In a ruling filed today, a Superior Court judge rejected an effort to remove from the Nov. 8 ballot the fund-raising leader in the seven-way race to represent Ahwatukee on Phoenix City Council.
Superior Court Judge M. Scott McCoy ruled in favor of Phoenix Assistant Police Chief Kevin Robinson, whose residence in an Ahwatukee garden home was challenged by another Ahwatukee candidate for Council and criticized by the other Ahwatukee hopeful.
Candidate Moses Sanchez had filed a suit to oust Robinson from the race, contending that he actually lives with his wife in Scottsdale and only rented his Pointe South Mountain home to run for a seat now held by termed-out Councilman Sal DiCiccio.
Robinson testified during a hearing before McCoy on Monday that he rented the Ahwatukee home around Sept. 25 because he knew he would be seeking the council post and is required to live in the district. But he also testified he had previously lived in another District 6 neighborhood and had moved to Scottsdale so that his physyican-wife could be closer to the hospital where she works.
In his ruling, McCoy noted that Robinson is registered to vote at his Ahwatukee address and that even though he testified he'll likely move when his lease expires Set. 30, he will be finding a new home within District 6.
"Robinson's testimony is highly plausible on this point," the judge said.
But the judge conceded Sanchez had submitted data from a Ring doorbell-camera and a Nest thermostat suggested no one was living on any regular basis in the Ahwatukee home.
Yet, eh also said, "On the whole, however, the greater weight of the evidence reflects that Robinson has moved to District 6 and intends (and intended at the regular time) to reside permanently in that district. His wife will join him there as circumstances permit."
While Sanchez took Robinson to court, the other Ahwatukee candidate, Joan Greene, has made Robinson’s residency part of her campaign, calling him “our own Dr. Oz” – a reference to the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania whose New Jersey home has stirred a controversy.
Robinson declined to be interviewed by the Ahwatukee Foothills News pending the outcome of the hearing that the Ahwatukee home “wasn’t temporary. It was meant to be permanent.”
Robinson has the strong support of Gallego – who tweeted in February:
“With deep roots in the district and having spent his decorated career serving Phoenix, Kevin Robinson is the natural choice for District 6. @KevinforPhoenix will work diligently and thoughtfully to bring consensus on complex issues. He puts service to his community first.”
His campaign chairman is former mayor Greg Stanton, who was unopposed in the primary for his third term in Congress. His supporters also include three other former Phoenix mayors, Ahwatukee state Sen. Sean Bowie and other Democratic luminaries throughout the Valley.
Robinson has raised just $10,000 less than the combined total garnered so far by five of his six competitors, according to campaign financial statements filed with the Phoenix City Clerk.
He has raised $353,728 and spent $43,572.
The other candidates and what they have raised so far for the Nov. 8 election are: Mark Moeremans, $161,569; Sanchez, $107,086; Sam Stone, $49,920; Kellen Wilson, $27,750; and Greene, $16,936. The seventh candidate, Juan Schoville, does not appear to have filed any financial reports.
In a petition filed in Superior Court to eliminate Robinson, Sanchez notes that the City Charter requires council members at the time of their ballot nominations to maintain a permanent residence within the district they aim to represent.
“Since filing his nomination paperwork and through today, his petition states, “Defendant Robinson has not maintained his permanent residence within the City of Phoenix, much less within District 6. He has been living with his family in Scottsdale.” The petition cites ”overwhelming” evidence to show Robinson does not really live in a garden home he leased on Winston Drive in Ahwatukee.
The petition cited: video of Robinson at the Scottsdale residence; his use of a UPS Store on Ray Road in Ahwatukee as his mailing address on his nomination form; a log from his doorbell camera at the Ahwatukee home that shows “only six dates since at least June 30, 2022, on which it has detected anyone in the vicinity of his house.”
In addition, records from a “Nest” digital thermostat “shows that the temperature in the leased home is always set to 86 degrees.
“Not only is this an uncomfortable temperature for anyone to actually be living in the home during the Phoenix summer, but Nest thermostats are designed to detect when there are people present in the home,” the petition states.
“The Nest thermostat has not detected anyone in the home,” it says, adding SRP reports show “electricity usage at the home has also been minimal since January 2022.
“Finally, defendant Robinson’s lease is a one-year lease that expires on Sept. 30, 2022 – well before Election Day on Nov. 8 – which indicates no intent to remain in the home, if he were even there to begin with.”
The home Robinson leased was last sold in January 2021 for $386,000, according to the real estate platform redfin.
According to an ad on rent.com offering it for lease at $2,750 a month, the three-bedroom, two-bath house has 1,596 square feet of living space “on a hard to find cul de sac lot in the popular Pointe South Mountain.”
Sanchez said he got curious about Robinson after AFN reported on his campaign website as an Ahwatukee resident.
The report also quoted Robinson’s campaign website, which lists his 36-year career as a police officer that culminated with his promotion to assistant police chief in 2000 – a position he held for 13 years.
Robinson also teaches at Arizona State University and is a member of the Arizona Supreme Court Judicial Council, a policy-making body that oversees the state’s judicial system; the Arizona Police Officers Standards and Training Board, which assesses police officers’ credibility, among other things, in disciplinary cases; and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Community Advisory Board.
Sanchez said he was baffled because “I know just about every police officer, retired police officer that lives in our town. I know all these other guys. I’ve never heard of this guy before.”
Unbeknownst to Sanchez, Greene also became curious about Robinson’s residency claim because she, like Sanchez, has lived in Ahwatukee for more than a decade.
She began looking into property records and found Robinson’s home in Scottsdale, which he and his wife bought in 2020 – two years after they bought a home in San Francisco they still own.
“Kevin Robinson does not own a home in Phoenix,” her website states. “You will have to ask Scottsdale Kevin’s well-known political connections why they support him crossing city boundaries to run in Phoenix instead of for the Scottsdale City Council. Lax residency qualifications for candidacy is why it’s not illegal, but our community believes it is unethical.”
Greene on Monday said, “None of the 12 signatures Robinson collected himself came from Ahwatukee. ...I personally (in person) collected the signatures from the people from Robinson’s shadow house neighborhood. His wife did not sign because she is registered in Scottsdale.”
Robinson testified that he had lived on W. Hidden View Drive in Ahwatukee until 2011, when he married his wife, Dr. Michelle Robinson and moved into her home on N. 53rd Street, which he said is in District 6.
He said he and his wife bought the Scottsdale property because she’s a physician at Mayo Hospital Phoenix and Scottsdale is much closer to it than Ahwatukee.
A private detective testified that the name of the owner of that Scottsdale house is blacked out on county property records but that he determined through other official records it is owned by a trust set up by Robinson and his wife.
Calling himself “the presumptive front-runner” in the council race, Robinson testified Monday campaign records listing the UPS store as his address do not require his home address. He also produced mail that was sent directly to the Ahwatukee house.
He also said the Ring camera on the front door of his Ahwatukee home does not show him much because he began using the back door when he was advised by his wife and campaign aides that political operatives could be “spying” on him.
He said he and his wife are looking for a new home in District 6, noting “I had not contemplated not winning” the election.
Sanchez’s attorney, Dennis Wilenchik, argued Robinson was not a permanent Phoenix resident as required by law.
“He took the basic steps that every candidate knows to do to make it look like you’re actually residing in the district,” Wilenchik said, noting Robinson himself admitted renting the home “just to run for office” and that “we have inconvtrovertible evidence his family does not live there.”
Attorney Daniel Arellano, representing Robinson, argued Sanchez had not presented “clear and convincing evidence” Robinson does not meet city residency requirements and that his client “demonstrated overwhelmingly” lives in District 6.