Former Glendale official says city's court filing is 'blatant falsehood'
Former assistant Glendale city manager Julie Frisoni fired back at her accusers after city attorneys alleged in Maricopa County Superior Court on Friday that she may have violated a conflict of interest under Arizona statute that would allow the City Council to terminate its arena lease agreement with the Coyotes.
"I am not a lawyer," Frisoni said. "I do not create legal contracts in my down time. I have never been involved in a multi-million dollar contract for a sports franchise, and to say otherwise is a blatant falsehood, a lie and an attack on my credibility."
Arizona Revised Statute 38-511 allows a government entity to end a contract with another party if an employee who was "significantly involved in initiating, negotiating, securing, drafting or creating the contract" goes to work for the other party in the agreement.
The Glendale City Council voted 5-2 last week to void its 15-year, $225 million arena lease and management agreement with the Coyotes. Its case appears to rest on Frisoni and former city attorney Craig Tindall, who now serves as general counsel for the team.
Yvonne Knaack was Glendale vice mayor at the time the agreement was created. She called the city's assertion that Frisoni played a role "ludicrous."
"She was never in any of those meetings," Knaack said. "She was our communications director. She had no access. She had no role. I'm absolutely baffled by the city's stance on this."
Glendale hired Frisoni in July 2002 as communications director. She had worked for nearly two decades at Channel 12 News, serving various roles including executive producer and managing editor. She was promoted to assistant city manager in August 2013, one month after the city council voted to approve the arena lease agreement with the team.
During negotiations, Frisoni said she functioned just as any other municipal or business communications director would function.
"I took information that came out of those negotiations and communicated that to our residents and to the media," she said. "I served as the official spokesperson on behalf of the city after the lawyers and city management had negotiated the deal points."
Councilmember Gary Sherwood said that when the council initially convened to discuss this last week, he asked the identity of the other person with a conflict of interest that the council was targeting, and they would not tell him. Nor were any of the alleged violations discussed. Frisoni's name first surfaced in court when city attorney Michael Bailey named her as the other former employee who had violated conflict of interest by going to work for the Coyotes.
Frisoni resigned as assistant city manager in March to start her own P.R. firm. When the Coyotes elected to submit a bid to host the World Junior Championship, they asked Frisoni if she'd be willing to act as a consultant because she had worked on similar bids for the city, including hosting the NCAA Final Four.
Before contracting with Frisoni, Coyotes CEO and president Anthony LeBlanc said the team contacted Bailey to make sure there were no issues, and Bailey said there were not. Because the correspondence occurred through email, the Coyotes say they have documentation of that exchange with Bailey.
Three legal analysts contacted by FOX Sports Arizona expressed disbelief that Frisoni was part of the city's case against the Coyotes.
"The Tindall claim was stupid enough," attorney Dan Barr of Perkins Coie said. "But claiming that Julie Frisoni, their PR person, had significant involvement in the Coyote deal?
"I understand them desperately looking for a way to get out of the deal, but how this went beyond five minutes of consideration is unbelievable."
Frisoni said she has hired a lawyer and will be watching this case "very closely."
"If at any point in this process there is damage to my reputation or it results in any type of financial hit to myself or my family, the city will be facing more than the Coyotes' $200 million lawsuit," she said. "I never could have imagined that the city I live in and for which I have worked for many years would have resorted to an unbelievably desperate move to achieve their goal of getting the Coyotes to renegotiate their deal.
"Mayor (Jerry) Weiers and (vice mayor) Ian Hugh are the kingpins in this. They are not supporters of the Coyotes, and they have been looking for an opportunity like this. They found it when they got two junior councilmembers (Lauren Tolmachoff and Bart Turner) who knew very little about the deal and the city. If they want to move forward with this, it's going to end very badly for them."