The Mohave County attorney’s office confirms it is conducting an investigation of an alleged conflict of interest involving Victor Riccardi. The revelation comes after the same office decided it would not take legal action following a previous and unrelated probe targeting the Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District Board (NACFD) member.
Fellow Board member Mike Collins raised the conflict allegation during a NACFD Board meeting last month. Collins asked interim fire chief Wayne Eder about issuance of district check #41896 to Riccardi’s business.
The check to Riccardi’s Auto and Truck Repair for $1,357.53 was mostly for labor performed on a 1999 Ford-550 owned by the district.
Eder explained that having Riccardi work on the apparatus made sense because Riccardi had done so before and was familiar with the vehicle. Eder noted the vehicle was already in Valle Vista where Riccardi’s business is based and that taking it there prevented any need of towing the rig to Kingman.
It was at that point that Collins asked NACFD attorney Bill Whittington if it was a violation of statute for Riccardi to have received the work without any conflict declaration or waiver and approval by the full board. Whittington didn’t answer in public and said he would discuss the matter in a private executive session.
Eder’s award of the work to Riccardi came at a time when Eder was, and still is, an applicant for the Fire Chief’s position, a matter that Riccardi will be voting on. Riccardi has argued that Eder should be included in the interview pool after Eder had been screened out as a finalist.
Former NACFD Administrative Assistant Lynne Hucker, who has just resigned her post, said Board member Sue Wilkin delivered Riccardi’s invoice to the district office and that Eder returned to the office to affix the second signature required to validate the check issued on April 25. Hucker said Wilkin left the District office with check in hand, presumably to deliver to Riccardi.
Deputy county attorney James Schoppmann confirmed his office is conducting an investigation of a Riccardi-related conflict complaint. He said he could not discuss the matter further.
Schoppmann also explained to county supervisors why his office would not take legal action for Riccardi’s failure to take board training instruction within the required time frame.
By law, Riccardi should have completed the mandated training by the fall of 2015. Riccardi claims he did so but Schoppmann and civil division attorney Ryan Esplin said there is no corroboration of his claim from the organization that administers the training.
Esplin has said that it has been demonstrated that Riccardi finally attained certification of the training in question late this spring, some 17 months after the law required him to do so.
“When we see a situation like this where a board member is flagrantly thumbing his nose at everybody else it’s a bad day,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Gary Watson.
Supervisor Jean Bishop questioned Riccardi’s veracity when he told supervisors in April that he had complied with the board member training law.
“It bothers me that Vic Riccardi was in front of this board and it appears that he misrepresented the truth and I take offense to that,” Bishop said. She and Watson expressed disappointment that the attorney’s office would not take Riccardi to court over the training matter.
Schoppmann and Esplin explained that compliance is the most important component of the law and that Riccardi has complied, albeit in tardy fashion. They told supervisors that the county would waste time and resources to further pursue the matter, given current compliance.
Watson noted the conflict case may not have occurred had Riccardi engaged earlier in the training that covers rules and regulations relevant to general board member conduct, including conflict of interest and open meeting laws.
“Had Mr. Riccardi taken the class I think he would have understood the concept of the conflict of interest. I understand that there is currently an investigation of the possibility of breaking that golden rule,” Watson said. He said if Riccardi is given a pass on the training issue, he should bear more scrutiny on the conflict case.
“I would really want to stress the investigation of the conflict of interest because that serves the entirety of all the elected officials out there and all of the voters,” Watson said. “We all invest our trust in people that represent us on these boards.”
Riccardi has repeatedly defended himself on the training compliance allegations during previous public meetings. He did not do so in this instance and was not present for the June 5 county board meeting.