Paul Cunningham's sexual remarks on junket reviewed

Councilman should consider resigning, Uhlich says
2012-05-30T00:01:00Z 2012-05-30T09:14:28Z Paul Cunningham's sexual remarks on junket reviewedDarren DaRonco and Josh Brodesky Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich said Tuesday that fellow Democrat Paul Cunningham should consider resigning after allegedly making a string of alcohol-fueled inappropriate sexual comments to three top female city officials at a bar in San Diego.

Cunningham acknowledged he had been drinking and may have behaved inappropriately on a taxpayer-funded economic development junket two weeks ago - behavior he said he couldn't remember a few days later when he called several top community leaders to apologize.

He said Tuesday he has not considered resigning.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild confirmed Cunningham's behavior in San Diego has been submitted to the City Attorney's Office for review.

Although Rothschild said it is his "understanding that Paul's conduct on the TREO trip has been referred to the city attorney," he said city policy prohibited him from discussing the matter further because "It involves personnel of the city of Tucson and others. At that point, it becomes a confidential matter."

Those present in the bar that night included Assistant City Manager Kelly Gottschalk; Debra Chandler, the city's new economic development manager; and Maricela Solis, who works out of the mayor's office as a business advocate. None returned calls for comment.

Councilwoman Regina Romero said she, Uhlich and Shirley Scott will ask for a discussion of behavior standards for the mayor and council to be added to Tuesday's agenda.

Cunningham said he is being attacked with anonymous rumors and allegations.

"This has been a viral story from day one about a bunch of people talking way too much," he said. "There has been no complaint I am aware of. No investigation."

He also added that "no one has come to me and repeated back the things that I have said."

Rothschild said he doesn't know if any formal complaints have been filed against Cunningham.

City Manager Richard Miranda said he heard about a possible "confrontation" between Cunningham and three city employees.

He said the three employees have been told if they feel they need to complain to the City Attorney's Office or the Office of Equal Opportunity, they should.

"I have heard some of the stories that are going around, and I want to make sure those employees knew what their rights were to make a complaint," Miranda said.

Miranda said his primary concern is whether city employees were mistreated, and that they don't feel intimidated because they are dealing with a City Council member.

"City Council (members) are essentially our bosses," he said.

City Attorney Mike Rankin confirmed the matter was presented to his office last week, but he has been out of town since last Wednesday and hasn't been able to review it. He returns today.

Cunningham said he did not know how much he drank that night at the hotel bar in San Diego, the first of a three-day trip from May 16-18. "It was over the course of several hours so I don't know. I can't put a number on it."

And although he called a number of officials to apologize for his behavior after they returned, he said he did not know what he was apologizing for. He said he made the call at Rothschild's suggestion because people had been offended by his behavior.

"I had heard, again, rumors that some people were upset with my behavior. So I just called and said, 'Hey, if I did anything or said anything, I apologize.' I can't pinpoint that to any comment that I said or made through the whole trip."

"I can't even remember which exact people I called, and which people I didn't call," he said. "There were just a few calls on the list that I made."

The list of those who received calls included Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson, who were both on the Tucson Regional Economic Development-sponsored trip, although neither was at the bar that night.

Bronson said Scott, who also made the trip, remarked while they were still in San Diego "that Paul was an embarrassment."

"Obviously it's inappropriate," Bronson said. "It doesn't represent us well, and it's not professional behavior. It can't be condoned."

Uhlich said she has "a lot of concern" about the trip. She said she spoke to Cunningham last week and urged him to consider "all of his options, which obviously could include resigning."

Uhlich was not on the trip, but said she would like to see the city attorney review what happened and "allow for facts to come forward."

"Ultimately, Paul needs to know this is something that his colleagues take very seriously. It's not something that can get swept under the rug."

Likewise, Romero was not on the trip, but said she has been made aware of Cunningham's alleged conduct.

"If the allegations are true," Romero said, "I think this calls into question this person's position on the council."

Residents deserve public officials who are held to the same standard as others who work for the city, she said.

While she was unwilling to comment on what may happen next, she said she hopes the issue is resolved soon.

"I don't want to repeat any speculation or rumors because I want to allow for the truth to be confirmed through the appropriate channels," Romero said. "I want the due process to happen as quickly as possible."

Others on the trip included TREO President and CEO Joe Snell, attorney Keri Silvyn and Fletcher McCusker, chairman and CEO of Providence Service Corp.

Silvyn said she was at the bar but sitting with another party and didn't hear anything. McCusker said he went to bed early and lamented that any potential inappropriate behavior would overshadow the benefit of the trip.

Snell did not return calls for comment.

Contact Star reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or Ddaronco@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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