The conflicts of interest
shared by Cochise County Supervisor
and County Planning & Zoning Commissioners
Liza Weissler and Tim Cervantes
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
up to them.
1, For Commissioners Weissler and Cervantes:
2, For Supervisor Call:
I. CALL HAS A CONFLICT OF INTEREST
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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:
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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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