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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."

ICT - Trotters RV
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• Kingman's mayor will step down early, citing family, job concerns
• Proposed Kingman tire store hits a roadblock
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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: Equity does not prevail

When Robin Gordon was accused of violating the open meeting law, Cooper was very quick to say she was in violation, when that was not the case. Now, when there is real evidence that the Mayor benefited financially and voted on an issue that he should not have, Cooper says he did not violate the law? Come on, if this went to trial, it would be interesting how it would turn out. I think the incident should be investigated, but won't hold my breath on getting the full story. Salem should resign and let Janet take over with integrity and honesty that is expected by the incumbant of mayor. He has tainted the decorum of the position. Common sense would dictate that it would be wrong to vote on the issue, let alone actively try to influence the decision of the community and other council members. I do not believe he committed a crime but lacked common sense to recuse himself from a situation that he may have felt some loyalty.

Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: It was an oversight on my part .

Sure it was. Recall him or resign. I am sure this is not the only oversight. Corruption at it's best. Oh Erin it is your business when Mr. Mayor voted on the tire store issue.

Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: anonymous anonymous

$10,000 might in some places earn one a indictment for bribery if the right legal authorties took such a case to a grand jury, but remember the city attorney, prosecutor has huge ability to decide who is going to be charged with a crime or not and to what degree, in fact there is such a thing as dereliction of duty where a prosecutor fails to do his duty in regards to public officials malfeasance in office, criminal corruption, bribery is recieving money or material gain for a vote, outcome by a elected official, this story has more questions than answers!

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: d l

Jeez, if anything the Mayor should have been loyal to Burgess for buying his stuff, and gone along with getting this thing passed. The way I see it he stabbed Burgess in the back and can't be trusted!

Also I was unaware that Salem and Son's closed. Considering that Kingman Mayor is not a big paying job, how is the Mayor planning to make his living?

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: Who are you kidding

My oh my, sounds like some posturing here for a run for mayor! (Or perhaps to run a succeeding business man in a repressed economy out of town.) OR BOTH! Hey all of you anti-growthers, you won! People are leaving Kingman as fast as they can pack! Hope you can afford your sales tax increases to keep you in your needed security as your crime rate escalates.

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: You Bet

@ Rick Sherwood

So what your trying to say is you play golf with him also!

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: Resign Salem

He needs to resign. I believe we should take up a petition and ask for a resignation. Lets quit talking about making change and do it!!!! Lets make them change.I also think Carl Cooper has shown his colors very clearly by defending Salem when he clearly was in the wrong. I did not believe the whole good ol boy theory...until now. Carl Cooper needs to step down as well.

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: Uncommon Sense

Shouldn't he know what his responsibilities are and KNOW what is proper or improper. This just shows you he has no place being the Mayor. If any of us did something improper in our jobs the excuse "I didn't know," would not fly.His job is helping to manage the city and make decisions that affect all of us. This shows his lack of character.

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: Salem supporter, once

No matter how honest the mayor, you should want to get to the bottom of the issue and put a closure to it. He has not always been forthcoming to his supporters. I voted for him in the first election because I thought him to be an honest family man, I was wrong. If you lie to a spouse, you will lie to the public. If you are dishonest in a relationship, you will be dishonest to the public. Tells much about your character.

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: Rick Sherwood

As I have made unflattering comments when I feel it necessary, I should do the compliments as well. I know John Salem and he is an honest man. I have found him nothing but sincere when dealing with the public or policy. Kingman you have a nice guy here so cut him some slack.

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: BOBO CLOWN

Council voted 4-3 in favor of denying Burgess' request. Salem, Councilman Richard Anderson and Councilman Mark Wimpee were the three who voted for the change.

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: You Bet

@ The Mayor Needs to Resign, His Credibility Has Been Damaged

I couldn't agree with you more, well said!

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: Jim Lawson

How could the Mayor say this was an oversite on His part, I strongly recommend that He step down from office as He has a memory issue and cannot recall things that occurred a month ago and He profited from it quite nicely.

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: Doesn't pass The Smell Test

This just doesn't pass the smell test folks. Sure looks like "the good ol boy system" is still alive and well in Kingman !!

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: New Mayor, City Attorney Needed Along Wotj Boycott of Superior Tire - OUR COUNCIL IS NOT FOR SALE

"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."

Yes, on both examples.

And Carl Cooper doesn't see the $10k payment hours before the head of the council is to talk on the request as a conflict?

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: The Mayor Needs to Resign, His Credibility Has Been Damaged

If one knows how agenda items are handled and is a frequent viewer of the council meetings they would have been confused (as I was) at the Mayor's introduction of the item.

Usually the mayor introduces the item, asks staff to present the item, asks for applicant and public comments, THEN the topic is open for discussion by the mayor for council consideration.

However at the meeting immediatedly upon introducing the item the mayor pushed hard, very hard for the item to be tabled. He said the design requirements were unclear - actually they are very clear. He was trying to delay the vote for another 2 weeks at least (until the next meeting). Salem went on and on with this monologue for an embarrassing long time. I thought surely one of the council members was going to interrupt asking for Jepson's presentation. I thought the body language of many of the council members was telling. Heads bowed almost in embarrassment or shame. It wasn't until not one council member took the bait and the mayor did not make a motion to table (which Burgess was probably hoping for) that Janet finally asked for the staff report. I thought that whole thing was strange - just didn't know the why. Now I know the why.

Unfortunately, Salem does need to resign. He has lost all credibility with the other council members and the community and has brought shame to the council.

I was a supporter of the mayor but ask that he now step down.

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: There May Be 3 At Fault Here

I am very disappointed with the Salem. He is not dumb. He had to know what Burgess had in mind when the P&Z case took place in early December. I guess he was so desparate to sell his equipment that he went along with it.

Another question comes to mind - when did Carl Cooper learn of this and if it were before the meeting why didn't he insist Salem excuse himself.

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: the first time and not the last time

the good old boys back yard deal ! that went bust!

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: Rick O'Shea

In my opinion, he tried to swindle a deal and got caught this time, he was sorry he didn't get away with it. Why people keep voting these crooks back into office is beyond me.

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: daisey duke

now i get it . the reason why this man cant open a tire store is because if the mayor changes the zone, it will look like a bribe. thats pretty bad.

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: G Ma

Hmmmmmmmmmmm !!! I don't buy it . Salem didn't know nothing huh . ?

Just how dumb do these people think we are ? I find that to be an insult to the people of Kingman .

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