My View

By Don Sorchych | October 21, 2009

canfield cartoon

Don Sorchych
• Carefree Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce
• Cave Creek town attorney

The rulers of the Carefree Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce have dumped Executive Director Ian Ellison from their organization. One Your View e-mail said it is about time.


We have written a fair amount about Ellison and he was ingratiated in the Good Old Boy (GOB) club. Carefree, last I heard, was granting the Chamber a $25,000 annual stipend and a piece of the action of the proceeds of the popular Thunderbird Artists event.
It is believed annual dues are over $100,000.

So this Chamber could afford paid employees, unlike Cave Creek’s Chamber, which is staffed by volunteers. Ellison was one of those paid employees.

Years ago when Tina Bruess was the head of the Carefree Chamber, the town of Cave Creek paid that chamber $25,000 each year. After she failed to report back to the council after promising to do so, she was fired, and since that time the Carefree Chamber has received no Cave Creek monetary support.

The Cave Creek Town Council asked the Black Mountain Merchants Association to assume the Chamber role. They did, changing their name to Cave Creek Merchants Chamber of Commerce, and until the economic crisis they received $25,000 yearly. Their main focus was funding fireworks on July 3 and 4 and several yearly fund raising events.

The Carefree Chamber unsuccessfully tried twice to regain Cave Creek funding. The last time was when Ellison tried to establish a visitor’s center in Cave Creek only to be defeated by then Cave Creek Chamber President Marc Peagler when he offered free facilities in Frontier Town.

Ellison remains bitter about that experience.

Marie Vale is the president elect of the Carefree Chamber and will be taking that seat in July 2010. The directors offered little about the termination but suggested I talk to Vale. Vale did say the decision by the executive committee to terminate was made prior to the Carefree council meeting on Oct. 6 when he showed his stripes as reported in an article by Linda Bentley.

In that meeting Ellison gave a quarterly report and among other things said, “We have one landlord more interested in recalling the mayor than having tenants.” He was referring to Rod de Szendeffy the property owner who underwrote the recall effort against Mayor David Schwan.

Councilman Bob Coady chided Ellison by saying, “I think the chamber should stay out of politics.”

The debate went on with Councilmen Coady and Doug Stavoe.

We are told by Vale the Chamber’s search so far consists of a posting on Craig’s list. If the Chamber wants an online search, is a bit more expensive but far better than Craig’s list.

Rumor has it that Ellison was offered two weeks termination pay if he would sign an agreement limiting his activities and he refused.

Let us not forget Ellison’s involvement with Cave Creek Councilman Dick Esser when Ellison allegedly suggested Esser run against Mayor Vincent Francia and promised substantial financial support from Carefree sources.

Ellison is one of several names given me along with ex-Mayor Ed Morgan who sought to have Sonoran News boycotted.

Anyone of these mentions of Ellison’s behavior is sufficient to give him the boot. So, was it those issues, or others yet unknown? We will try to find out before the name fades into history.

Town Attorneys

It is tough to find a good town attorney. Most attorneys seem to seek broader horizons.
In Carefree, for example, legal prowess is down the list from being one of, or backing the GOB insiders or outsiders.

Cave Creek’s history is long and arduous. But in my recollection the best was now deceased Bill Farrell.

Farrell was a professional town attorney here, in Fountain Hills and Queen Creek.

Cave Creek adopted Mariscal Weeks as their law firm after firm Attorney Gary Birnbaum was given hero status for his part in the successful purchase of Spur Cross Ranch. He did contribute but I can think of several who contributed mightily.

Attorney Fredda Bisman joined Mariscal Weeks after Scottsdale dumped her. Thanks to that background she was assigned to Cave Creek. Town complaints turned to howls and Mariscal Weeks took her back.

The town decided to go after Farrell, only to find Mariscal already had recruited him and he was assigned to Cave Creek. He was a wonderful man who served the town with distinction.
After Bill died, Cliff Mattice was assigned to Cave Creek. Mattice often didn’t have answers and needed study. The invoices for these studies showed Bisman and others charged as well as Mattice.

When the economic collapse came, Town Manager Usama Abujbarah budgeted $7,500 per month for legal fees each month though legal bills were higher.

When Abujbarah complained Mariscal began sending invoices to Francia’s home. Town Clerk Carrie Dyrek told them she wouldn’t pay invoices unless they came to the town’s address.
Abujbarah asked the council to seek outside bids for legal council. They voted to do that and Requests For Quotations (RFQs) have been sent.

Apparently Birnbaum is calling “selective” council members to complain about Abujbarah, making it personal. Abujbarah’s complaint is about competency and cost.

Since the law firm reports to council and not the town manager Abujbarah cannot fire the firm.

But we believe Birnbaum has contacted four council members, a majority.

Both Francia and Councilman Ralph Mozilo are Mariscal Weeks fanciers and in their eyes can do no wrong.

Both of them were contacted as was newbie Adam Trenk (taught in law school by Birnbaum).

The fourth is Councilman Dick Esser who says he is for the RFQ’s and wants a look at what is possible. His past studies show Mariscal Weeks overcharged and he says Birnbaum had promised to “fix it.”

The issue will doubtless come to a vote. Cave Creek has needed a committed town lawyer, but not full time. They also need flexibility to use law firms of choice for specific issues and problems.

Bill Farrells are hard to find but there is one out there somewhere.