A formal complaint of violating the city council’s Code of Ethics was withdrawn last week, two and a half weeks after being filed and nearly two months after the accusation was made.
The complaint, filed March 29 by Councilwoman Julia Gusse, accused Councilmember Vincent Manfredi of violating three sections of the code, which was adopted in 2013. The accusations stemmed from Manfredi’s social media posts that criticized a reporter with the Maricopa Monitor.
In her complaint, Gusse said Manfredi “used his official title to blast his personal opinion against Bethany Blundell calling her an unethical liar with little experience.”
Manfredi is a minority owner of InMaricopa.
Gusse called the exchange on his city council Facebook page “unbecoming” a councilmember. The post in February was in response to questions raised by residents based on an opinion piece written by Blundell accusing Manfredi of passing privileged information to InMaricopa reporters and trying to unduly influence upcoming candidate debates.
He is up for re-election this year.
Based on Manfredi’s response, portions of the Ethics Code Gusse cited were Article VIII, Sec. 2-131.a (highest standards of ethics); Article VIII, Sec. 2-133.c (professionalism and courtesy); and Article VIII, Sec. 2-133.h (communications).
City records show a month before filing the complaint, Gusse wrote Manfredi a Feb. 28 letter demanding a formal public apology.
“As much as you want to believe that this is YOUR opinion and only YOUR opinion, it is NOT,” she wrote. “You are using your title and your position to defame and demoralize this young female journalist that happened to write an opinion piece that you did not agree with.”
In his response that same day, Manfredi told Gusse, “after speaking with our attorney and the Mayor, I decided to issue a retraction and apology to Ms. Blundell for the words I used to describe her.”
Gusse went forward with the formal complaint, however, including the statement, “I have been judged by my peers for these same violations. Mr. Manfredi should be given the same opportunity to face this Council regarding this violation.”
She was referencing a 2014 incident during her previous term in office when she publicly questioned a former councilmember’s ethics and called him a bully. She received an official warning from the council afterward.
The city council’s discussion of the Manfredi matter was in closed session April 16.
April 17, Gusse wrote to interim City Manager Trisha Sorensen, “I believe Councilman Manfredi’s apology regarding his comments was sufficient. Please be advised that I requested an apology, one was delivered and do not request any further action from the City related to my Ethics Complaint and consider this matter resolved through the Ethics Code’s informal process.”
A statement from City Hall said the matter was resolved through an informal process and there will be no further action.
“As the subject of the complaint, I feel the Code of Ethics worked well and it was able to help Councilwoman Gusse and myself resolve the issue at its lower level,” Manfredi said.
“I am proud of my fellow councilmembers for resolving this issue,” said Mayor Christian Price. “This is a great example of councilmembers working together to achieve a resolution that best allows the City to move forward in a positive direction by following the provisions outlined in the city code. Checking in on ourselves to ensure we are maintaining the utmost standards of personal integrity, truthfulness, honesty and fairness is a good practice and makes us stronger as a body.”
Gusse did not respond to a request for comment.