Local News

Blazing Politics: The Report on the Camp Fire Investigation Does Not Look Good for Tusayan Town Hall

August 30, 2011

By Mike Scerbo

The Sheriff’s Office report on the July 3rd campfire shows Town Hall wanted to keep the probe secret and control the outcome.  It also said the Town believed the Chamber and the fire department should be charged. The report has a quote from now former council member Bob Blasi that the Italians offered him a bribe. And a member of the Chamber recalls an unusual conversation with Stilo strongman Tom De Paolo, and that’s just for starters.
Tusayan Town Hall took a thumping for making a fuss and asking the Sheriff’s Office to investigate a 3rd of July campfire lit during a town celebration sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Dozens of Tusayan residents came to a Town Hall meeting that ended with now former Councilman Bob Blasi blasting the Fire District.
Right from the start, it’s clear the Town wanted to keep the investigation under the radar while still calling the shots.
Here is an excerpt from page one in which Town Manager Enrique Ochoa speaks with Deputy Bill Mitchell
While speaking to OCHOA, he advised more than once he wished to have an internal investigation into the ordinance violation as to "Not have an outside agency investigate it so we can keep the outcome internal." OCHOA advised he did not desire to hire an outside agency to investigate the incident stating, "We can monitor the outcome."
Here is a link to the entire report
The report also indicates Ochoa was at the event as was Blasi, Vice-Mayor Cecily Maniaci, and Councilman Al Montoya.
Josie Bustillos with the Chamber says she had asked Bob Blasi several days prior to the event if a fire pit would be permitted and she was told yes.
Here is what the report has to say
She advised that while BLASI was in a Kaibab National Forest Service uniform and driving a marked Forest Service vehicle she asked him in regards to the fire pit "if this would be a problem", to which BLASI replied "no you should be fine it's on private property". I asked JOSIE to complete a written statement about any conversation that she had about the event. JOSIE also mentioned that councilman Al MONTOYA and OCHOA were present for the festivities and didn't mention anything to her about a fire ban or city ordinance.
Chamber Director Norm Hanna admits he did receive an email from Town Manager Ochoa the day of the event, just after 12pm, but he didn’t have time to open it. Presumably that could have been a notice from the town not to start a campfire. If that was the case it was pretty late notice and certainly Ochoa, Montoya or Maniaci could have said something.
Blasi told investigators he advised Norm Hanna there could be the problem with the fire pit but it would be difficult to enforce:
I asked BLASI whom did he talk to about the possible fire ban for the event, he advised Norm HANNAH and Josie BUSTILLOS. He stated on the day of the event he spoke to NORM and advised him the fire ban was still in effect as the volunteers were constructing the fire pit and placing wood inside. He stated that he said to NORM that he should "clarify it with whomever" including Coconino County. He stated that NORM asked how the ban would be enforced, BLASI responded "there is no court, code enforcement, it's a moot point", advising that there is no way to enforce the ban. BLASI advised that the Town of Tusayan has a fire ban that "follows" the Kaibab National Forest. BLASI advised that he (NORM) knew what BLASI was conveying and Norm said OK.
Blasi strays from the subject big time when he talks about being offered a bribe:
He began to talk about several other issues with the town and stated that he was offered a bribe by "the Italians" and stated other people "took the money" and stated the money he was offered was $5000-10,000 dollars was "a joke". He also stated he thought it was a test of his loyalties.
Just as unusual  is the conversation Bustillos had with Stilo honcho Tom De Paolo. It reveals that De Paolo wanted to exploit the event to sell the Stilo development plan. He was told no. Here is how Bustillos describes the conversation:
JOSIE contacted me and advised me of a conversation that she had with Tom DEPAOLO. She advised that TOM is a member of the STILO investment Group and had approached her about purchasing space in the Fourth of July event. She advised that TOM stated that he had talked to NORM (Norm Hanna Chamber Director) on a prior occasion and was going to put a display up in one of the event tents about the town housing. JOSIE told him that the event was not a "political event" knowing how volatile the housing issues are in Tusayan. I asked JOSIE why she was advising me of this, she stated that the conversation was "strange" and would like it documented in this report.
As to the fate of the investigation it’s anybody’s guess. It’s clear the Town wanted to call the shots on this but the Sheriff’s Office wasn’t having any of it.
Here is what Mitchell noted:
OCHOA mentioned several more times that the Town of Tusayan is paying "30,000.00 per mother" for Law Enforcement services from the Sheriffs Office and they expect us to investigate the incident.
We’ll assume the report contained a typo and that it should have read $30,000 per month. This isn’t the most shocking statement. The real stunner noted by the deputy is that the Town believes the Chamber and fire department should be charged:
OCHOA stated he believed that the investigation would find the members of the Chamber of Commerce and the fire department were in fact guilty of violating the fire ban and he believes they should all receive charges. OCHOA further stated with the Sheriffs Office investigating the allegations and the Town of Tusayan contracting with the Sheriffs Office, the town should have some input on the outcome.
This directly contradicts what Mayor Greg Bryan told the community on July 20th, “We’re not trying to hang anybody. We’re not trying to go after anybody.”