Scottsdale’s transportation director resigned and a subordinate was fired after a city investigation found they had violated policies regarding conflict of interest.
An investigation by the city’s human resources department found the Transportation Director Paul Basha and Transportation Planning and Transit Programs Manager Lisa Johnson had failed to properly administer a contract awarded to Jerry Johnson, Lisa Johnson’s husband.
The Progress obtained a copy of the report through a public records request.
According to a report sent by Human Resources Executive Director Donna Brown to Assistant City Manager Bill Murphy, the city was aware a contract for Americans with Disabilities Act and Federal Transit Administration compliance was issued to Jerry Johnson, but both Basha and Lisa Johnson failed to follow the agreed-upon terms meant to address conflict of interest issues.
Purchasing Director Robert Schoepe took steps to avoid potential violations of city rules prior to awarding the contract by having both Basha and Lisa Johnson sign non-conflict of interest statements.
Though Lisa Johnson would typically administer this type of contract otherwise, she and Basha agreed Johnson “would not be involved in direct decision making and items for the contract should go through Paul (Basha) as the supervisor and contract administrator,” according to the HR report.
However, the HR investigation found Basha and Johnson later disregarded those guidelines.
The report said Johnson had significant involvement in administering the contract that was eventually awarded to her husband, including “developing the scope of work and forms for use by the contractor, identifying and conducting outreach to potential contractors, and making decisions and communicating once the contractor was selected caused an appearance of impropriety.”
Brown found Basha and Johnson violated city policies and ethical standards, including Administrative Regulation AR 320, which sets ethical standards for city employees.
Basha submitted a resignation letter to Brown on September 13, two weeks before the investigation report was submitted to Assistant City Attorney Bill Murphy on Sept. 25.
“I apologize for this abrupt, impersonal and unprofessional notification. However, very recent events have created the need for my immediate resignation,” according to the letter.
Basha was the city’s transportation director since 2013 and had previously worked for the city for nearly 16 years from 1984 to 2000.
The city fired Lisa Johnson, said city spokesperson Kelly Corsette.
Corsette declined to comment further on the situation surrounding Johnson’s firing.
The HR investigation indicates Basha found the rules meant to prevent a conflict of interest “burdensome without benefit.”
According to the HR report, Basha said he had Johnson respond to emails from her husband about the contract because the rules were “silly and unnecessary and time-consuming for me to interact with Jerry and then interact with Lisa – then the interaction with Jerry was twice for every topic and then to Lisa twice,” according to the report.
Basha took responsibility for flouting the agreed-upon stipulations and acknowledged “It was done intentionally and on a very solid basis.”
According to Basha’s testimony, Lisa Johnson initially made it clear she intended to remove herself from any contract her husband had an interest in.
“Lisa maintains that she was ‘completely assured’ by Paul that ‘everything was handled,’ however looking back she expressed that she should have brought this (information that Jerry Johnson was her husband) to the attention of the Executive Director of Public Works (Dan Worth), to which the Transportation Department reports,” according to the report.
While Basha acknowledged he violated directions provided to prevent conflict, he insisted no actual impropriety occurred.
According to the report, Basha said, “No impropriety at all, but there was a perception and in government work, perception is reality.”