Candidates walk out of debate

As the Mayoral Candidates wound up their part of the debate at Cave Creek Town Hall on July 10, debate promoter, Councilwoman Mary Elrod, who is not running for re-election, played a video from a Town Council work session on the General Plan. In the video Eileen Wright made a statement saying she wasn’t a lawyer. Ernie Bunch quipped, “No, but you stayed with one last night. Wright’s husband is the Town Attorney for Carefree. Wright said she didn’t get advice from him. Elrod, in the video, addressed Mayor Bunch saying she thought his comment was inappropriate.

Comments from the audience called the playing of the video, “a set-up,” and “a political ad for a captive audience.” Several requested that Bunch be allowed to speak to give his side. Moderator Larry Scaringelli would not allow any more video to be played. He spoke to Sonoran News after the meeting, saying that had he known about the video, he would never have permitted it to be played.

Mayor Bunch was then given chance to respond to the video. He explained it had been a long work session. He had hoped to add a little levity when Councilwoman Wright said she wasn’t a lawyer by borrowing from the hotel commercial and saying “No, but you stayed with one last night.” He reiterated that Wright’s husband is Carefree’s Town Attorney.

Tom Augherton, a Town Council candidate, got up and left the building. Mayor Bunch also left shortly thereafter. Augherton later told Sonoran News he was disgusted by the showing of the video, calling Elrod’s actions disappointing. He said he was tired of high school pranks like this causing people to view Cave Creek as a laughing stock. Several candidates later said they would not be attending any more of Elrod’s scheduled debates. Elrod has since cancelled the remaining debates.

At the start of the meeting, moderator attorney Larry Scaringelli, who had served as Cave Creek Municipal Court Judge before the Cave Creek and Carefree Courts merged, said the questions had been supplied by Elrod. Several of the 40 – 50 attendees voiced concerns over bias in the questions as Elrod is a financial contributor to Wright’s campaign.

Most of the questions were very similar to questions that have already been asked at previous debates. Some of the highlights:

Eileen Wright – Voted no on Soberman’s Estate, won’t use three minute limit in meetings, said can’t let biker bars determine the path of the town, and she will be for residents then businesses.

Ernie Bunch – Let the staff do their jobs don’t micromanage, keep the town rural, worked to reduce size of Cahava development down to 233 lots on 900 acres, and he supports business as 38 percent of town revenue comes from sales tax.

Susan Clancy – Touted her experience on the council and previous service on the school board, said need to keep business in the commercial core and leave zoning as it is.

Paul Diefenderfer – Get more people involved in the town, don’t just say things – do things, and the answer to up-zoning is no.

Reg Monachino – Increase economic development and in-fill the town core, sell Desert Hills Water Company, and reduce town debt.

Bob Morris – Water is biggest issue, he has the technical experience and management experience to deal with the water issue, work to increase residents’ trust in the town.

Kathryn Royer – Knows the water business, worked 20 years at Central Arizona Project, need to bank water, and encourage business development in commercial zoned areas for more tax revenues.

David Smith – Has gotten things done while serving the town on the Water Advisory Committee, Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Town Council. Worked to reduce commercial corridor on Carefree Highway from two lots deep to one.

Ron Sova – Talk to staff and find their needs to get their jobs done properly, keep zoning as it is to maintain low density, and as an incumbent he has a much better understanding of how things work and why they do or don’t work in the town.


In the August 1 Sonoran News article on the July 24 Cave Creek Candidates debate it says that the moderator did not know of the video. The moderator did know of the video. He said he did not have control of the video.