Mud slinging in City Council election gets personal - Ahwatukee Foothills News: News

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Mud slinging in City Council election gets personal

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Posted: Monday, August 5, 2013 4:38 pm

With early ballots officially out the candidates for City Council District 6 are making their final pleas to voters, and the attacks are getting personal.

Current City Councilman Sal DiCiccio’s campaign is reeling over the latest mailer sent out by his challenger, Karlene Keogh Parks. The mailer shows a former assistant finance director for the city, Susan Perkins, and quotes her as saying, “Councilman DiCiccio publicly bullied and intimidated me.”

The mailer claims Perkins decided to leave her job at the city, after 28 years, because she could no longer stand the relentless attacks from DiCiccio.

DiCiccio says the mailer is just not true.

“It’s way over the top,” he said. “They’ve done nothing but attack me personally through this whole campaign. It’s been one personal attack after another and it really crossed a boundary here… It’s a woman saying I bullied her and it would just never happen.”

DiCiccio said he doesn’t believe he has ever met Perkins. City staff has researched the claims and found no reported incidents or complaints from any city employee against DiCiccio.

Perkins explained the mailer further and said when she was a city employee she felt like there was nowhere to go to complain. The attacks were not personal and there was no specific incident of over-the-top behavior, it was just the way DiCiccio conducted business that made her feel belittled. Ultimately she left the city for several reasons, but says working with DiCiccio was one of the major factors.

In the finance department one of her jobs was working with procurement. They would go through bids and select a company to work with for every city contract over $50,000. If a local company was not selected they would often go to their councilman for help protesting the decision.

While most councilmen would call a member of the finance department into their office to discuss the issue privately, DiCiccio would bring it up during a public council meeting, Perkins said.

“Instead of calling you in and talking it through he would encourage the person to show up at council and protest publicly and then he would grand stand at the meetings and try to belittle staff and make you look incompetent,” Perkins said. “We were following the guidelines and policies set by the City Council to choose the lowest bidder.”

Perkins claims DiCiccio does the same with employees from any city department that is not following what a constituent wants.

DiCiccio said the city has records of all past meetings and without specific incidents it’s impossible to look up the verbatim or listen back to the tone he used when speaking to staff about an issue, but he’s confident that the alleged “bullying” never happened.

DiCiccio said he believes these mailers are really about character assassination and are going out because of his fiscal reform agenda. On Facebook he reminded voters of his recent accomplishments on council, including passing significant reforms for businesses trying to open their doors in Phoenix, championing a zero-based budget, reducing the food tax as soon as possible, and helping bring experts together to form a plan to address domestic violence in the city.

“The government union bosses want to stop these reforms and will say and do whatever it takes to get their way,” DiCiccio wrote. “You have my commitment that I will continue forward with these reforms and will continue to make the city of Phoenix a national leader.”

Keogh Parks posted a letter to voters on Facebook as well, but used it to point out differences between herself and DiCiccio. She claims DiCiccio has discriminated against certain groups in the city, has a personal conflict of interest with the Loop 202, voted to weaken the ethics reform Keogh Parks helped write, and voted to give the city manager the largest pay raise in city history while many city programs are still unfunded, and that the police department is down more than 400 officers.

“Ultimately, this election is about moving Phoenix forward,” she wrote. “My focus is on creating jobs, strengthening neighborhoods and public safety, and ensuring greater accountability and transparency at City Hall.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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