members of the council with a Gilbert resident who is wanting to run for council for a third time after Gilbert residents rejected Mr. Spence two times before in prior elections.”

“Councilmember Bongiovanni’s conspiratorial obsession with the mayor is unhealthy,” Spence said last week. “And his latest amendment is yet another attempt to intimidate whistleblowers, manipulate public sentiment and divert attention from the real ethical violation that he wants to avoid investigating: one or more councilmembers threatened a Gilbert landowner, and we must find out the truth.”

Bongiovanni also pointed to Spence’s ethics complaint filed July 27 as evidence of his working with Peterson.

In that complaint, Spence states that one or more members may have known that an ethics violation occurred but failed to report it as required and that Torgeson recused himself from a vote for reasons not allowed under town code.

Spence also suggested possible misconduct in that one or more members “allegedly made threats” against developer Jeff Cooley. According to Spence, he obtained “thousands of documents,” including emails, phone logs, text logs, visitor logs an audio and video recordings through a public records request.

Cooley in an April email to the mayor claimed some council members threatened not to support his mixed-use development that included 612 apartment units unless he agreed “not to sue the Town if commuter rail is not part of Cooley Station,” a master-planned community. Cooley also sent an email to Anderson on the issue.

Since then, Spence has filed an amendment to his complaint, stating that he has discovered “public records that show two council members disparaging and making false claims about me, one of who appears to be assembling a dossier about me, and a third council member implying potential legal action against me.”

His latest complaint included a charge that the Aug. 1 special meeting to consider a vote of no confidence against the mayor violated the town’s code of ethics.

“I have evidence that suggests that this special meeting was retaliatory, diversionary in nature, and may not have been scheduled or conducted in good faith,” said Spence.

He added that he remained unclear the rationale for the vote of no confidence after reading all the relevant documents he received from the town.

Spence said he’s asked Bongiovanni, Torgeson and Councilwoman Bobbi Buchli to provide their reasoning behind putting the vote of no confidence on the Aug. 1 agenda but they declined.

“These three council members suggest that one of the desired outcomes of these meetings was to garner support in dismissing all ethics complaints.”

Among the six ethics violation complaints filed since July, the mayor has filed against Torgeson and resident Maureen Hoppe has filed against Torgeson and Buchli.

By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor

2023-08-30 07:00:00 , – Vivrr Local Results in news of type article

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