In a move aimed at Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman, the local arm of the Republican Party is urging Town Council members to adopt a code of ethics for themselves.
Members of the District 22 Republican committee, which represents the town and a small portion of Mesa in the state party, unanimously passed a resolution Thursday that states, in part, “certain elected officials paid by the town of Gilbert have behaved without regard to ethical norms.”
The resolution comes after the mayor appeared in a full-page ad for a Dillard’s grand opening shopping event. In the ad, which ran in the Oct. 7 Tribune, Berman appears in a $1,200 suit that he was allowed to keep for free.
“They’re aiming at the mayor, there’s no question,” said Councilman Don Skousen, who attended the committee meeting.
Berman said Tuesday he’s willing to consider such a policy but questions whether the committee should be making the resolution.
“We can sure look at it,” he said. “I’m not sure we won’t do something on it, but at this point I think District 22 needs to clean up their own house before they go looking in someone else’s.”
Berman has repeatedly defended accepting the suit.
“Being mayor is considered a part-time job,” Berman said. “I am allowed to earn money outside of my job as mayor. If the suit had been given to me by a lobbyist or a zoning attorney, that would certainly create some ‘what the hell is going on here?’”
Skousen said he was surprised by the Dillard’s ad but didn’t have a problem with it.
“It may be time to take a look at (an ethics policy),” Skousen said. “A lot of times, you put things in place to avoid problems. This may just be enough of an issue to take a look at it.”
The committee also considered Berman’s acceptance of the use of a pickup truck donated to the town by San Tan Ford when it opened its doors at the new Santan Motorplex in Gilbert, committee chairman Craig Nelson said.
Berman defended that decision, which gives him the use of the truck for two years, stating the move saves the town money because it won’t have to pay for the truck with tax money.
Berman is a Republican, but Town Council seats are nonpartisan and are not subject to political party authority.
Councilman Les Presmyk had not heard about the committee’s resolution when contacted.
“I don’t have a problem with it at all,” he said. “Other councils have put those in force.”
In Mesa, elected officials are asked to review the ethics of any gift donated to the town and question whether it “comes from someone with business before the city or which may come before the city.”
Phoenix’s ethics policy, considered the strictest in the Valley, prohibits the donation of a vehicle for the mayor’s use, city officials said.
Not all Gilbert council members contacted seemed to favor an ethics policy.
“At this point in time, I think the worst trouble the mayor is in is self-imposed, and I don’t think it impacts the rest of the council,” Councilwoman Joan Krueger said. “I don’t think it expands to reflect badly on the town.”