BULLHEAD CITY — A local man who made accusations to the Bullhead City Council on Oct. 1 about potential misappropriation of city resources said that it was so upsetting he had to talk about it.
Josh Sundstrom said he first read on Facebook from other users that city employees seemed to be doing an awful lot of routine maintenance work at Chaparral Golf & Country Club, such as trimming trees, edging cartways and reseeding the golf course.
Sundstrom posted what he described as a “cynical joke, probably not a good one, and then everybody started sending me info,” he said in a text to the newspaper.
He said he was informed that City Manager Toby Cotter and Brenda Richardson, the city’s human resources manager, were “heavily invested” in the nearby Stonebridge community and that the city has provided labor to the Palo Verde Meadows property owners association to pave the way for a merger between the two communities.
Sundstrom also said Cotter ought to resign so employees with information regarding this matter would be able to provide it without the risk of reprisals. Sundstrom made his accusations during the call to the public at last week’s council meeting. He left shortly afterward.
“No singular person in our city government should have that much power and control over so many employees,” Sundstrom said.
“I have no idea whether these allegations are factual,” Sundstrom said, despite the fact that he repeated them in an open meeting. But “the things I was being told were so concerning that it got me to step into council chamber for the first time.”
Sundstrom said the unidentified workers with whom he has been in contact “expressed fear” of Cotter, who during the council meeting delivered a rare, lengthy response to Sundstrom’s comments — chiefly a denial that city employees were being forced to work on projects they had no reason to be involved with and that he and Richardson had personal stakes in the future of those properties.
Cotter explained that Richardson, who’s also a Realtor and owner of Century 21 Colorado River Realty, isn’t at all involved with such city operations.
Cotter said the information was “erroneous” and “a slap in the city’s face.”
By then, Sundstrom said, he was watching the meeting on television. Cotter called Sundstrom a “coward” for not staying around after speaking to the council.
Sundstrom said he had to get home to his three young children after he spoke, though he said the experience also made him nervous.
The city previously owned a sizable portion of the Stonebridge subdivision — roughly 160 lots — acquired for $15,000 in December of 2011 after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation foreclosed on the site’s previous owner, a local businessman.
The city used a portion of the property as a site for more than $2 million worth of flood control construction over four phases.
The project “saved the neighborhood,” Cotter said. “We got every one of the homeowners out of the flood channel.”
Cotter said three city employees sat on the HOA for awhile before finally selling all but the needed rights-of-way for flood control and other city functions.
“There was nothing to gain,” Cotter said Monday. “But the city improved the property and made a difference.”
Now, city employees can be seen regularly at the golf course tending to the flood control system and a sewer system facility situated there.
“We have a long important history with the golf course,” Cotter said. “It’s critical infrastructure.”
But, he insisted, the city wouldn’t do anything “illegal or unethical” — no matter how important a property might be.
Sundstrom said his opening statement about not wanting to approve Proposition 415 was based on what he perceived as corruption in local government.
Several Public Works employees resigned their positions — one other was terminated — for various instances of misappropriation of city resources as well as bringing guns to work. Pawan Agrawal, director of public works at the time, wasn’t implicated in any of the misdeeds but was dismissed from his position with the city.
Cotter wouldn’t comment on whether he thought the accusations were politically motivated.