“There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity!”
— Harvey “Big Daddy” Pollitt (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof)
Last month, the Tempe City Council voted 5-2 to fire city manager Charles “Charlie” Meyer. Mayor Mark Mitchell told KPHO the majority of the council “had concerns over communications with Meyer.” Councilmember Shana Ellis said Meyer had allegedly “lied to her.”
Former Mayor Hugh Hallman handpicked Meyer. Only Hallman loyalists Onnie Sherkerjian and Kolby Granville sang Meyer’s praises. Meyer was city manager for over five years and during much of the former mayor’s regime.
Meyer was AWOL for the meeting even though his duties required attendance. On the Friday before, Meyer sent an email to all city employees touting Mother Teresa and acting the good guy and portraying the council as the bad guys.
Lying, suborning or tolerating a lie by an employee deserves firing.
While Meyer had his supporters, one need only look at the facts about Tempe.
According to the ‘City Comparison Guide’ at azcentral.com, Tempe has the highest crime rate, spends more on policing, has fewer swimming pools and libraries per resident, has the highest city revenues and spends the most when compared to Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and even Phoenix. Surrounding cities are doing a much better job than Tempe and they’re doing it with less. Throw in the rising utility rates and tax increases and I’d say Meyer hasn’t done Tempe well.
His questionable ability to properly run Tempe doesn’t stop there.
In a May 12, 2012, column, Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic examined trumped up allegations of criminal conduct by then city council member and mayoral candidate Mitchell. Roberts brought to the public’s attention and Meyer’s crossing an ethical and professional line. She wrote, “Even Tempe City Manager Charlie Meyer got into the act, asking Phoenix City Manager David Cavazos when the (police) report would be out. Meyer is tight with Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman, who has endorsed (Michael) Monti, (the other mayoral candidate).”
City managers aren’t supposed to meddle in ongoing police investigations, especially those in other jurisdictions.
Hallman also oversaw the hiring of the current Tempe police chief. A single in-house candidate was interviewed for the chief’s job. The chief answers to the city manager.
It’s no secret in city government that whoever controls the police department, controls the city.
While Meyer was concerning himself with the mayor’s race and the trumped up charges against Mitchell, Tempe police were dealing with real crime problems.
Besides the extra high crime rate, nearly double the statewide average, Tempe police have been in the headlines over officers stealing evidence and city property, mishandling evidence and crime reports and in December, KPHO reported Tempe police failed to properly investigate multiple serious crimes including rape, robbery and murder. Last November KNXV reported police didn’t submit 363 sexual assault kits for examination by the crime lab that could help identify rapists. And Tempe police have yet to solve the March 2012 mass shooting of sixteen concertgoers.
Meyer and his leadership team — known by some around City Hall as “Charlie’s Angels” — have delivered a less than quality product to residents and business owners. In a few short years, Tempe has gone from the city every other city wanted to be like to the city they’re glad they aren’t.
With Meyer gone the challenge for Mitchell and the city council will be to find someone who is experienced, qualified and willing to stop Tempe’s downward spiral and bring it back to equal footing with neighboring cities.
In the end Meyer’s legacy will be one of high crime and taxes, declining city service’s and quality of life, poor performance and a mendaciously powerful odor coming from Tempe City Hall.
Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.