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1/6/2013 6:01:00 AM
Conflict of interest? No, says attorney - but Kingman mayor should've skipped vote
Kingman Mayor John Salem
Kingman Mayor John Salem
Kevin Burgess
Kevin Burgess

Ahron Sherman
Miner Staff Reporter

Mayor John Salem conducted a $10,000 business transaction with local businessman Kevin Burgess in early December but didn't recuse himself from Tuesday's City Council vote centered on Burgess' plans for a new tire store on Hualapai Mountain Road.

Council voted 4-3 against changing development rules to accommodate the proposal, but had it been approved the door would've been opened for Burgess to establish a second Superior Tire location in Kingman.

"I admit to making a mistake," Salem said. "There was no malice involved. It was just an oversight on my part."

Salem closed his business, Salem & Sons Auto, at the beginning of December. The next day, Burgess approached him about purchasing $10,000 worth of equipment.

This occurred roughly a week before Burgess' request came before the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Salem said he wasn't even aware of Burgess' request at the time of the sale and maintains that he didn't learn about it until Burgess and crew came to load the equipment prior to Tuesday's Council meeting.

Salem, in many ways, championed Burgess' request during the meeting, saying that the request should be sent back to staff to work out some design standards and present them to Council.

When asked if he had made a deal with Salem to purchase the equipment in exchange for help getting his request approved, Burgess said: "Of course not. That's a ridiculous question."

"That's not something I would do," Burgess said.

City Attorney Carl Cooper said Salem did not violate the state's conflict of interest statute. But he agreed that Salem should've recused himself from the discussion simply to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Legally, one of two things must occur for there to be a violation of the state's conflict of interest statute that governs elected officials, Cooper explained. If the elected official has a direct or indirect substantial interest in an issue and stands to gain money from voting a certain way, it's a conflict of interest. Also, if an elected official has a remote interest in an issue, it can be a conflict of interest.

For example, if an elected official is one of two mechanics in town and he or she votes on an issue that deals with mechanics, he or she probably violated the Arizona's conflict of interest statute.

If an elected official accepts money in exchange for voting a certain way on an issue, that's not a conflict of interest, Cooper said.

"That's a crime," he said.

Joni Hoffman, general counsel for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said appearances are important when it comes to elected officials.

They should be worried if their actions violate any laws, but elected officials should also be worried about how their actions look, she said.

"Everybody should be worried about appearances," she said.

People need to ask themselves if their actions pass the headline test, she said. They should be asking themselves how their actions will look in a headline or in print, she said.

Councilman Larry Carver said he was unaware of Salem and Burgess' transaction before Thursday, when someone from outside city government approached him.

Though he agreed that Salem didn't violate any statutes, he said: "It definitely doesn't look good."

Councilwoman Erin Cochran said she knew Salem closed his store and sold some of his equipment, but she maintains that she had no idea who he sold it to.

"That's none of my business," she said.

Had Burgess' request been approved and then the transaction between he and Salem came to light afterward, Salem said he would've taken steps to put the item back on the agenda for another vote.

He then would've recused himself.

"I know better," he said. "Thankfully, (the vote) didn't go the other direction."

Related Stories:
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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Jobs, Yes but Not At Any Cost

TJ, you really need to understand the issue before condemning those that do. The Overlay District doesn't allow tire stores. Zoning laws are important to guide development in a way that benefits the community - the entire community. Or we could go with your idea - perhaps Burgess would like to bring those 12 jobs to that empty lot next to your home.

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Jobs, Yes but Not At Any Cost

Randy is missing the issue totally. A mayor is elected to uphold the city laws and ordinances. The HMR Overlay District Plan clearly outlaws the tire store.

Only one question - what would happen to the building if Burgess closed it? Most city planning staffs would have researched how many tire stores a city of 28,000 can sustain. It does our community only harm, "most reasonable people" would agree, to allow everything to open just to close half.

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013
Article comment by: Anti-growth? No. Actually Pro-growth

I felt compelled to respond to Who Are You Kidding. I opposed the addition of Superior Tire not because I am anti-growth but because I am pro-growth. A community gets what it asks for and demands. If we demand businesses follow our zoning laws, we get responsible businesses. If we allow anything under the idea that it will add 10-12 jobs, we get businesses that blackmail us to do anything they want just because they offer jobs. A community is more than jobs.

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: patty hertz

@to no name provided and Herberta Schroeder: The only reason Salem is addressing this issue at all is because he was exposed. Backpeddling is the word to describe what Salem is attempting now and not very convincingly.

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: snow white

Everyone needs to take a breath. It is the City Attorney's job to advise them on legal matters. All you who are so quick to judge: where did you get your license to practice law?

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: to no name provided

If you want more transparency in government, a perfect example is when a situation is made and a politician admits it looks bad and seeks to correct it, that means that the voters opinnion of them is important to that politician.

Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Article comment by: I Care To

@we care
Any council member who was aware of this had an obligation to ask Salem to stop his ranting and excuse himself from voting. Any council member who knows of Salem being aware of the issues before he sold the equipment to Kevin has an obligation to speak up. City employees probably knew the details because Salem attends staff meetings and perhaps discussions on the rezone took place a few times but are afraid to speak up. I watch videos of the meetings and have never seen Salem act so forceful and persistant on an issue. If Janet were Mayor, this would not have happened.

Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Article comment by: We Care

TJ, So if you were the victim of corruption or wrongdoing, should we not care because you're just one guy? I don't know you. Why should I care? I don't think you understand the issue here.

@Randy W. Just because the vote didn't go Salem's way doesn't mean he didn't influence the discussion. Did you watch the meeting? Those of us who did and follow city business know that his behavior was very out of character for him. Also concerning is that it took the news to break this story when people in the city, and on the council, knew about it beforehand.

Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Article comment by: No name provided

Ms Shroeder,

Too bad you didn't follow your own advise with Robin Gordon, instead you pushed and got egg on your face. Citizens want to push this for the same reasons you did. Go back and read your reasoning for filing a complaint. Perhaps you are too close to Salem and Cooper to be objective. They have the right to question and have an investigation done.

Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Article comment by: Randy W

@ Just Saying

Just by reading line after line of what you've written, it's clear that you don't know what you're talking about here. But the bottom line is, you said "...and proceeded to influence the outcome when he had a financial gain." The fact is the Mayor DID NOT influence the outcome at all, did you notice Burgess is NOT getting his tire shop as it stands right now?

Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Article comment by: tj denton

im just saying, in this particular situation, i really dont care. its a tire store, the guy is a legitimate business and is going to put people to work, so i dont care what so ever.

Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Article comment by: WeShould ExpectMore

I personally am more dissapointed by Carl Cooper whom I had respected and believed he had integrity, but there are several incidents I have been aware of that his protection of the image of the city far outweighed what was right. When we have men like him heading all of the cases for the City, it's no surprise how many people get no justice. I would like to say Duncan Rose of the City Attorneys Office is outstanding. They are all not passive accomplices to the system in place. Salem has always shown self interest so no surprise there. This one was just more in your face.

Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Article comment by: Herberta Schroeder

The Mayor admitted that it looked bad in hindsight. At least he did not deny that it may have had the appearance of wrong doing. What more do you want? Would you rather have a Mayor that ignores and denies? As for Carl Cooper, City Attorney. How Dare You say he does what ever the city wants. He must abide by laws and advise counsel according to those laws or loose his license. Since a Lawyer in his position is subject to scrutiny that is stricter than private lawyers, he has way more to loose. So no Mr. Cooper does not do what ever the council says, they follow his lead or at least they are supposed too.

Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Article comment by: Corruption Ignored AGAIN

CORRUPTION continued in Mohave surprise.

Even more surprising is the lack of an official investigation on this matter and others by our DA and the state attorney general.

Why is all of this ignored? This is the most important question.

Charges filed, removal from office by citizens. In Mohave County, probably never.

Sad, sad story, to be continued because none of these politicians are ever taken to task, so it will continue!

Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Article comment by: patty hertz

No conflict of interest, but Mayor shouldn't have voted?! Now there's some good double talk. Recuse is designed for conflict of interest. So which is it? Conflict=Recuse or No Conflict=okay to vote. It's between the lines people.
It also appears as though the mayor postponed the vote in December all together until the deal was made and it went to vote in January.

Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Article comment by: We Care

"who cares if it was pushed through or not," writes TJ Denton. Well, you should care. Any reasonable person can see what Burgess and Salem were trying to do here. Salem's conduct during the meeting speaks volumes. You should care that we have a mayor who appears willing to sell his vote. And this isn't the only questionable incident in his background. Don't you care that there's one set of rules for us and another for the city employees and their friends? What about the people who have been desperate for an exemption in the sewer rules but continue to be denied by the city? Can $10,000 buy them an exemption, too?

Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Article comment by: Just Saying

The issue is not that it was pushed, but that the mayor made a financial gain from the person who was applying for the rezone. Salem was in error not to excuse himself from the item. He used poor judgement, and that concerns a lot of citizens. It is a gray area as to whether he violated rules, most believe he did. He says he didn't know about the issue until days before the meeting, but many believe he did because the P & Z meeting was early December. Even if he knew the day before the meeting he should not have been part of the discussion or vote. The whole issue taints the position of the mayor and the City. Those requesting his resignation isn't doing so because he pushed the issue, but because he knew better and proceeded to influence the outcome when he had a financial gain. Many believe the City Attorney should have contacted the Attorney General's office for clarification. I'm sure the issue will blow-over and everything will be status quo. The issue is not about the tire store, but whether the mayors actions were inappropriate.

Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew


Which is in violation of the city’s overlay for development, making it wrong, period. It is odd how people show up here defending the mayor when an obvious conflict exists.

Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: They're Excempt

@ tj denton

" whining about how he goes about getting a permit for it??"

Really! So he's above all the rules the rest of us have to comply with? Is it because he has money or because he "rubs elbows" with the Mayor? Fraud is fraud, a lie is a lie. We just don't need anymore shady deals here in Kingman, we are already paying enough for the ones done in the past!

Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: Dean Wolslagel

The City Attorney is wrong .
It is clear the State and not the city or county should look into any issues with the mayor. Carl Cooper says anything the council wants him to say! We need to replace the city attorney with an outside service not so prone to pressure due wanting his contract renewed. The city attorneys office in my opinion has acted with its own interests and not the public's interest. Kingman will never be free from special interests control if our city attorney acts like a puppet.

Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: tj denton

ITS A TIRE STORE! who cares if it was pushed through or not, its not like he was trying to build an adult book store or something that might be considered of low integrity. someone want to build an honest business that will put people to work and you all are whining about how he goes about getting a permit for it?? i seriously think you people are just looking and searching for something to be mad about. its pitiful

Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: Big B Little C

A politician is a politician is a politician!!! There is no government for the people, by the people and of the people anymore! All governments are for the politician, by the politician and of the politician!

Wake up people, democrats, republican, etc., etc., etc., they are all the same!!!

Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: Kharma ComesAround

@Equity does not prevail
you are absolutely correct!!! There have been a few council members that have attempted over and over to stand up to make change and are always quickly put down. When they do something, it is just blown over. I have been to many council meetings and I have absolutely no respect for Salem. I know have no respect for Carl Cooper either. To think he runs our City Attorney's Office. What a great set of confidence for all those victims out there that want justice.

Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: Les Havalook

Speaking of conflict of interest can anyone explain why the state's attorney general is not prosecuting traffic tickets as he is supposed to according to ARS 28-333. Instead, the county attorney handles these prosecutions without any legislated standing whatsoever. Nowhere is it written in state law that the county attorney has standing to prosecute matters arising under Title 28 the motor vehicle code.
With the present illegal set-up the county gets to prosecute traffic tickets and keep the money instead of allowing the Attorney General's office to prosecute and send the fines and fees to the state coffers. By the way, how did it get to a point to where only the county attorney can present to the Grand Jury. If the county attorney refuses to prosecute a case an individual cannot appear before a Grand Jury and present facts the County Attorney does not want presented. We need to go back to Common Law Grand Jury's. In this manner anyone who knows of a crime can present to a grand jury and not be hobbled by the county attorney who may not want the matter prosecuted for his or her own nefarious reasons.

Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: Randy W

Oh cut the crap already, Salem did nothing wrong here! So many of you are just looking for drama, for something to get riled up about, that you're jumping on this bandwagon and parroting what the other people are saying.
Burgess' plans are reasonable, he should probably get his tire shop and most reasonable people in this community agree as most reasonable people here know we need more businesses and more jobs. So if Salem voted for the approval, he's part of the majority of this reasonable minded community that agrees with the proposal. Salem is an intelligent man, if he were up to no good he would've made an effort to hide it.

He's been a good mayor, there's nothing to see here...move along and let the man get back to caring for city business! Good grief!

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