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City Council race heats up

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Posted: Monday, September 21, 2009 11:00 pm

Councilman Sal DiCiccio said a contact with the Arizona Police Association offered him an endorsement last week if he would withdraw his support for Public Safety Manager Jack Harris.

But both the association and DiCiccio’s City Council opponent in the Nov. 3 run-off election, Dana Marie Kennedy, say it’s untrue.

In fact, she received the association’s endorsement letter on Sept. 11, around the time DiCiccio said that an unnamed community member contacted him to offer the association’s endorsement in return for opposing, or at least not supporting, Harris.

Brian Livingston, executive director of the association that represents 19 law enforcement organizations in Arizona, confirmed that Kennedy got the group’s endorsement last week and that he couldn’t find anyone who has spoken to DiCiccio.

“I’ve asked if anyone has talked to him and everyone that I’ve spoken to has said no,” Livingston said.

Kennedy, who is on the record supporting Harris as Phoenix public safety manager, said she had been seeking the association’s endorsement since she decided to run for the council seat in May. She questions DiCiccio’s version of the tale.

“I think the councilman isn’t being completely honest,” Kennedy said. “What I find disturbing is that there is a suggestion that a deal could be brokered, to remove the police chief.”

But DiCiccio stands by his version of the story.

“They had an individual call me and ask if I would drop my support of the chief and I said no,” he said.

But DiCiccio clarified that it wasn’t actually a member of the association, but a well known individual in the community who made the offer.

He also admitted that since both he and Kennedy are on the record supporting Harris, attempting to trade an endorsement for help removing Harris doesn’t make much sense.

“All I can tell you is that it happened that way,” DiCiccio said.

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association has been unhappy with Harris and has been seeking his ouster for several years. Issues have ranged from PLEA’s tough stance on reporting illegal immigrants to if officers can or can’t wear knit caps on duty. But the biggest issue of contention is that Harris managed to retire as police chief and then turn around and was re-hired as public safety manager, while collecting his retirement, leaving the department with a “manager” instead of a “chief.”

For Kennedy, the issue is unimportant.

“Crime has gone down,” while Harris has been public safety manager, she said. Besides, personnel issues are not a council decision, but the decision of the city manager, Kennedy added.

DiCiccio is adamant that the police union should not dictate to the city who their boss will be.

“The reason I got on this council is to make sure that 1) we clean up the budget and 2) that this kind of nonsense doesn’t occur. It’s about good government or bad government, and it would lead to bad government if we did that.”

DiCiccio served on the council, getting elected twice in the 1990s, before resigning in 2000 to run for Congress. He was appointed to the council seat in January after Greg Stanton resigned to take a position in the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. In the four-way September election DiCiccio missed avoiding a run-off by 559 votes, receiving 48 percent compared to Kennedy’s 29 percent.

Early ballots for the Nov. 3 run-off election between DiCiccio and Kennedy will be mailed in two weeks.

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