Allegations of intimidation disrupt Phoenix City Hall

PHOENIX — City Council members on Monday declined a request on behalf of City Manager Jane Turner to hold a public hearing over allegations that council President Stan Bartell had attempted to intimidate and coerce her.

It was the latest in a string of allegations against Bartell, who is the subject of a complaint by Mayor Carlos DeBritto over alleged violations of the city charter.

The Monday meetings came after DeBritto said Bartell had inappropriately contacted a former employee to discuss city business and had requested closed executive sessions on topics that could not be closed to the public. The mayor said both actions violated the city charter.

Rather than hold a public hearing to review the allegations, the council voted to hold mediation sessions, if the parties involved would agree to it.

More fuel was added to the fire over DeBritto's complaints when City Attorney Kurt Knudsen received a letter late last week from Turner's attorney, Sydnee Dreyer. Dreyer alleged "serious violations" of the city's employment contract with Turner, who attended Monday's meeting in the audience.

Dreyer, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, stated in her letter that Turner had faced, "significant pressure, intimidation and coercion by Councilman Stan Bartell with regard to her management of city employees and whether certain employees should be disciplined and/or terminated."

Dreyer said such conduct violated the city charter as well as Turner's employment contract.

The letter stated that Turner, 68, had also "been subjected to a hostile work environment and has been subjected to a great deal of stress as a result of the conduct of at least two council members in addition to discrimination on the basis of her age."

Turner told the City Council in February that she planned to resign at the end of this year, six months before her contract is supposed to end. When former Councilman Gordon Sievers resigned Jan. 31, he cited mistreatment of city staff as one reason for leaving and suggested that Turner had decided to resign over similar concerns.

Bartell, who declined to comment Tuesday, previously acknowledged in an email to a reporter that he had called the former employee but denied that he had done anything beyond thanking the unidentified former employee and asking the reason for the employee's departure. He said the former employee declined to discuss the reason.

On Monday, DeBritto said the former employee had a different description of the conversation with Bartell. DeBritto said that contact and Bartell's requests for inappropriate executive sessions were clear violations of the city charter and "grounds for removal from office" by a majority of the council at a public hearing.

But the council opted instead for mediation sessions "if all parties are amicable." Turner did not immediately indicate whether she would agree to mediation.

The meeting, which lasted less than 30 minutes, was held at the city's public works annex with more than two dozen audience members, including at least a half-dozen former council members.

During the meeting, DeBritto named Chris Luz as the second council member who had joined Bartell in requesting the executive sessions. Luz said Tuesday that discussion of charter violations were unfounded and that mediation would resolve any issues.

"Stan Bartell is a great friend to the city of Phoenix and it's too bad that personality conflicts and political grudges are being used to try to remove an effective councilman," said Luz.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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