Prescott Docu-Gate: Effort to recall Prescott mayor continues in midst of leaked document controversy
(Editor’s Note – This is the fourth in a series of Daily Courier articles on the turmoil at Prescott City Hall over the October 2023 departure of a long-time department head, the December resignation of the city manager, and the early-January 2024 leak of related confidential documents.)
When a group of four long-time Prescott residents met at City Hall in late-November 2023 to begin the process for a recall of Mayor Phil Goode, they listed a number of allegations, ranging from a lack of public transparency to creation of a hostile workplace.
Over the past several weeks, those concerns have only intensified, said Stan Goligoski, one of the four recall organizers, and the candidate who would run against Goode in a recall election.
Especially in light of three investigative reports that were leaked to the local media on Jan. 9 and later circulated in the community, Goligoski sees the recall group’s worries as having been confirmed.
“Now, we’re seeing all of these points play out,” Goligoski said. “We’re seeing more and more people come forward from the city who are afraid of retaliation.”
Goode, however, continues to maintain he has been within his rights as mayor in the actions he has taken, including his dealings with former City Manager Katie Gregory prior to her resignation from the position she had held for about seven months.
For instance, Goode said he had the authority to request Gregory’s resignation and added that she had the right to refuse, which she did in late October.
But the mayor’s actions later generated formal complaints by four City Council members, claiming that the mayor had overstepped his authority.
Then, on Dec. 19, 2023, after a series of public and closed-door discussions on the matter, Gregory resigned during a public session. At the same meeting, the council approved a settlement agreement with Gregory that contained a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
As controversy has swirled in the community about the leaked documents and the city’s refusal to release the settlement agreement, the recall group has continued to gather signatures, with the goal of letting the voters decide later this year whether Goligoski should replace Goode as Prescott mayor.
On Nov. 27, 2023 – just one day before Goode was sworn in for his second two-year term as mayor – Goligoski and a group consisting of local businessman Grant Quezada, Prescott native and conservation advocate Rebecca Ruffner, and Prescott native and long-time downtown businessman Greg Raskin met at Prescott City Hall to file an application to officially begin the process for a recall election.
The petition lists Goligoski as the candidate to run against Goode in the recall.
With the filing of the application, the group was told they must collect at least 3,248 signatures from registered Prescott voters by March 26, 2024, in order to trigger the recall election. Then, depending on the timing of the filing of the recall petitions, a special recall election could take place on state-designated election dates in May, August or November 2024.
Goligoski said Friday that the May and August dates would likely be too soon to allow for all of the steps that must occur, including verification of the signatures. He said the recall election would most likely occur in November.
The required number of signatures is based on 25% of all votes cast in the last election for Prescott mayor, which was the city primary on Aug. 1, 2023.
That was the day that Goode won his bid for a second term as mayor, running unopposed for the position. Prior to being elected as mayor in 2021, Goode served a four-year term as a Prescott City Councilman.
To date, Goligoski estimates the recall effort has collected about 2,800 signatures. “We’re ahead of the pace, and we’re planning to file the petitions by early March,” Goligoski said, noting that the group is aiming to collect 4,000 signatures.
Goligoski said the recall effort has been based on three main claims – the lack of public transparency by the mayor and council and a larger-than-normal number of closed-door executive sessions; the creation of a hostile work environment for employees; and financial concerns over pending lawsuits related to the city’s stance on existing development agreements.
Goligoski has noted that he was already interested in running for Prescott mayor in the 2025 city election, but agreed to run in a recall because of the concerns that were arising in the community.
Noting on Friday that he has had a number of questions about why he did not run against Goode in the 2023 election, Goligoski said it has been in the past nine months or so (since the spring filing deadline for candidates in the 2023 city election season) that a series of incidents at City Hall have raised concerns in the community.
“After citizens started seeing what was going on at City Hall, there were a lot of questions,” Goligoski said, adding that the claims of a hostile work environment, in which city employees have been reluctant to speak up in fear of retaliation, was “the catalyst” for him getting involved.
In all, Goligoski said, about 30 former and current city employees have voiced their concerns to the recall group about a hostile work environment.
MAYOR: ‘WITHIN HIS AUTHORITY’
The Prescott City Charter describes the duties of mayor, in part, as being “a chief executive of the city government for all purposes and recognized by the governor for purposes of military law and civil defense and shall have executive but no regular administrative duties.”
Goode said his request on Oct. 24, 2023, that Gregory resign after she announced in a public meeting that former Airport Director Robin Sobotta was no longer an employee of the City of Prescott was within that authority.
In fact, he said it would be within the rights of any of the seven council members. “Any City Council member can request the resignation of any of the three City Council appointees,” Goode said on Tuesday, Feb. 6, referring to the city’s three top positions – city manager, city attorney and city clerk. “Those three officials serve at the pleasure of the City Council, and they know they work for the majority of the council.”
He added that simply asking for a resignation does not require the resignation to occur, and he said Gregory initially refused to resign after he made his request.
Of the allegation over lack of transparency, Goode says the Prescott City Council has been faced with many sensitive negotiations over development agreements on projects such as the Deep Well Ranch and the Arizona Eco Development (AED), and he said those matters needed to be discussed in private.
“Having constant negotiations, you’re going to have a lot of executive meetings,” Goode said. “When you’re dealing with complex components of a development agreement, it takes a long time to get agreement.”
Goode maintains that the council needs to be involved in those negotiations rather than allowing city staff to drive the negotiations, as has been done in the past. “When you look back at the Deep Well Ranch development agreement, Planning and Zoning moved it forward with 21 unresolved conditions. We’re still dealing with the consequences of those conditions today,” he said.
Goode pointed out that, as a then-member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, he was one of three members to vote against the move.
The recall effort has also emphasized the $150 million claim that AED recently filed, which maintains that the city has not lived up its end of the agreement over the northeast-Prescott development.
Goligoski said the possibility of the city owing millions of dollars to developers over the City Council’s failure to hold up its part of the agreement was among the major concerns of those involved with the recall.
Goode, who voted for the AED development agreement in a unanimous council approval, says City Council members relied on the advice of former City Attorney Jon Paladini on the city’s ability to work with third parties to perform. “The council relied on the assurance that would not be a problem; well, it turned out to be a big problem,” Goode said.
Goligoski said the council’s recent delay in hiring an interim city manager is another concern for the recall group. “Right now, we don’t have leadership at City Hall,” he said. “For our city’s sake, that’s the reason for the recall.”
(Watch The Daily Courier in coming week for continuing coverage on related issues, including allegations of abuse of authority.)
Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2034, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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