Recker Road Park Land:
In 1998 the City of Mesa purchased a beautiful 132 acre parcel for a future Regional Park with Park Bond money. John Giles was a member of the city council at the time. Advance forward 20 years to 2018. A local developer becomes enticed to exchange his land for the park property. Another developer becomes aware of the plan and decides to claim the property for himself. Without any input from the citizens the city decides to put the property up for sale/auction.
An appraisal for the park land is acquired with a valuation of $25,500,000 ($25.5M). I go to the January 7th study session and find that the city has acquired another appraisal for $15,600,000 ($15.6M). I take my 3 minutes to explain my concerns and to ask what happened to the $10M difference. When I conclude the following conversation ensues:
Mayor Giles: “Mr. Farnsworth has some very good questions. Staff, do we have an appraisal for $25.5M on this property?”
Staff member: “Mr. Mayor when I looked in the file this morning, the only appraisal I saw was the one for $15.6M”.
Mayor Giles: ”Staff , has there ever been an appraisal on this property for $25.5M?”
Staff member: “Mr. Mayor, NO.”
I am stunned because I am holding the appraisal for $25.5M. Should I say something now or when? I decide to wait, and I go to a later city council meeting and I take the 42 seconds of the exchange on recording and I play it for the Mayor and Council. Silence. I express that most of them knew on that day, and now all of them know that the $25.5M appraisal exists.
I called all of them liars because they had all set there and said nothing to correct the record. (Are these the kind of people that you want doing your city business?) The Mayor, city council, the city manager, the city attorney (from whose office I had received the $25.5M appraisal). What was and is going on at city hall? Employees willing to lie to cover for the Mayor, Council and City Manager? Why would someone risk their job to be untruthful and misleading? Is there a culture at city hall that covers for inappropriate decision making?
When the meeting ended City Manager Chris Brady flew in my direction and confronted me on the floor of Council chambers. He immediately bellowed out in a raised voice, “How dare you call one of my employees a liar”, I responded, that I hadn’t called one of his employees a liar, at which point Mr. Brady stepped back stunned and I said, “I didn’t call one of you a liar, I called all of you liars.”
I received an email the next morning stating that the city had found the $25.5M appraisal.
Mayor Giles role on January 7, 2019 When Mayor Giles asked staff if there was another appraisal for $25.5M, he already knew that it did exist. The appraisal was dated May 3, 2018. Mayor admitted in his office on December 4, 2019 (2 witnesses) that the August 19, 2018 appraisal was requested shortly after the first appraisal was obtained because the 1st appraisal did not take into consideration the lift station and buffer zone. Mayor Giles was conducting the negotiations with the developers himself as documented in the email sent to him by developer #2 on September 11, 2018. What was Mayor Giles hiding? Was he expecting city employees to lie? Why did they lie when both had access to both appraisals soon after their received date. One for 8 months and the other for 5 months. One must ask, how did the 2nd appraisal for $15.6M nearly mirror the 2nd developers approximate worth of $16M? The high bid of $21.1M just happens to be from the same developer who felt that the property was worth only $16M just a few months earlier. Did meddling by Mayor Giles and others cause the city to lose nearly $4.5M on this deal?
What was the role of City Manager Chris Brady on Jan 7, 2019? It was Mr. Brady’s office that ordered up both appraisals. He knew both were on file. His responsibility is to be up to date on all city business that is presented to Council for approval. Yet he sat there and listened to Mayor Giles ask city employees about the $25.5M appraisal, hear their answers and not speak up and correct the record and then after the city council meeting on April 15, 2019 charge from his chair and verbally assault me, Mr. Farnsworth and accuse me of calling one of his employees a liar! Mr. Brady’s fingerprints are all over this transaction and his integrity is certainly being questioned. What is Mr. Brady hiding? What else will we find out? Is this the kind of management you want to have in your City? Mr. Brady has refused to apologize for this insult and according to Mayor Giles an apology is not needed because no one got hurt.
During the negotiations with the developers the city had these signs removed from our park, as it were, in the middle of the night; an underhanded ploy. The land was purchased 20 years ago with Park bond money as a future city District park, and designated as such by these signs. When confronted, a city planner said it was an “oversight’’ when staff members did not remove signs on the property. East Valley Tribune (EVT), May 19, 2019, Oversight!
“This is one of the last pieces of pristine desert left in Mesa. Landscape that includes large saguaro cactus. So we need to preserve it in a way that the community is going to enjoy.”
John Giles, Dec. 1998
“We made everybody happy” by purchasing the property. By auctioning the property, “it’s breaking a promise to Mesa voters and it has the potential of opening pandora’s box,” he said. “The public policy issue remains the same as 20 years ago.”
Dennis Kavanaugh, EVT Mar 17, 2019
”The council’s decision to even put the land up for auction stunned some people, who believe that selling the land would be short-sighted. “What is probably most disappointing to me is the lack of transparency on a major policy change as this. I cannot understand why the City did not hold public meetings in the area to get input from the residents,’’
Greg Marek, chairman of the Mesa Historical Advisory Board, EVT Mar 17, 2019