(Wayne Eder——-Vic Riccardi——-Sue Wilkin)
Interim Chief Wayne Eder told investigators a month ago that he does not want to be the Chief of the Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District (NACFD). Eder has nonetheless remained an applicant for the position with a hiring decision possibly coming during Thursday’s meeting of the governing board.
Eder and board members Vic Riccardi and Sue Wilkin are each indicted for felony conflict of interest and misuse of public monies charges. The charges are connected to Eder’s award of a job to Riccardi’s auto repair shop in Valle Vista.
Arizona law generally prohibits elected officials from engaging in business with the districts or entities they serve unless the service, job or transaction is disclosed and approved by other board members. In Riccardi’s case, board members other than Wilkin apparently had no knowledge that Riccardi was paid $1,357 to attempt to fix a fire truck that ended up being repaired elsewhere.
Mohave County attorney’s office investigators Lyman Watson and Steve Auld conducted a formal interview with Eder on June 19. They asked him if he was familiar with conflict of interest prohibitions and why it might appear that his award of business to Riccardi was an attempt to secure his vote for promotion to Chief.
EDER: I would swear in a court of law that I was not trying to sway Vic Riccardi’s vote—that would be the last—I wouldn’t even consider something like that. I’ve never done that in the past and I would never do that in the future.
AULD: You can see it appears that way…It appears that you greased Riccardi’s skids by taking this truck to him.
EDER: I’m offended by the accusation.
AULD: Okay then. Tell me why I shouldn’t think that way.
EDER: Because I’m here doing my job. I’m trying to get my fleet back up into service that’s been neglected for eight years and I’m trying to do it with limited funds and I’m trying to do it the best way I know how.
The investigators pressed Eder further, suggesting that a number of occurrences create the appearance of collusion involving Chairman Patty Lewis, Riccardi, Wilkin and Eder to orchestrate his hiring as Chief.
“I’m going to be brutally honest with both of you individuals right now,” Eder responded. “I’m going to advise you that the chance of me accepting, if they were even to offer me a full time position, I doubt that I would take it. If the Board of Directors met today and said ‘Chief Eder, we’re willing to hire you as Fire Chief and give you a contract’ I’d say `thank you for the opportunity, (but) no thank you’ because the politics that goes on in this county, from the board of supervisors on down, is not worth dealing with. I did nothing wrong. I wasn’t looking to get a job…Not a thing ran through my mind that said ‘oh my God, if I do this I hope that gives me a job’ because I don’t want this job. This job sucks. This county sucks and this district sucks.”
Eder had previously explained that he came here at the invitation of Lewis to help run the district until a new chief was hired. He said he later accepted her offer to apply for the position.
Toward the end of the interview Eder told Auld and Watson that, in retrospect, he understood why some might perceive the Riccardi truck repair scenario to appear to be attempted influence peddling.
The process of selecting a chief and a possible decision in that regard is scheduled for consideration during the board meeting that starts at 6:00 p.m, at station one on Northern Avenue.