Surprise Mayor Joan Shafer shakes down Lennar Communities Development Inc for money


County reviews mayor's letter
Surprise attorney asked for inquiry

By David Madrid
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 15, 2003

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office is reviewing a letter written by Surprise Mayor Joan Shafer to a developer that talks about staff work on his project, then asks for campaign contributions.

Shafer is running for re-election.

In the Dec. 14 letter to John Sutherland, senior vice president and project manager for Lennar Communities Development Inc., Shafer wrote: "I think I have the matter straightened out for you on your project in Surprise. I have talked with both Scott and Phil and have their word that they will work right with you on the matter we discussed. If anything goes wrong, please do not hesitate to call me."

Scott Phillips is the city's planning manager and Philip Testa is the director of community and economic development.

The letter, written on campaign letterhead, then said:

"When you were in the office, I asked if you could possibly help with contributions to my campaign. I am the world's worst beggar, but there comes a time when you must do what you don't like in order to achieve the ending you do like," she wrote.

Shafer said Tuesday that she was referring to trouble the developer was having with design guidelines but she never promised Sutherland anything in return for contributions. She acknowledged the letter doesn't look good.

"I admit it. It was a very poorly written letter on my part, with no ill intent," she said.

Shafer blamed people within city hall and others who want to see her lose the March 11 election.

Surprise City Attorney David Ward asked the County Attorney's Office to look into the letter, which accompanied the developer's submission to the city's Community and Economic Development Department for a residential development. Ward said he asked for the formal inquiry after reviewing the letter with his senior staff.

Bill FitzGerald, spokesman for the County Attorney's Office, said the letter is being reviewed.

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-6926.

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