Ahwatukee Foothills resident and Phoenix City Councilmember Sal DiCiccio.

AFN file

City Councilman Sal DiCiccio has thrown his support behind the Goldwater Institute as it sues the city of Phoenix and the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association for using taxpayer money for union work.

In a September report by Mark Flatten, the Goldwater Institute revealed the city of Phoenix contracts have provided millions of dollars in "release time" to city employees to do union work, while still receiving full pay and benefits. The biggest contracts were between the city and PLEA.

Now, the Goldwater Institute has filed a complaint against the city and PLEA to stop this practice and argue that it violates the gift clause set out by Arizona law.

Though his name is listed on court documents as a defendant in the case, along with the mayor and all other city council members in their official capacity only, DiCiccio says he agrees.

"I agree with the Goldwater Institute that this is a giveaway of taxpayer money to fund union activity, and that money should be used for seniors, children and restoring of library hours," DiCiccio said in a statement. "I will be voting against using taxpayer money to fight this lawsuit."

DiCiccio has made five recommendations to City Manager David Cavazos to "restore credibility to the union contracts."

Those recommendations include hiring an outside agency to negotiate the contracts, using no taxpayer money to fund union activity, having contracts written in "plain English" so the taxpayer can understand them, transcribing negotiating meetings, and allowing the public to review the contracts for no less than 30 days before a City Council vote.

"I don't see how the city wins this argument, quite frankly," DiCiccio said. "The state has already declared that it's illegal to give money away without any direct public benefit. The unions say it's important for them to be able to organize and get better compensation. I don't know how you can argue that that's a benefit to the taxpayer."

Plaintiffs in the case, listed as William R. Cheatham and Marcus Huey, both taxpayers in Phoenix, have asked through court documents that the court declare the contracts unconstitutional, and to permanently end its further effects.

The Goldwater Institute has set up a website to allow residents to follow the case at http://goldwaterinstitute.org/article/cheatham-v-gordon.

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

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