A ruling by Pima County Superior Court Judge Jeffery Bergin has vindicated former South Tucson Mayor Paul Diaz and former City Manager and State senator Luis Gonzales in the matter of Pasadera Behavioral Health Network’s zoning change request. The judge found that the property in question did not qualify for a grandfathered clause in South Tucson’s zoning rules.
It was Diaz’s decision to follow the law that ultimately led to his recall by a handful of residents. For years, South Tucson was known for ignoring laws and playing by its own rules. Diaz was elected to restore transparency to the City’s operations. As a result, he found himself the target of the machine.
On top of those attacks, Pasedera hired attorney Keri Silvyn to sued the City claiming that the former Arizona’s Children Association home it purchased qualified for a grandfathered clause. Pasedera also hired former Councilman Jose Ybarra as their P.R. man to try and pry loose the permits. None of this worked on Diaz and Gonzales because they respected the City’s ordinances and the pragmatic process dictated by those ordinances.
In April, Judge Bergin ruled that property had not been operating continuously as required in order to qualify for the grandfather clause.
In December 2015, Diaz and Gonzales questioned why the City of South Tucson refused to turn over emails written by City staffers regarding the Pasadera zoning case to Arizona Daily Star, which was covering the issue. The City’s Attorney denied the Star’s request for the emails, “Because the case is and remains very sensitive.” The City Attorney Edward Matchett, according to the Star, claimed that the “issues being litigated or release of documents that are connected to the litigation or may be brought into the litigation are not advised while the litigation proceeds.”
In response, Diaz and Gonzales said the public had a right to know. At the time, they said that they recognized that the financially strapped City’s skeleton crew are overwhelmed with daily chores, but they believed that since the Star’s original former reporter on the matter, Carli Brousseau , put out so many inaccuracies and relied on rumors, the public would benefit from any clarity the emails could provide.
Pasadera claimed that City officials promised the company that they would be granted the zoning permit, and then changed their minds. However Diaz and Gonzales say that the zoning is set by ordinance and administered by the Department of Planning and Zoning Department with the help of the South Tucson Board of Adjustment. They say that they had made no such promises and wouldn’t have made them because they were not in a position to do so.
Now, the Diaz and Gonzales are vindicated and the Green and Mendoza families, who now control the community, are scrambling to find fresh blood to fill the remaining seats on the City Council they do not control. They are not expected to have much luck with that effort as the people of South Tucson now see that they were fooled.