Councilwoman under fire for indecorous ‘whereases’

Eileen Wright
Eileen Wright
Boy Scout Troop 15
Boy Scout Troop 15

CAVE CREEK – Vice Mayor Ron Sova invited Boy Scout Troop 15 to Monday night’s council meeting to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Town Attorney Bill Sims explained to the scouts that, by attending the council meeting, they were witnessing the best form of government in action.

Mayor Ernie Bunch said he was reminded by Planning Commissioner Paul Eelkema that the revision of the general plan was still underway and if people have any comments or suggestions they wish to have incorporated, they should submit them to the planning department.

Ron Sova and Ernie Bunch

Sova presented Bunch with a certificate of recognition for his 12 years of service on council from the League of Cities and Towns.


Councilwoman Eileen Wright requested the only two general agenda items.

The first item was a new attempt to revise the town ordinance pertaining to grease, oil and sand interceptors, otherwise known as grease traps, by requiring quarterly inspections by the town with written reports submitted to the town manager.

Wright said council addressed the same issue months ago but it failed by a vote of 6-1.

She said the ordinance, as written, cannot be enforced and the revised ordinance will mandate quarterly inspections.

Wright said there have been no inspections for the past three years.

Of the recent inspections, she stated five out of eight failed with only Harold’s, the Roadhouse and Oak’s Diner passing.

Wright stated the last time this was brought forward there was misinformation such as, “Who do we put in jail for not following?”

Wright said no one goes to jail.

She stated, “We have a huge problem with our grease interceptors. This puts teeth into the ordinance.

Councilman David Smith said, “I have some concerns with some of the ‘whereases.’ I think we need to be more decorous in the way we word this.”

Smith was referring to the cover page of the ordinance presented by Wright to be signed by the mayor, town manager and town attorney, if passed, which contained six paragraphs of explanation beginning with “Whereas.”

Wright’s explanations chastised the town by stating it has “demonstrated its inability or refusal to enforce the grease trap ordinance … failure to enforce the grease trap ordinance has resulted in the residents of Cave Creek having to pay $305,000 for manhole covers eaten up by hydrogen sulfide gas cause by grease … utility staff ignored the May 1, 2017 mandate of the mayor to report to council at the first council meeting in June how Cave Creek manages its grease compared to other municipalities … restaurants and other users subject to the sewer ordinance have been enjoying a ‘free ride’ with resulting severe damage to the town’s sewer system and substantial expenditures by the town due to this noncompliance.”

Smith said the ordinance does not say whether the grease traps are utilized properly.

Wright replied, “We don’t micromanage what they do when they inspect.”

Sova, responding to the third “Whereas” addressing manholes, said, “Some of these are 40 years old” and replacement was included in the capital improvement plan (CIP).

He stated the dollar amount cited by Wright could be misleading, although he acknowledged grease can accelerate deterioration.

Town Engineer David Peterson said the CIP calls for replacing eight to 10 manholes per year.

Thomas McGuire
Thomas McGuire

Councilman Thomas McGuire said he didn’t have a problem with the ordinance but stated, “The wording casts aspersions on the town.”

McGuire suggested the issue should be handled by the town manager, indicating it was more of a policy concern.

Bunch asked Peterson what was meant by his department ignoring the previous request and how many inspections had been done to date.

Peterson said it was not really being ignored but that his department was “running pretty thin” and they have completed 11 inspections.

McGuire stated the revision to the ordinance “formalizes a procedure” and asked, “Does this meet what needs to be done?”

Peterson explained quarterly inspections might be too few for some establishments and too frequent for others.

McGuire suggested it just be a policy handled by the town manager so it can be adjusted as needed.

Sova stated the “whereases” were written up as part of the ordinance, so it was not just adding a paragraph.

Wright insisted the “whereases” were not part of the ordinance.

Sova asked her, “Then why does it have lines for three signatures?”

McGuire asked Town Manager Carrie Dyrek if staff could come up with suggested changes.

Dyrek said they were looking at updating the town code and this would just be one part.

Wright’s motion to pass the first reading of the ordinance failed by a vote of 3-4 with Sova, Smith, McGuire and Bunch dissenting.

Bunch said he would like to have staff come up with something in the next month or so.

Dyrek said she can come up with a policy based on high users and low users for inspection schedules.

Councilwoman Mary Elrod asked how long that would take.

Dyrek said it should take about two weeks.

Wright’s second agenda item had to do with finding out the status of the town’s 12-year old application to BLM (Bureau of Land Management) to procure the rodeo grounds, which is currently leased to Maricopa County and subleased to the town.

Wright said the town entered into the sublease with the county in 2003 and in 2005 it submitted an application to BLM, endorsed by the county, to purchase the rodeo grounds.

She said this is just asking staff to investigate the status of that application.

Smith stated, “Knowing government, anything that is 12 years old is probably archived. I’m pretty sure the status is nil.”

Wright said the town is making substantial investments in the rodeo grounds and felt the town should own it.

Smith said the real question is whether the town wants to obtain the rodeo grounds.

Dyrek said, according to Maricopa County Department of Parks and Recreation Director R.J. Cardin, the current lease had just gone to BLM in 2014.

Wright said, “This has nothing to do with Maricopa County at all. It’s between the town and BLM.”

Noting this was the first year the town has ever received any revenue ($10,000 plus another $7,800 in facility fees from ticket sales) from the new group operating the rodeo, Sova said, since the lease has 15 more years to go, they should give it a few more years to see how it goes with the rodeo and revenue, believing they would otherwise be “jumping the gun.”

Bunch questioned if it couldn’t be accomplished as a patent land grant.

Sims said the downside of trying to obtain the 20-acre rodeo grounds from BLM might be having to pay something for it.

Wright’s motion to direct staff failed by a vote of 2-5 with Wright and Elrod voting in favor.