Gutierrez resigns from Superior council after conflict-of-interest verdict

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By Chase Kamp Superior Sun

In a letter submitted on Oct. 3, 2012, Superior Town Councilman Hank Gutierrez stepped down from his seat after a Pinal County Superior Court judge found him guilty of violating state law for making a vote that was found to be a financial conflict of interest.

The rest of the Council accepted his resignation in a vote at its regular meeting on Oct. 4.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office filed an indictment against Gutierrez in Jun. for voting on an agreement between the Town and Resolution Copper Mining while he was allegedly a contractor with the company.

According to the indictment, Gutierrez “possessed a substantial interest” in the agreement between the Town and RCM. In the court’s Sept. decision, Gutierrez was found guilty of a class-six felony for failing to refrain from making a public vote in which he would benefit financially.

In 2008, RCM signed a Mutual Benefits Agreement (MBA) with the Town that provided funding for town improvements following completion of the Southeastern Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act. The Town of Superior in return agreed to work together with the company.

In Dec. 2010, RCM renegotiated the agreement with the Town recognizing that the land exchange bill was taking longer than expected to be approved by Congress. The town council also unanimously approved a new MBA that has since led to more than $400,000 in funding to the town for improvements and other needs. Gutierrez was among those who voted for the agreement.

“Our company policy is not to comment on pending legal proceedings and any questions regarding potential conflict of interests should be directed to the Town of Superior,” Resolution Copper said in a written statement. “We can confirm that Hank Gutierrez has been a contractor to RCM since early in the project’s history.”

In his letter of resignation, Gutierrez wrote that his decision was not made with personal gain in mind. “My vote, as always, was made with the best interests of the town and its citizens foremost in my mind,” he wrote.

Gutierrez was required to leave his post on the council per state law.

Councilman John Tameron said those on the council with family ties to RCM, himself included, need to be steadfast in knowing which votes may be improper. “I have to recuse myself at times and keep it in mind for the future,” Tameron said. “This is a sad way to leave the council.”

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