As the deadline of a vote for the $17.9 million Sedona Fire District bond rears its head, opponents have filed a formal complaint to the Sedona Fire District Governing Board for potential conflict of interest.
In June, the board voted in favor for the plan that would replace Station 4 in Uptown and Station 5 in Oak Creek Canyon. Registered voters must mail in or drop off ballots by Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Sedona Advocates for Emergency Responders, or SAFER Sedona, a political action committee that has been running a campaign in favor of the bond, has come under fire from opponents after an October Yavapai County campaign finance report revealed the PAC has received $17,750 in donations from construction companies based in the Phoenix metropolitan area. SAFER Sedona mostly used the donated funds for advertising, booths and T-shirts.
In the 2017 third quarter, between Aug. 13 and Sept. 30, these companies contributed $17,500 to the PAC. CORE Construction contributed the majority of the funds with $9,500. CORE also was the firm that quoted the total cost of construction contracts to the SFD Citizens Advisory Committee. Six other Phoenix construction companies contributed a combined total of $8,250:
- Sun Valley Masonry contributed $2,500
- Pete King Construction contributed $2,000
- Wholesale Floors contributed $1,500
- Progressive Services contributed $1,000
- T Bar H Desert Horizon contributed $1,000
- Interstate Interior Systems contributed $250
T Bar H Desert Horizon President Steve Howell, who said his company works with CORE, said it is common practice for CORE to contribute to bonds in different cities. “CORE is going to be doing some work up there, and that’s what we do,” he said. CORE did not return calls for comment.
In 2004, CORE raised $32,000 at a fundraiser for a Citizens for a Maricopa County Community Colleges bond campaign to pass Proposition 401 to fund capital improvements and renovations.
Sponsors at the fundraising event also included Sun Valley Masonry and Wholesale Floors. The bond passed by more than 75 percent. Residents with a $100,000 property value saw their property taxes increase $15.83 annually as a result of the bond passage.
In 2012, Maricopa County Colleges opened its Integrated Education Building at GateWay Community College. The facility features science labs, classrooms, an indoor and outdoor art studio, and other amenities. CORE was the contractor behind the construction of the facility.
In 2013, CORE donated $5,000 to the Yes Yes for Prescott Education PAC, according to a November 2013 article in The Daily Courier. The article quoted former Prescott Unified School District Chief Financial Officer Renee Raskin saying that while CORE has worked with the district in the past, “how much they contributed or didn’t contribute would [not be] part of our decision-making process in selecting a vendor.”
Although CORE shows a history of getting involved in bond measures all over Arizona, Wendy Tanzer, who helped establish SAFER Sedona, said the PAC approached CORE, not the other way around.
“We approached them because we wanted the bond to go through and we don’t have deep pockets, so we had to seek outside funding,” she said.
Having CORE quote the estimates of the construction costs was all part of the process, she added. Tanzer said there will be an open bidding process for a contractor if the bond passes, and that while CORE would certainly be considered, all contractors have the opportunity to bid.
“CORE is concerned about public safety,” she said. “There is no correlation between how much they contribute and whether or not they’ll be selected in the bidding process.”
According to the November Pre-Election Report, in addition to construction companies, SAFER Sedona also received donations of $2,910 from fire district union PACs all over Arizona:
- Daisy Mountain Firefighters PAC contributed $1,000. Coincidentally, CORE is building a new fire station for Daisy Mountain set to open this month.
- United Flagstaff PAC Fund contributed $410.
- Sedona Verde Valley Firefighters Association PAC contributed $500.
- Tucson Firefighters Association PAC contributed $1,000
Tanzer said it was common for fire district unions in the state to band together whenever a fire district bond comes up on the ballot in another city.