Gilbert paid outside attorneys $22,080 to investigate allegations of ethics violations against the mayor.
The report, released two weeks ago, cleared Mayor Brigette Peterson of all violations claimed in five separate complaints filed by three residents and an employee. The report, however, pointed to a few instances where the mayor failed to use good judgment.
The town initially hired Fitzgibbons Law Offices in Casa Grande, which worked from June 10 to July 22 and was paid $864 before it was removed from the investigation.
The Town made the switch to another firm after receiving complaints from the public that Gilbert had hired Fitzgibbons for other jobs.
While finding the criticism about integrity and neutrality groundless, the Town attorney transferred the matter to another attorney in order to “protect the integrity of the investigation.”
Tucson attorney Frank Cassidy took the job and billed the Town $21,216 for his services from July to Sept. 30, according to town billing statements.
Cassidy’s work included analyzing the ethics complaints, email exchanges, phone calls and zoom meetings with all the parties involved and writing the report, according to invoices.
The ethics complaints included charges that the mayor showed bias when she shared residents’ information with a developer that worked on her campaign, she went after an employee who works in the department that created the town logo because of her dislike of the symbol and that she attempted a power grab with a failed proposal to give the mayor the ability to limit public speakers.
Peterson served 14 years on the Planning Commission and was into her second term on the council when she resigned and ran for mayor last year.
Midway through her first year, along with the filed complaints, sign-carrying Morrison Ranch residents showed up at Council meeting demanding she resign.
The residents perceived Peterson as working with Howard Morrison, who in March proposed to increase the number of units in an apartment project in the community. Morrison not only co-chaired Peterson’s mayoral campaign but was one of her largest donors with a $6,000 contribution to her war chest.
Although the investigation cleared Peterson of all claims of wrongdoing, there could be fallout at the ballot box.
The Town is going to the voters Nov. 2 for approval on a $515-million transportation and infrastructure bond. Ballots have already gone out in the all-mail election.
Brandon Ryff, who filed one of the ethics complaints and was disappointed with the report’s findings, said the “level of frustration on the part of the residents with what’s been going on and the lack of transparency all goes into why give a thumbs up over $500 million when we are seeing responses like this come from the investigation.”
The ethics report is expected to go to Council for review but it is unclear when that will happen, although the attorney has recommended no formal action be taken against the mayor.