The conflicts of interest
shared by Cochise County Supervisor
Pat Call
and County Planning & Zoning Commissioners
Liza Weissler and Tim Cervantes


NOTE:  after all of the events discussed below were over, the husband of Cochise County Planning & Zoning Commissioner Liza Weissler quit his job at the Friends of the San Pedro River, thereby eliminating Weissler's financial conflict of interest.

AND, the 501c3 report for The Cochise Water Project showed that Pat Call's yearly salary was $58,333.

Also please note, the URLs for newspaper articles change from time to time.  The URLs below were correct as of September 14, 2014.

Three Cochise County government figures -- Pat Call, Liza Weissler, and Tim Cervantes -- have ruined their own reputations.  They took money from private groups pushing a water program, then voted for the program at government meetings (the Board Of Supervisors for Call, and the Planning & Zoning Commission for Weissler and Cervantes).  The appearance is that they delivered what they were paid for -- and legally, appearance is the key to conflict of interest.  If this doesn't wake up Cochise County voters to the risk of their government being for sale, nothing will.

The problem began when a proposed rewrite of County water regulations was before the Planning & Zoning Commission.  CCIPRA writeups pointed out that problem.  Then the rewrite went to the County Supervisors, and CCIPRA writeups followed that change in focus.

What follows is based on 1) CCIPRA writeups covering the Commission problem, 2) CCIPRA writeups after the problem went to the Supervisors, and 3) the aftermath.  None of the writeups did any good in the sense of making Call, Weissler, or Cervantes obey to Arizona's conflict of interest laws; but the writeups did expose Call, Weissler, and Cervantes as politicians whose votes on public boards matched their private financial interests.  What citizens do with the information is up to them.


1, For Commissioners Weissler and Cervantes:

.  http://littlebigdog.net/ConflictOfInterest.htm


2, For Supervisor Call:


I.  CALL HAS A CONFLICT OF INTEREST


A.  Call is the paid Executive Director of The Cochise Water Project, which advocated the proposed water regulations.  Three questions determine if a conflict of interest exists:
.    1.  Will the decision affect an interest of the officer?
.    2.  Is the interest pecuniary?
.    3.  Is the interest not statutorily designated as remote?
To all three questions, Call would have to answer Yes.  He has a conflict of interest.


B.  The definition of conflict of interest

1.  A conflict of interest is one kind of appearance of corruption.  A Supreme Court case says there need not "be actual corruption ....  the statute is more concerned with what might have happened in a given situation than with what actually happened.  It attempts to prevent honest government agents from succumbing to temptation by making it illegal for them to enter into relationships which are fraught with temptation."  See
.  http://www.leagle.com/decision/1961884364US520_1789.xml/U.%20S.%20v.%20MISSISSIPPI%20VALLEY%20CO

2.  The reason appearance is the test is that nobody can prove or disprove a person's assertions about his inner thoughts.  If a politician can escape the appearance of corruption simply by saying "Trust me, I'm virtuous," then laws against corruption might as well not exist.   But in America, citizens don't have to trust a public servant's virtue; our system requires public servants to avoid certain opportunities for corruption.

3.  Having a conflict of interest is not a crime.  I would even view it as an opportunity for a public servant to show how ethical he is, by publicly choosing to represent the public, not an outside group.  That's a display which any public servant should be glad to make.  Call should step aside on this issue; it won't affect his participation on other issues.

4.  Ignoring a conflict of interest is a misdemeanor, and a felony if the violation is intentional or knowing.  Either way, the politician must forfeit his or her office.  See
.  http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/38/00510.htm&Title=38&DocType=ARS

5.  For County Supervisors, a special statute has an even tougher test:  "A supervisor shall not vote upon any measure in which he, any member of his family or his partner, is pecuniarily interested."  See
.  http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/11/00222.htm&Title=11&DocType=ARS

6.  Upon taking office, every Supervisor, Commissioner, and employee of the Planning Department or the County Attorney, is supposed to be told how to avoid a conflict of interest.  See
.  https://www.azag.gov/sites/default/files/sites/all/docs/sgo/PublicServiceOrientation.pdf
Page 16 in that document says there's a conflict of interest if the answer to the following questions is Yes:
.  "When determining whether a conflict of interest exists, public officers should evaluate the following three questions:  
.    "1.  Will the decision affect, either positively or negatively, an interest of the officer or a relative? ...
.    "2.  Is the interest a pecuniary or proprietary interest? ...
.    "3.  Is the interest one that is not statutorily designated as a remote interest?"


C.  Here's Call's conflict of interest:

1.  Question 1 above is "Will the decision affect, either positively or negatively, an interest of the officer ... ?"  Supervisor Call's answer must be Yes, because his paid job at TCWP includes advocating the new water regulations.  An interview quoting Call doing his job includes:  TCWP "supports new codes for municipalities to require native plants and trees for landscaping, water-saving appliances, commodes, waterless urinals, insulation of hot water lines, whole-house manifolds and hot-water on-demand recirculating systems in any new home construction, Call said.  The county is undergoing the process of adopting such codes and he would like to see cities such as Tombstone and Bisbee require them for new construction.  Just how many acre feet will be saved is unknown, but if the Water Project's programs can be implemented and are successful, it's possible that 1,300 acre feet a year within the subwatershed can be saved, he said."  The Project's programs are what's advocated in the new water regulation.  See the article at
http://www.svherald.com/content/sierra-vista-news/2013/05/22/353553


2.  As to question 2, Call's interest is pecuniary -- cash.  He won't tell me how much he makes as Executive Director of TCWP, but I've heard that the max authorized for his position was $95K a year, though he might take only a portion of that because he's only part time.  For comparison purposes, the P&Z Commissioners who have the same conflict of interest -- Weissler and Cervantes -- each get $45,000 a year (Weissler, via payments to her husband) from groups pushing the water proposal; both Weissler and Cervantes were appointed to the Commission by Call, and Cervantes works directly under Call at TCWP.

3.  As to question 3, Call's interest is substantial.  State law says an interest is "substantial" if it's not listed as "remote."  A paid officer of a nonprofit corporation has a substantial interest, because the list of remote interests includes NONsalaried officers of nonprofit corporations.  See
.  http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/38/00502.htm&Title=38&DocType=ARS
And of course under ARS 11-222, Call's interest need not even be substantial.


D.  This isn't Call's first conflict of interest.

1.  In October 2013, he wrote to the County on behalf of the Upper San Pedro Partnership and The Cochise Water Project saying "We look forward to Cochise County ... being an active participant in ... protecting our valuable water resources."  See

.  http://agenda.cochise.az.gov/docs/2013/BOS/20130625_460/1335_Letters%20of%20Support.pdf

2.  Call went so far as to tell the head of the County Planning Department what his "colleagues" want, his "colleagues" apparently being other members of groups pushing the water proposal.  Here's Call's letter:
.  http://littlebigdog.net/PatCallInstructsBeverlyWilson.jpg


II.  SUPERVISOR CALL ALSO HAS A "CONFLICT OF COMMITMENT"


A.  A "conflict of commitment" is like a conflict of interest, but concerns time instead of money.  See
.  http://nau.edu/Comptroller/Conflict-of-Interest/examples/
which includes:
.  "Conflicts of commitment are those in which academic, professional and other obligations of an employee preclude the employee from spending the time required for her/his full-time commitment to the University.  Some examples include:
.     "membership by an employee on multiple boards ... could take that employee away from her/his job ... to the extent that the employee's full-time job obligations ... are not met;
.     "employment by another entity which is intended to be part-time, but which develops into a job which interferes with full-time duties ...."

B.  Supervisor Call has too many jobs to do justice to them.  The page at
.  http://cochise.az.gov/cochise_board_supervisors.aspx?id=910
lists many of Call's jobs, including Chair of the USPP, but oddly doesn't list his job as Executive Director of TCWP.  Sometimes he even works for other governments; see the newspaper article at
http://www.bisbeereview.net/content/sierra-vista-news/2013/05/27/353865

County Supervisor Call is administering Sierra Vista's toilet rebate program.  Even if his loyalties weren't divided, he can't do justice to his many jobs.


3, The aftermath


"We all imagine ourselves to be simultaneously clear-sighted and impenetrable; but, except when blinded by some infatuation, other people can see through us just as easily as we can see through them."  Aldous Huxley, The Devils Of Loudun, Chapter 4.


I.  Call, Cervantes, and Weissler aren't fooling anybody about money

A.  Weissler's husband makes $45,000 a year at the Friends Of the San Pedro River, Cervantes makes $45,000 a year at The Cochise Water Project, and $45,000 a year is an an educated guess at Call's salary at the Project.  Cervantes is subordinate to Call at the Project, and Call nominated Cervantes and Weissler to the Commission.

B.  "Any public officer ... who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any decision of a public agency shall ... refrain from participating in any manner ... in such decision."  ARS 38-503(B), at
. http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/38/00503.htm&Title=38&DocType=ARS

C.  "A.  A person who:
.  "1. Intentionally or knowingly violates any provision of sections 38-503 ... is guilty of a class 6 felony.
.  "2. Recklessly or negligently violates any provision of sections 38-503 ... is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.
"B.  A person found guilty of an offense described in subsection A ... shall forfeit his public office".  See ARS 38-510 at
. http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/38/00510.htm&Title=38&DocType=ARS


II.  Weissler isn't fooling anybody about abuse of power

A.  Commissioner Weissler has, as Chair, violated the Commission Bylaws to block timely discussion of her conflict of interest.  She says she can interpret the Bylaws to mean the opposite of what they say.  She has never offered a legal justification for her novel theory.  In my experience, when the County doesn't argue the law, it's because they know the law is against them.

B.  Any Commissioner may be removed by the Board Of Supervisors "for neglect of duty, inefficiency, or misconduct in office".  See Section 2 of the ordinance establishing the Commission, by scrolling down to page 3 at
http://www.littlebigdog.net/P&ZOrdinance.pdf


III.  County employee Beverly Wilson has been dragged down too.  When I followed Planning Department procedure and asked the Department to forward to the Planning & Zoning Commissioners an email about conflict of interest, Planning Department head Beverly Wilson actually stalled my email:  "Mike J asked me to send the same to the PnZ Commission -- I've stalled for Adam's opinion" (Adam being deputy county attorney Adam Ambrose).  See
.  http://littlebigdog.net/BeverlyWilsonStalls.jpg