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Phoenix council won't pursue censure of Mayor Luz

Phoenix City Council announced Monday it would not pursue censure of Mayor Chris Luz for allegedly inviting armed individuals to attend a June City Council meeting. It also considered Luz’s actions when he brushed a protester with his vehicle while driving through downtown Medford, but won’t pursue that either.

A prepared statement on the council position was read by Council President Stuart Warren following an executive session where the issues were deliberated at the end of a regularly scheduled council meeting.

“The Phoenix City Council disagrees with the actions of Mayor Luz in the June 1 Black Lives Matter protest. The council cannot substantiate allegations made that the mayor invited armed individuals to the June 15 City Council meeting. At this point we cannot find enough evidence to move forward with the censure of Mayor Luz,” the prepared statement said.

“I am pleased that the City Council decided to not move forward with the censure because of the lack of evidence,” said Luz after the council statement was read. “I will continue to work to improve the lives of the citizens of the city of Phoenix.”

Individuals openly carried guns at the June 15 meeting both inside and outside council chambers. Allegations were made that Luz had invited the armed people, one of whom supposedly told a Phoenix resident that had happened. Warren included that information in a call for council to consider censure, along with a report on the Black Lives Matter incident.

On July 20, councilors had voted unanimously that allegations of the mayor’s violations of the city code of ethics were sufficient to merit further review and consideration.

City Attorney Doug McGeary told the council July 20 that if the allegations were true, they would be in violation of the obligations of a city official as generally expressed in the city ethics policies and the responsibilities of office. Those require city officials to be responsible to the people, that the public have confidence in the integrity of its government, and that officials not injure that confidence.

“There wasn’t any evidence. There was none,” Luz said when interviewed Wednesday on allegations he had invited armed people to attend the session. He has denied the assertions since they were first aired.

Luz allegedly brushed demonstrator Mikala Johnston when he drove his car through a Black Lives Matter rally June 1 in downtown Medford.

Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert declined to press criminal charges against Luz after reviewing evidence presented by the Medford Police Department. Demonstrators had moved into the street and were blocking traffic.

Luz was driving slower than the pace of marchers when his car brushed Johnston’s hip with its front quarter panel and side mirror, according to Heckert. There was no evidence that Luz knew or should have reasonably known that he had “injured anyone,” she said in a press release.

Medford police submitted reports supporting a felony charge of riot and misdemeanor charges of second-degree disorderly conduct and third-degree criminal mischief against Johnston. Heckert declined to press charges against Johnston.

Prior to the executive session Luz said the councilors should focus on behavior and not their interpretations of behaviors.

Councilor Al Muelhoefer declined to comment on the council stand. Discussion and information presented in executive sessions is privileged and does not have to be disclosed.

Prior to the July 20 vote to consider censure seven individuals spoke or presented statements on the mayor’s conduct. All were critical of him as a representative of the city or of his recent actions. Several called for the mayor to be held accountable for his actions.

Luz has filed for reelection to the two-year post in the Nov. 3 general election. Former Councilor Terry Baker has also filed for the position.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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