Richardson: Arredondo left giant black mark on Tempe - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Richardson: Arredondo left giant black mark on Tempe

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

Posted: Friday, October 19, 2012 8:12 am | Updated: 2:21 pm, Wed Jan 23, 2013.

Ex-Tempe City Council member Ben Arredondo is nothing more than a crooked politician who took advantage of his position of power for personal gain.

On Oct. 5, Arredondo, a member of the Tempe City Council from 1994 to 2010 and at that time a member of the State Leglislature since 2010, pled guilty in U. S. District Court in Phoenix to felony charges involving bribery and misappropriating scholarship funds. A plea agreement made with the U.S. Attorney’s Office recommends he serve 27 to 51 months in prison, and Arredondo subsequently gave up his senate seat.

Arredondo reportedly took $6,000 worth of bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as developers who wanted to do business in Tempe and diverted $50,000 in scholarship funds to family members.

The story continues to make headlines.

The Arizona Republic reported on July 14 Tempe Vice Mayor Joel Navarro, Council members Corey Woods and Robin Arredondo-Savage — Ben Arredondo’s niece — also met with Arredondo and undercover FBI agents and that longtime City of Tempe lobbyist Mike Williams could be tied to the FBI probe. Navarro, Woods, Arredondo-Savage and Williams have not been charged criminally.

A May 16 story reported Arredondo “accepted expensive tickets to sporting events from Fiesta Bowl executives after helping the bowl secure a $6.45 million subsidy from Tempe in 2005.” No charges were filed in this case against Arredondo or a host of other elected officials who were playing patty-cake with the Fiesta Bowl.

Several Fiesta Bowl officials have pled guilty to crimes. And a story from May 2011 said “Arredondo was intimately involved with ASU, Insight and the Fiesta Bowl, he was continually involved in negotiations. Arredondo also was close to Gary Husk, who, in addition to lobbying for the Fiesta Bowl, had been a paid consultant for Tempe.”

According to the December 2002 Los Vecinos Newsletter (download a PDF copy at evtnow.com/4f1), a Feb 24, 2005 East Valley Tribune story and Tempe records, Husk was paid a total of nearly $500,000 for consulting work at the police department and the city’s diversity office from 2002 to 2007.

Husk is reportedly under criminal investigation.

Besides being a crook, Arredondo was a Godfather-like figure in Tempe who used his political power to dictate as much city policy as possible. He also used his power to promote those in his camp of followers. His tentacles reached far and had a powerful grip. He pretty much got what he wanted most of the time.

An Oct. 5 Arizona Republic story quoted Arredondo as telling undercover FBI agents, “You guys will ask, you guys will have. I don’t know how else to say it. We’ll be just fine because not only we’re covered at the city, we’re covered now at the state.” His statement tells me he was confident the fake developers were going to get what they needed in Tempe even with his new presence at the legislature.

I have to wonder if the behind the scenes meeting between Arredondo, council members, purported developers and maybe even city staff is how Tempe does the people’s business on a regular basis? It’s obvious someone involved in the Arredondo meetings with undercover FBI agents knew a payoff was necessary to get the Tempe project done.

Is this is how Arredondo always did the people’s business?

Arredondo joins a growing list of corrupt Arizona officials. He’s the second Tempe official convicted of corruption charges. In 1994, City Magistrate Stephen Mirretti pled guilty to bribery and fraud. Mirretti’s circle of powerful friends included officials at city hall and the police department, just like Arredondo’s.

As best I can tell, Tempe could hold the record for city officials going to prison. It may also hold the record for the highest crime rate around. Corruption and crime usually go hand in hand.

Ben Arredondo the crook has left a giant black mark on Tempe. A black mark city officials have yet to show it doesn’t deserve.

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