After the Sedona City Council’s major plan amendment work session, our readers expressed concern over Councilman John Currivan’s inexplicable suggestion that one of the applicants, Son Silver West, be allowed to ignore established deadlines and skip over other businesses in the Planning & Zoning Commission’s queue — businesses that have obeyed the law and met the deadlines and requirements — and be pushed to the forefront.
On Oct. 25, the reason for Currivan’s apparent special treatment of this particular business became apparent in a disturbing development that now raises questions about whether he can be trusted as an impartial and fair adjudicator of the public’s interests.
The public commentary of the Son Silver West agenda item already included some odd moments, such as when one speaker spoke of his 25-year friendship with the Robson family, but repeatedly misidentified them as the “Robinsons.”
The last speaker in the public forum was none other than Currivan’s wife.
While council members’ spouses are residents and thus more than welcome to speak on matters before council, her commentary directly damaged any sense of impartiality and fairness of her councilman husband in this matter.
Currivan’s wife specifically pointed him out on the dais, then called him “Counselor Currivan,” indicating her subsequent comments would not be as a mere resident on a public matter, but the spouse of council member, and someone who could unfairly sway his opinion.
According to her public comment, the Currivans have been customers of Son Silver West for 21 years.
She then stated their home “reflects Son Silver West; the interior and the exterior.” She added that she and her councilman husband take guests to Son Silver West on a regular basis, “whenever they come to visit us” and is one of the “top five” things they do with their visitors.
Currivan’s wife also stated that she can’t think of any businesses in Sedona that have been in business for 29 years.
In fact, there are dozens of businesses in Sedona that have flourished for three decades or more — 13 of which appear in our recent History Edition — and to our knowledge, none are currently in violation of Sedona City Code nor actively suing the city to avoid obeying long-established city ordinances.
Even so, longevity is no excuse for special favors. Every business in Sedona deserves equal treatment before the law whether in operation for 70 years or one day, which is something Currivan should be acutely aware of as a former Navy Judge Advocate General and judge.
When the discussion returned to council, other members of council noted that they had occasionally shopped there, but specifically stated their purchases would not influence their decision, and subsequently declined approval.
Currivan, however, did not distance himself from wife’s comments and apparent conflict of interest, and also opted to not recuse himself from the matter despite his now-established longstanding business relationship with Son Silver West.
Instead, he called Son Silver West “a special case” whose parking lot rezoning would not set a precedent.
While Currivan vainly attempted to make the case that its “very unusual situation” was its location, what really makes the case “special” is that the Currivans are longtime, devoted customers whose home is apparently a tribute to Son Silver West.
His defense of his sole, dissenting vote in favor of the amendment was certainly not an impartial examination of the facts but appears to be an attempt to reward or curry favor with his favorite business.
Sedona voters must now worry about Currivan’s fairness.
If your restaurant wants to violate city code or illegally expand, make sure Councilman Currivan enjoys your pasta fazool.
Want your resort to exceed the city’s height restriction? It’s yours if Currivan rents a regular penthouse suite.
The biggest fear is how Currivan will treat those businesses or individuals whom he doesn’t like.
Will a liquor license be denied because of a rude waiter?
A zone change rejected due to a curt valet?
An arts grant denied because he wasn’t comped a free ticket?
How can we trust any future vote by Currivan will be judged on its merits?
Christopher Fox Graham
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