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City opts to not renew Husk’s contract

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Gary Husk and his firm, Husk Partners, represented the city on major legal issues, including the Phoenix Coyotes and the proposed tribal casino, since 2005. The city recently said it will not be renewing Husk's $120,000 annual contract.

Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2011 1:00 am

City Manager Ed Beasley recently said that the City of Glendale does not plan on renewing its annual contract with lobbyist Gary Husk. The $120,000 contract, which was set to expire at the end of this year, is currently up for bid. A spokesperson from the city said the it plans to choose a new state lobbyist from bids received this month, making a decision in January.

Husk and his firm, Husk Partners, represented the City of Glendale since 2005 on a gamut of major issues affecting the West Valley, including the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes and the proposed tribal casino. Most of the issues Husk's firm was involved with were legal in nature.

Husk was most widely known for his position of head lobbyist for the Fiesta Bowl. The college bowl football game was the pride of the city until it became shrouded in scandal roughly six months ago.

Reports surfaced following several investigations, which revealed campaign financing and misappropriation of funds by the Fiesta Bowl last March.

"Mr. Husk has failed to live up to the highest standards of the city. The city deserves to terminate his contract immediately." -- Walt Opaska, Glendale mayoral candidate

The Arizona Attorney General's Office, Internal Revenue Service, and the State Bar of Arizona all conducted investigations of Husk and Fiesta Bowl personnel. A recent investigation from the Arizona State Bar included statements from Fiesta Bowl employees that said Husk instructed them on how to answer specific questions relating to political campaign donations.

Early allegations last March claimed Fiesta Bowl executives cajoled co-workers and staff to make political donations, which were met with bonus checks. Other allegations claimed Husk's firm may have misused funds for the Fiesta Bowl to afford lavish vacations, personal expenses, birthday parties, and monetary gifts to people in public office, and other questionable agreements and contract salaries.

Walter Opaska, a mayoral candidate in the upcoming City of Glendale election, addressed council during its regular meeting Nov. 22, denouncing the city's failure to remove Husk sooner.

"I come before you tonight to ask you to hold the city council and Glendale's employees and contractors to the highest ethical standards," he said. "Specifically, I'm referring to Glendale's lobbyist, Gary Husk. Mr. Husk has failed to live up to the highest standards of the city. The city deserves to terminate his contract immediately.

"There is clear evidence that Mr. Husk was involved in these scandals and has not lived up to the standards that Glendale expects from its employees and contractors. For this reason, it's outrageous that we continue paying him $10,000 a month to lobby on behalf of the city. For this reason, I ask the city, specifically Mr. Ed Beasley the city manager, to terminate his contract and we go ahead with people who live up to the highest ethical standards."

Mayor Elaine Scruggs offered Beasley the chance to respond to Opaska's claims, but Beasley said that it was a legal matter and that he was unprepared to speak at that time.

Opaska was quick to take credit for acting as a catalyst in Husk's removal. He released a statement Nov. 28 saying, "I applaud Glendale for following my lead and doing what is right."

However, the city contends Husk's contract was going to expire at the end of the year anyway. A spokesperson for the city said the contract ended because it was going to expire and essentially self-terminate within the next month.

The city council renewed Husk's contract in 2009 for a period of three years, allowing Beasley the ability to renew the agreement each year.

Beasley and city staff are now going through the arduous task of sifting through the public Request for Proposal (RFP) process. The RFP process is an early stage during a procurement process where an invitation is offered for suppliers, usually through a bidding process. Proposals are submitted in response to a specific service being requested.

The city is remaining tight-lipped about who is up for consideration until the decision is closer to being finalized. It is the city's preference at this point to not speak about it publicly until the process is complete.

Individuals and various firms have submitted their qualifications to the city. Beasley is in charge of overseeing the process and making a decision with staff. A panel then sits down and evaluates each of the candidates, makes a recommendation, and then the contract goes before council for a vote during a regular public meeting. The issue will come to council before the next legislative session begins, in early to mid-January. A spokesperson for the city said there are several companies who are part of the lobbying process, although the spokesperson would not say how many exactly, or who is being considered.

Glendale Marketing and Communications Director Julie Frisoni said the city is not at liberty to reveal more information regarding possible candidates because they are currently in the throes of the process.

"For us to speak about it publicly right now, in our mind, may influence that process in some way," she said. "It's just not appropriate right now, while we are going through this bidding process, to discuss who is being considered and who is not. We just want to make it as fair as possible for the parties being considered."

Husk's contract with the city paid $120,000 annually and approximately $10,000 per month. Should the new lobbyist or firm hired handle similar issues and cover as many positions, a spokesperson with the city said the salary would remain approximately the same.

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