Phoenix Council Split On Valley Metro Settlement Deal
Three Phoenix city councilmen were unsuccessful in their push to stop a settlement between Valley Metro and its former CEO.
During a special council meeting Wednesday night, Councilman Sal DiCiccio proposed a motion to reduce the city’s payment to Valley Metro by nearly $65,000 to cover Phoenix’s share of an annuity paid to Steven Banta. Councilmen Jim Waring and Michael Nowakowski voted in favor.
Banta resigned following an Arizona Republic investigation that highlighted questionable spending of public dollars. Last month, Valley Metro and Banta agreed to a settlement to be paid through his annuity.
DiCiccio called it a prime example of why taxpayers don’t trust government leaders.
“They see the people at the top getting treated better. That’s what’s happening here. You’ve got people at the very top and you’ve got all these lawyers coming around saying, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s got to be treated differently,'" said DiCiccio.
Lawyers for Valley Metro said the agency has been made "more than whole" because they went from Banta planning to sue the agency to now agreeing to pay at least $125,000 from his annuity to avoid civil litigation. In return, Valley Metro releases its "block" on Banta’s $305,000 annuity account which the agency’s attorneys said legally belongs to Banta. Neither side admits wrongdoing.
Councilwoman Thelda Williams, who represents Phoenix on a Valley Metro board, called Banta “despicable,” but said the board supported the settlement based on legal advice.
“All we’re trying to do is straighten up the mess, save as much money for the taxpayers as we possibly can and hope that the AG’s goes forth and if they find something, they prosecute him to the end of the earth," said Williams.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is investigating possible criminal wrongdoing.