A group of Surprise residents are demanding transparency and want to hold city officials’ feet to the fire after being frustrated with the ineffectiveness of municipal government.
The watchdog group, Organized Responsible Citizens Alliance, includes Bill Lipscomb, Chet Chetkauskas, Glen Klitzka and Mike Planeta.
The four founding members said the crux for forming ORCA is so residents can have a collective voice and not challenge city officials alone in their quests for answers, transparency and accountability.
“We have simply had enough,” Lipscomb said. “We’re not going to stand by and have (the city) disrespect us as citizens. We elected them to be our eyes and ears.”
Lipscomb said the group’s first order of business began Dec. 9, when he and Chetkauskas questioned the city council about the firing of federal lobbyist Steven Primrose. Primrose’s contract was terminated in April because of budgetary decisions, although Primrose said he believes Intergovernmental Director Michael Celaya conspired to fire him at the behest of two council members.
Primrose has since filed a claim against the city to the tune of $275,000.
ORCA also plans to investigate how $73 million was misspent over the course of a decade, when former city employees moved millions of dollars from one bank account to another with little to no oversight, to fund the new City Hall Complex.
City officials mistakenly spent monies in the capital-improvement fund, rather than pull from the impact fee fund that pays for growth-related projects.
Lipscomb, a former Dysart Unified School District Governing Board member, said ORCA’s intent is not to embarrass the city council and other Surprise officials. He said council members should attempt to work together and not for individual good, and also admit to mistakes and errors made along the way in order to serve their constituents with more sensibility and motivation.
Lipscomb said some council members may be afraid to speak up for fear of being accused of micromanaging, which is why ORCA plans to question Surprise about its strong council–manager form of government, where the title of mayor is largely ceremonial with no executive functions.
Chetkauskas said ORCA didn’t form simply to endorse certain candidates for next year’s election. When asked if ORCA members plan to run for open city council seats, Chetkauskas said no.
ORCA plans to meet weekly to discuss its goals and initiatives for the next calendar year. The watchdog group also plans to launch a website — www.orcatruth.org — to keep residents up to speed and educated on city issues.
Zach Colick can be reached at 623-876-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.