Paradise Valley councilman seeks resignation of fellow elected leader

Paradise Valley Councilman Paul Dembow (File photo)

Paradise Valley Councilman Paul Dembow is calling for the resignation of Mark Stanton, a fellow elected leader who serves on Town Council.

Mr. Dembow delivered a prepared statement at about 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15 telling the public a lawsuit against him, his family, town and police officials has been dismissed.

But also discovered during the course of the court proceedings, Mr. Dembow contends, is a fellow elected leader had provided harmful comments and incendiary statements to the plaintiffs of both the criminal and civil lawsuits stemming from the 2015 tragic death of a Paradise Valley resident.

Paradise Valley Councilman Mark Stanton (File photo)

The comments were discovered during the deposition period of the information gathering for the lawsuit, records show.

“On council, we aspire to be transparent and give full disclosure regarding all town matters,” Mr. Dembow said. “As my legal team prepared for the trial many disturbing things came up during depositions but there was one that took the cake. A Brown family member, under oath, mentioned a Town of Paradise Valley councilman, by name, who reached out to her shortly after the tragic accident.”

Paradise Valley resident Howard Brown was struck and killed by a car operated by Mr. Dembow’s daughter on Nov. 15, 2015; However, no charges were filed and the Paradise Valley Police Department — early in the process — had been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The Honorable Jo Lynn Gentry of the Maricopa County Superior Court in July 2017 ruled in a criminal case against the Paradise Valley Police Department that the law enforcement entity had no duty of care to perform an investigation into the fatal accident at the intersection of Invergordon and Horseshoe roads that resulted in the death of Mr. Brown.

The Maricopa County Superior Court has cleared the Town of Paradise Valley — and its subsequent defendants — of any and all civil negligence claims that could leave taxpayers liable. The lawsuit named the Town of Paradise Valley, Police Officer Steve Hovorka, Police Cpl. Mark Garrity and Paradise Valley Councilman Paul Dembow and sought a payout ranging from $3.8 million to $4.2 million.

Mr. Dembow says through deposition, he alleges Mr. Stanton:

  • Called a member of the Brown family whom he had a shared an office space in the past;
  • Used his influence to get a copy of an old 9-1-1 call placed from Mr. Dembow’s home to the Paradise Valley Police Department and shared the information;
  • Questioned the police investigation specifically questioning the lack of field sobriety testing among other things conducted on Mr. Dembow’s daughter.

In a Nov. 16 statement to the Independent, Mr. Stanton says he has been friends with the Brown family for many years.

“I am deeply saddened that the pain and suffering of my council colleague, Paul Dembow, and his family continues to endure. Understandably, the tragic event of three years past has permanently changed the lives of so many,” Mr. Stanton said. “Let me be very clear: I have been friends with members of the victim’s family for many years.”

Mr. Dembow says the actions of Mr. Stanton were not in the best interests of the town or his fellow elected leaders.

“These comments stoked the Brown family’s anger and were another trigger for the lawsuit,” he said.

“Anger and loss with the fire being fanned by statements like those the councilman stated ensured the case would go on regardless of the objective facts that came out during the discovery process. I’ve been on four different councils and served with a dozen different council members. I’ve never encountered such behavior.”

Mr. Dembow says although he has been vindicated, he feels betrayed by a fellow steward of Paradise Valley.

“To be clear what I’m saying is not only based on what was said in the deposition, but I also asked the one councilman, who was specifically named in the deposition to help the town, the police force, my daughter and me when it mattered, before the trial started and before huge amounts of money expended on the case,” he said.

“In December 2016, shortly after the deposition, I asked him to put into his own words what he said or to confirm what the Brown family member said was untrue. He admitted he spoke with the Brown daughter and said they used to office in the same building years ago. He did not deny what was said under oath during the deposition, he also would not provide a written statement to help our town during litigation.”

For Mr. Dembow, he says, Mr. Stanton’s actions are unbecoming of an elected leader.

“To my face Mark was always genteel,” he said. “I was shocked. Imagine how you’d feel if someone did this to your child? Imagine if someone else did this to you who sat on Council? Now imagine how you’d feel if you were a Paradise Valley first responder, their spouse, our staff or our residents?”

Mr. Dembow contends his public statement was out of necessity as despite efforts, he and Mr. Stanton, could not come to terms on what unfolded.

“Earlier today I told Councilman Stanton I was going to ask him again tonight, at the dais, to explain to those who had to suffer through the litigation that he fanned the flames,” he said.

Howard Brown

“I (was) hoping Councilman Stanton would clear the air and while he was here today for the work-study session, he chose to leave and miss the business meeting instead. I can’t think of a reason he would not want to clear his name tonight. Since he did not want to give his reasons, I believe Mark Stanton should resign his council seat immediately. I’m calling for his resignation based on his actions.”

In his statement to the Independent, Mr. Stanton did not resign from his spot on Town Council. He says he first reached out to the Brown family to express his condolences, but later ended communication with the family.

“I reached out to the Brown’s upon hearing of this tragic accident to express my deep condolences and offer support during their time of great bereavement. But once it became known that legal action may be launched against the Town of Paradise Valley, I ceased any communication with my old friends,” Mr. Stanton said.

“A tragedy of this magnitude always elicits great emotion for all that have been affected. Unfortunately, in this case, the lawsuits, depositions and court proceedings have only magnified and prolonged the grief, suffering and profound raw emotion. I pray that both families can now find a path to healing, a path to repair their lives and a path for final closure to this horrible tragedy. I sincerely hope that Mr. Dembow will continue to join me and our five other colleagues as we work together for the betterment of our community.”

The case and subsequent legal maneuvers stem from an April 2016 notice of claim filed against the Town of Paradise Valley on behalf of Judith Brown, the surviving spouse of Mr. Brown.

Schmitt Schneck Smyth Casey & Even Attorneys at Law have filed a notice of claim against the Town of Paradise Valley alleging the municipality’s police department did not properly handle the investigation into a fatal accident that claimed the life of Mr. Brown.

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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