Investigation puts Berman's support at risk - East Valley Tribune: News

Investigation puts Berman's support at risk

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Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 5:42 pm | Updated: 10:48 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The financial support of developers that fueled Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman's past political fortunes may be at risk amid accusations from his estranged wife that he physically abused her for years.

Some of Berman's key supporters who forked over big money in past campaigns are noncommittal about supporting the Gilbert mayor as long as he remains the subject of a domestic violence investigation.

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Berman, who is up for re-election in March, has not been arrested or charged with any crime. Last week, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office wrapped up its investigation of the Gilbert mayor and handed it over to the county attorney's office where it remains under review.

"I can't say what I'm going to do right now," said Bill Lund, one of the town's biggest developers and an ardent Berman backer. "It's a very personal question and we'll have to wait and see."

Lund and his wife have been regular contributors to Berman's campaign since he was elected mayor in 2001. Financial support from the Lunds and other developers has been crucial for Berman, who has had trouble currying favor among the town's business community.

Other donors from prominent development firms such as Vestar Development Co., Utaz Development Corp., Westcor and others either did not return phone calls or refused to say whether they would break out their checkbooks for Berman's next mayoral run.

"To be honest, I'm not that familiar with what's going on with him so I can't say what we're planning on doing," said David Larcher, executive vice president of Vestar. Last year, his company hosted a fundraiser that raised thousands of dollars for Berman, according to campaign financial records.

Neither Berman nor his political consultant Chris Baker returned numerous phone calls for this story.

Berman has repeatedly said he plans to run for re-election. The election is still eight months away, and potential contenders have until Dec. 1 to file for the election, according to the town clerk's office.

Since 2000, Berman has raked in about $60,000 from developers.

While the development community may be distancing itself from Berman, some town residents maintained their support of the mayor and said they would be willing to hand him cash for any future campaign. Karl Kohlhoff, who ran unsuccessfully for the state Legislature in 2006, said he'd gladly donate to help out Berman.

"Steve has a lot of good points," he said. "I don't think his personal problems should affect what he's doing."

Two years ago, Berman recruited Kohlhoff to run against state Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert. Berman was angry at Verschoor for backing legislation that forced the city to provide fire service for thousands of people living outside the town limits. The bill eventually passed.

Berman recently nominated Kohlhoff for admittance to the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame. Berman also has nominated Kohlhoff for numerous town boards and commissions.

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