Recall efforts against City Councilman Sal DiCiccio were called off Monday morning after the group Save Phoenix Taxpayers failed to turn in the required signatures for a recall election. But the battle over city reform is far from over, according to DiCiccio.
"I think the taxpayer has won a huge victory," DiCiccio said. "It sends a message to the other politicians, not only in Phoenix but across the state, that they can have a backbone to protect the taxpayer. They're hearing the same thing that I've been hearing, which is the public wants to feel like they're No. 1."
DiCiccio says in the past year he has received many threats from city union employees, including some faxes that were sent to his office from a city employee union office. He says he plans to push forward with his reform agenda, including attempts to cut some city employee benefits, and he believes he will continue to be harassed.
Both sides have filed complaints with the city clerk. Two men filed claims against DiCiccio for disbursing false information in an email while Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, a group collecting money on behalf of DiCiccio in case of a recall election, has also filed a complaint against Save Phoenix Taxpayers, the group in charge of the recall effort, and Protecting Voters' Rights, a nonprofit that donated $50,000 to the cause, claiming violations of Campaign Finance Law.
The group Save Phoenix Taxpayers began its recall efforts in April. On paperwork filed with the City Clerk's Office they list their occupation as "labor." A few days after Save Phoenix Taxpayers was formed, a nonprofit called Protecting Voters' Rights was formed by Scott Phelps, a former spokesman for Mayor Phil Gordon.
Phelps says he formed Protecting Voters' Rights to address issues going on in the Legislature. When the Legislature adjourned he was approached by leaders of Save Phoenix Taxpayers and asked to support their efforts in informing the public about DiCiccio's role in Senate Bill 1322, a bill that would have required Phoenix to seek private bids for costly city services. Phelps says he was happy to support their efforts.
Many petition gatherers, hired by the company Petition Partners, spent hours outside grocery stores and political events trying to gather signatures from District 6 residents.
"We got the signatures with particular ease, but at the end of the day my clients just understood that the burden of the taxpayers was going to be too much for a special election," said Andrew Chavez, owner of Petition Partners. "They decided to forego the submission of the signatures."
The special election was expected to cost about $200,000.
DiCiccio believes the only real way for the group to get him out of office early now would be to collect signatures again and start the process over. DiCiccio said Citizens Protecting Taxpayers will continue to fund raise to be prepared for any further recall attempts. He's also willing to speak to any group that would like to hear from him.
"If any readers or anyone in the East Valley wants me to come and talk I can outline what is really occurring in local government," DiCiccio said. "The local politicians have always been afraid of the unions because they can turn out a lot of people to collect signatures because they've got a lot of money. But, like I said, this message will give a backbone to a considerable amount of politicians not only in Phoenix but all around the state. We've created a movement I think."
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