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Gilbert council votes to not discipline mayor for ethics complaints

A third-party investigator found Mayor Brigette Peterson exercised some "poor judgment," but determined she didn't violate any town codes.
Credit: Town of Gilbert

GILBERT, Ariz. — The Gilbert Town Council voted Tuesday night to not discipline Mayor Brigette Peterson following an investigation that was prompted by residents accusing the mayor of unethical behavior.  

Complaints had been filed against Peterson earlier this year after public records showed the mayor exchanging friendly emails with the developer of a controversial housing project near Higley and Warner roads.

The correspondence shows Peterson discussing the project with the developer, as well as the mayor sharing the many concerns residents have expressed about the proposed development. 

In one email, Peterson called one resident "aggressive" and warned the developer about a petition that was circulating in opposition to the housing project. 

A third-party investigator hired by the town to review the complaints against the mayor found Peterson's comments a bit questionable, but not unethical.

"Mayor Peterson exercised poor judgment in singling out a constituent as 'the most aggressive' in her email exchange with Howard Morrison, but her conduct in doing so doesn’t rise to the level of an ethics violation," the investigator's report states.

The investigators further faulted the mayor for not consulting the town's staff about questions residents had about zoning requirements. 

"Mayor Peterson’s failure to at least request Town staff follow-up on the neighbors’ concerns about notice was a lapse of judgment, in this investigator’s opinion," the report states. 

The investigator additionally reviewed a complaint filed by a town employee who felt Peterson retaliated against them for designing an unpopular logo.

The employee's claims could not be substantiated with any evidence, the third-party investigator concluded. 

Before the council unanimously voted to absolve the mayor on Tuesday, some Gilbert residents said they still had misgivings about Peterson.   

Ryan Handelsman said he expected the mayor to apologize for how she's treated the town's citizens.  

"You literally called the residents of Gilbert your opponents," Handelsman told the mayor. "This is our town, not yours." 

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