Infrastructure-Related Companies, Groups Were Majority Donors For Gilbert Transportation Bond

Infrastructure-Related Companies, Groups Were Majority Donors For Gilbert Transportation Bond

By Corinne Murdock |

The vast majority of financial backers behind Yes for Safe and Efficient Gilbert Roads – a ballot measure expenditure campaign committee in support of the town’s $515 million transportation bond, which voters approved last week – are all who stand to benefit: builders, architects, general contractors, traffic data analysts, to name a few. Per the committee’s campaign finance reports, those financial backers accounted for $43,100 of the $54,850 they received since their inception.

The following is a breakdown of all those likely to benefit from passage of the transportation bond, and the donation amount associated with them:

  • Arizona Chapter of Associated General Contractors of America: $15,000
  • Haydon Building Corporation: $10,100
  • Matthew Carpenter, COO and Senior Vice President: $10,000
  • Grant Larson, PreConstruction Director: $100
  • Willmeng Construction: $5,000
  • Cactus Asphalt (a division of Cactus Transport Holdings): $5,000
  • Josh Swartzendruber, Accounting Director
  • Dibble Engineering: $2,000
  • Kevin Roberts, President and Civil Engineer
  • Kimley-Horn (engineering): $1,700
  • Chris Woolery, Project Manager: $500
  • David Leistiko, Senior Vice President and Senior Project Manager: $500
  • David Rutkowski, Project Manager: $500
  • Brent Mutti, Regional Project Manager: $200
  • Michael Grandy, Professional Engineer: $50
  • Deanna Haase, Project Manager: $50
  • Wilson & Company, Engineers & Architects: $1,000
  • Rebecca Timmer, Business Development Manager
  • Withey Morris PLC (a prominent land use law firm): $1,000
  • Adam Baugh, zoning attorney and owner
  • All TrafficData Services: $1,000
  • Eric Boivin, Co-Founder and CEO
  • Clark Transportation Solutions: $500
  • Scott Clark, President
  • Kittelson & Associates: $450
  • Jim Schoen, Senior Principal Engineer: $250
  • David Mills, Operations Leader: $200
  • HDA Architects: $250
  • Bruce Scott, Principal Architect
  • SUNDT: $100
  • Jeff Hamilton, Project Director and Preconstruction Services

Some of the names leading the charge on in-state donors included the town’s present and former leadership: Vice Mayor Lee-Yung Koprowski gave $500, as did former mayor Jenn Daniels. Although the former mayor doesn’t own or work within an infrastructure-related company, her lobbying firm could stand to benefit as AZ Free News reported. Daniels also pushed her endorsement for the bond initiative through a text alert to Gilbert voters.

Councilwoman Kathy Tilque and Koprowski both serve as committee chairs, though the original filing for their committee didn’t name Koprowski as the chair. The committee formed in June of this year.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Former Gilbert Mayor Supports $515 Million Bond Her Lobbying Firm Could Benefit From

Former Gilbert Mayor Supports $515 Million Bond Her Lobbying Firm Could Benefit From

By Corinne Murdock |

Former Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels has encouraged voters to support Gilbert’s $515 million transportation bond – a deal which her lobbying firm, Horizon Strategies AZ, could stand to benefit from greatly. Ballots for the all-mail special election began to be sent out last Wednesday.

The former mayor offered her endorsement on a text alert sent to Gilbert voters.

“Gilbert consistently ranks as one of the most desirable places to live because we have always focused on keeping taxes low and quality-of-life investments like safe roads, bike paths and improved technology to keep traffic moving,” read Daniels’ endorsement. “Question 1 is a responsible plan to keep up with growth and maintain our current streets and intersections. Please join me in voting YES on Question 1.”

Daniels’ endorsement was paid for by “Yes for Safe and Efficient Gilbert Roads,” sometimes also marketed as “Yes on Question 1.” The PAC disclosed that they received no funding from out-of-state contributors, and weren’t authorized by any candidate.

AZ Free News reached out to Daniels about her endorsement and potential benefits from the bond. She didn’t respond by press time. Daniels resigned from her position as Gilbert’s mayor last August, citing “personal reasons.” Shortly after, she turned her focus on building up her public relations and lobbying firm.

Former mayoral candidate Matt Nielsen raised concerns about Daniels’ endorsement of the $515 million transportation bond, noting that Horizon Strategies would stand to benefit from it. He told AZ Free News that the whole advocacy movement behind the bond was “really swampy.”

Nielsen also raised questions about Vice Mayor Yung Koprowski’s advocacy to pass the bond. Koprowski co-chairs “Yes for Safe and Efficient Gilbert Roads Committee,” or “Yes on Question 1 Committee” alongside Councilmember Kathy Tilque. The vice mayor also owns a transportation planning and civil engineering firm, Y2K Engineering. On Sunday, Koprowski and Tilque published an opinion piece in Gilbert Sun News urging Gilbert voters to approve the transportation bond. They also published their advocacy in the town’s publicity pamphlet.

“What it is is that the language behind the $515 million dollar bond is so vague that it looks like a blank check for government spending. The $515 million wasn’t a price tag from looking at the needs of the town, saying ‘This is a dollar amount that is needed,’” asserted Nielsen. “It just reeks of backroom deals, bad behavior in government again.”

Two of Horizon Strategies’ key team members were lobbyists in their recent past.

Jessica Pacheco worked as a lobbyist for power giant Arizona Public Service Company (APS) and their parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corporation from 2010 to 2020, as well as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce from 2007 to 2008 and SunCor Development Company in 2010.

Katie Prendergast also formerly worked as a lobbyist for power giant APS and Pinnacle West Capital Corporation from 2014 until last September. Prendergast’s profile on the state lobbying portal doesn’t include her work as a lobbyist for the Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA).

Additionally, Horizon Strategies recently hired an Arizona State Capitol legislative staffer named Kelsey Jahntz to become their legislative director, as Arizona Daily Independent reported. Jahntz isn’t listed on the state’s lobbying portal, and hasn’t been listed on the Horizon Strategies team member webpage as of press time.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Infrastructure-Related Companies, Groups Were Majority Donors For Gilbert Transportation Bond

Gilbert Mayor: Racism, Homophobia, Transphobia, Ageism, Discrimination Perpetuate Domestic Violence

By Corinne Murdock |

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, the town of Gilbert declared that racism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, and discrimination perpetuate domestic violence. The proclamation came from Mayor Brigette Peterson while establishing this October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The entirety of the proclamation is reproduced below:

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH[:] WHEREAS, domestic violence is a serious crime affecting over 4 million Americans each year of all races, ages, gender, and income levels; and WHEREAS, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism and discrimination based on physical ability, nationality or other factors help to perpetuate domestic violence and make finding safety even more difficult for some victims; WHEREAS, in just one day, across the U.S. and its territories, nearly 75,000 victims of domestic violence sought services from domestic violence programs and shelters. That same day, more than 9,000 requests for services, including emergency shelter, housing, transportation, childcare and legal representation, could not be provided because programs lacked the resources to meet victims’ needs; and WHEREAS, domestic violence impacts millions of people each year, but it can be prevented. Preventing domestic violence requires the collective voice and power of individuals, families, institutions, and systems; and WHEREAS, Gilbert has dedicated Family Violence officers, Police Counselors and Victim Advocates saving lives every day; and WHEREAS, Gilbert joins with others across Arizona and the nation in supporting victims of domestic violence, as well as local programs, state coalitions, national organizations, and other agencies nationwide who are committed to increasing public awareness of domestic violence and sending a clear message to abusers that domestic violence is not tolerated in Gilbert; NOW THEREFORE, I, Brigette Peterson, Mayor of the Town of Gilbert, do hereby proclaim the month of October 2021 as: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH in Gilbert, Arizona and urge our citizens to work together to eliminate domestic violence from our community. In witness thereof, I hereby set my hand and affix the Official Seal of the Office of the Mayor, Town of Gilbert, Arizona, and this 21st day of September, 2021. (emphasis added)

It is unclear how racism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, and discrimination perpetuate domestic violence. AZ Free News requested Peterson to clarify why these four were linked to domestic violence. The mayor didn’t respond by press time.

Local and state governments have designated October as domestic violence awareness month since the 1980s.

The town of Gilbert has issued official statements condemning racism and generally notes its opposition to discrimination in any forms. It hasn’t issued any statements condemning transphobia, homophobia, or ageism.

The mayor’s stance against discrimination in any form apparently doesn’t align with her personal conduct. Last month, reports revealed that Peterson is facing a discrimination complaint from current employee. The employee, Derek Konofalski, claimed the mayor was exercising a personal vendetta against him because of her dislike for the town logo and him being part of the digital government team. The complaint tied in with other complaints against the mayor concerning ethics and conduct.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Infrastructure-Related Companies, Groups Were Majority Donors For Gilbert Transportation Bond

Gilbert Prevails In Development Litigation But Is Still Owed $155K

By Terri Jo Neff |

Development agreements such as the one which required a former Gilbert property owner to pay the town nearly $760,000 toward the cost of public infrastructure improvements such as streets and sidewalks are legally binding contracts and not assessments that expire after a certain period of time, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled this week.

In a unanimous opinion released Sept. 7, the court of appeals affirmed a 2005 development agreement between the Town of Gilbert and the property owner of an 11-acre parcel on the northwest corner of East Ray Road and South Lindsay Roads. The contract called for the owner -Greater Phoenix Income Properties- to pay “a proportionate share” of public improvements.

Those improvements, which included irrigation measures and relocating utilities, were completed long ago, according to court records.

The agreement also allowed a lien to be placed on the land until full payment was made. There was also a provision in the agreement expressly binding successor owners to the contract.

Fast forward to 2016 when Ray and Lindsay 11 LLC purchased the vacant land. Company officials acknowledged knowing the terms of the development agreement, including the lien provision. Ray and Lindsay 11 sold the still-undeveloped parcel to Richmond American Homes of Arizona in 2019 and paid off the lien in order to provide the new owners with clear title.

But before that, the company sued in Maricopa County Superior Court in an effort to void the development agreement with the Town of Gilbert. The litigation initiated in 2018 has cost the town almost $155,000 in attorney’s fees to defend the agreement.

Ray and Lindsay 11 argued that the agreement’s infrastructure reimbursement requirement was an assessment which under Arizona Revised Statutes 9-243(C) abates or expires after 10 years if the property has not been developed. If the agreement was treated as an assessment, the company could have pursued a refund.

Judge Pamela Gates, however, ruled the contractual development agreements like the one Gilbert utilized are governed by a different statute, ARS 9-500.05, and that there was no assessment against the property.

Gates’ ruling was upheld by the Arizona Court of Appeals, which noted state lawmakers passed ARS 9-500.05 to provide cities and towns the ability to negotiate and enter into broad development agreements as to “the conditions, terms, restrictions and requirements” for public infrastructure as well as the financing of and subsequent reimbursements for the costs “over time.”

The appellate opinion also pointed out a key difference between an assessment and a development agreement – specifically the required mutual assent of the parties.

Gilbert officials have been represented in the case by Charles Wirken of Gust Rosenfeld. Last July, Gates signed an order and judgment against Ray and Lindsay 11 LLC for $123,603 plus interest to cover the town’s attorney fees.

The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court award of attorney’s fees. It also awarded the town another $30,342 for Wirken’s fees expended to fight the appeal. That award has not yet been converted into a judgment. Ray and Lindsay 11 has until Sept. 22 to file a petition for review with the Arizona Supreme Court.

The Sept. 7 opinion is not the first time the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled on this case.

In May, the parties received a memorandum decision from the court with the same conclusion. However, Wirken asked the court to consider rewriting the decision as a published opinion which can be cited by other municipalities threatened with litigation over the same type of assessment argument. The court of appeals agreed, hence this week’s opinion.

Gilbert City Councilwoman Aimee Rigler Yentes told AZ Free News she welcomed the news coming out of the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Yentes has lived in Gilbert for 20 years, and is the co-founder of the Gilbert Small Business Alliance. She supports bringing development to the town and is pleased to see the town’s development agreement upheld in this case.

“The Town’s approach to ensure reimbursements were honored to make taxpayers whole was well within their authority, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals,” Yentes said. “When a municipality enters into a development agreement, it is most critical that the private interest benefits do not exceed the public returns.”

Gilbert Mayor’s Campaign Consultants Awarded $17,000 Contract For Transportation Bond Survey

Gilbert Mayor’s Campaign Consultants Awarded $17,000 Contract For Transportation Bond Survey

By Corinne Murdock |

Gilbert awarded a $17,000 contract for a survey to a political consulting firm that Mayor Brigette Peterson used during her election campaign last year. During the campaign, Peterson paid a total of $9,530 to the firm, Camelback Strategy Group, for consulting and social media services.

Camelback Strategy Group doesn’t have any public record or advertisement of surveys completed prior to the one conducted for Gilbert. The closest thing that the firm offers to surveys is through their affiliated – but independent – company, Grassroots Advocates. However, that company only offers political data and strategy services like voter contact, door to door canvassing, phone-banking, sign set-up and delivery, signature gathering and validation, tracking and blocking – and according to email records obtained by AZ Free News, Grassroots Advocates didn’t complete the survey. Camelback Strategy Group did.

It is unclear how Camelback Strategy Group came to be selected to conduct the survey. Peterson’s spokesperson told AZ Free News that the mayor wasn’t involved with the transportation bond poll conducted.

We also reached out to Camelback Strategy Group for comment. They didn’t respond to AZ Free News by press time.

The survey was conducted through a phone poll. Based on email records between Camelback Strategy Group Partner Chad Heywood and Deputy Town Manager Leah Hubbard, the survey canvassed approximately 350 Gilbert residents and took about a week to complete.

The survey was completed about 6 weeks prior to the council vote on whether to place the transportation bond on the ballot. The council voted in favor of the transportation bond at the beginning of June, 5-2. Council Members Aimee Yentes and Laurin Hendrix both voted against the measure.

Although the council vote on the bond occurred over two months ago, the fact that the mayor’s political consulting firm received around $17,000 to conduct a survey stood out to constituents enough for it to be discussed during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Public commentary tied the $17,000 survey to the several open investigations against Peterson concerning issues like work environment and ethics complaints.

One resident, Jim Torgeson, said he was disappointed with the council for not holding Peterson accountable.

“Judgment includes those multiple ethics complaints, optics of favoritism – with no efforts to correct those – optics of racism, the optics of quid pro quo, the optics of hostile work environments, the optics of a poorly-run high school clique council. The mayor won’t fix it. I’m asking you to fix it,” said Torgeson. “The last thing I need to think of is that people are awarded contracts because they’re political consultants that worked on the mayor’s campaign, awarded $17,000 to do a phone poll. A phone poll, and they don’t even do phone polls.”

The public became further incensed when Peterson opened discussion on a proposal to overhaul public commentary protocols. Instead of 3 minutes for every person with up to 15 minutes of speaking time unless the council decides on an extension, the mayor proposed that she should be the sole decision-maker on who could speak and for how long.

The mayor’s opponent, Matt Nielsen, spoke up about this proposed rule change during the meeting. He reminded the council that America is still a constitutional republic, and said that the mayor was trying to control public commentary because of the ongoing investigations against her.

“The fact that [this proposal] has come before the council at all is further evidence that Mayor Peterson is more committed to the preservation of her own public image in light of multiple recent alleged ethics violations than she is with the American ideal of civic engagement in government,” stated Nielsen. “It’s a terrible look for our town’s top elected official to allow a consolidation of power to herself relative to the speech of Gilbert citizens when she is under heavy scrutiny for multiple serious allegations.”

The council members questioned Peterson’s intent and rationale for introducing the rule change.

Peterson responded that the proposal wasn’t borne out of “malicious” intent, but that she was simply trying to rewrite the code to match years of council operations. Despite her explanation, the council didn’t appear to back the proposed changes as written.

Council members motioned to table the proposed rule change.

Watch the full meeting below:

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.