For its very first half hour program on KAZM-AM, Democratic Perspective chose to host Sedona Fire Board candidates Corrie Cooperman, Nazih Hazime and Diane Schoen.
To understand this election, you first need to know a little history. In 2008, two Board members were elected on a platform of fiscal responsibility. Then, in 2010, two Tea Party candidates also promising fiscal responsibility won seats on the Board.
Almost immediately, problems surfaced based on their ideology and apparent distrust of people who work for the public. The Board is accused of violating open meeting laws, destroying department morale and compromising quality of first responders. Moreover, instead of saving money, the Board has squandered it by ordering a forensic audit and racking up tens of thousands in legal bills.
As a result, Cooperman, Hazime and Schoen are facing off against Dave Blauert, Charles Christenson, and Phyllis Erick in a recall election.
We began our conversation by asking the candidates to say a little about themselves and why they’re running for offic. The first to respond was Chief Nazih Hazime who is running against Charles Christenson. “I ran for Fire Chief and was chosen as the result of a $10,000 process and served two years as the Sedona Fire Chief,” said Hazime. “I think it only makes sense to have someone with fire-fighting experience on the Board.”
Diane Schoen responded by saying she’s running against Fire Board Chairman, Dave Blauert. Schoen described herself as an Arizona native who has lived in Sedona for 9 years. “I’ve served on a school board and on a public commission. I’m currently President of the Jewish Community of Sedona,” she said. “I’m running because the current Board members do not listen to the community. The democratic process is important to me.”
Last, Corey Cooperman stated that she is running against Phyllis Erick. “I am concerned quality is eroding,” Cooperman said. “I am a Registered Nurse concerned that the Board wants to privatize ambulance service. Quality will go down. We want well-trained people to respond.”
As previously stated, money is one of the primary reasons for the recall. Following the resignation of Chief Hazime, the Fire Board is accused of spending $30,000 to select a new chief and choosing the most expensive bid for the forensic audit, awarding the job to McCladery at a cost of $190,000. (Incidentally, McCladery had never before audited a fire department.)
“The board is quoted as saying the books had been cooked,” said Schoen. “Yet the audit confirmed that the department was adequately staffed and equipped. No wrongdoing was found.”
“If you think something is wrong, you should work with the Chief,” added Hazime. “There were some things that needed to be done. There were some personnel issues. Some staff and equipment needed to be eliminated. But they should have let the Chief take care of it.”
Instead, the Board ignored Chief Hazime and refused to communicate with him.
“The Board micro-managed,” said Schoen. “They did a research project without telling the current Chief. You hire a professional to run the organization. You are a policy board. Is it any wonder morale is very low.”
“We have lost a Fire Marshall, the head of H.R., and the Finance Manager,” added Cooperman. “Those people were hired almost immediately by other departments. Chief Hazime was hired within weeks by the Verde Valley Fire Department.” But even though Hazime now serves with the VVFD, he notes, “I’m Verde Valley Fire Chief, but a Sedona resident. I feel my work wasn’t finished. To come back and serve would be an honor.”
“I became more interested as money was being spent,” said Schoen. Cooperman agreed, “The red flag for me was privatizing the ambulance service. Then I started going to meetings. The legal costs have been $140,000,” she said. “The typical cost should be $45,000 per year. The attorney of 27 years has been fired because they didn’t like his advice. Now they want to spend $120,000 for a fingerprint system to clock in and out. I checked it out and it’s the kind of system that’s usually only used by casinos,” she concluded.
Mailing of early ballots will begin April 19. The election will be completed on May 15. You’ll find more information on the subject at the following websites: