Dembow: Why I am seeking the resignation of a fellow elected leader

Three years ago today, on a rainy overcast day, Town resident Howard Brown stepped off the curb directly in front of my daughter’s car.

Paul Dembow

Mr. Brown died the next day. The Brown family’s attorney filed, what is known as a shotgun lawsuit. They sued 17 entities including, my daughter, me, the Town, the investigating officers, their wives, etc.
In the words of the late Paul Harvey here’s “The rest of the story.”

This is an epic tragedy that unfortunately brought the Brown family together with mine. The past three years have been full of bad press, vicious signs posted in Town, propaganda letters stuffed, illegally I might add, in to mail boxes and social media smears. Some of the social media posts were so egregious that they were banned and taken down by the media company, because they were full of untruths and mischaracterizations about the Town, Paradise Valley Police, my daughter, my family and me.

Grief can bring out the worst in people from rage to irrational behavior. While I consider my volunteer service to the Town a privilege, I’ll admit the Brown family’s actions in response to the accident has not been the highlight of my decades of service to the Town. The statements put out by the Brown family and their attorney proved to be not supported by the facts based on what the courts and now a jury have found.

In early 2017 the court tossed out all claims against me, as an elected official, as well as the Town, and our police officers. Why? The court determined there was not enough evidence to even have a trial.

I want to thank Larry Crown and Elan Mizrahi with the law firm Titus, Brueckner & Levine for their hard work protecting the Town of Paradise Valley and me in my capacity as an elected official.

October 15th (2018) of this year, after hearing weeks of all of the facts in our impartial court system, rather than the court of public opinion, it took an unanimous jury less than an hour to dismiss in full the remaining parts of the lawsuit against my daughter and me. Now that our justice system has processed all of the claims made against my daughter, the Town of Paradise Valley, our police department, and me and found that none of us are legally responsible in any way, I’m able to talk about this case.

I wanted to say many of these things for years, but I wanted to protect the Town, our respected police force, my family and me.

I want to repeat the statement I’ve given numerous times, my deepest condolences to the Brown family. My wishes that your family heals goes to everyone affected by Mr. Brown’s passing but especially to Judith Vincent Brown, Mr. Brown’s wife of over 50 years, and his aggrieved daughters Elizabeth Lee Brown, Tiffany Lee Brown and Judith Lee Brown.

I know there is nothing I can say to bring your husband and father back, nor to bring peace to you, for that I’m sorry. There is nothing that can take away the pain and PTSD my daughter suffers with daily because of the terrible, unavoidable accident and its aftermath.

The police, the experts, the evidence and the witness all confirmed the accident was not the fault of any of the myriad of entities the Brown family attorney sued. This was an accident caused when Mr. Brown, without looking for traffic according to an eyewitness, stepped in front of my daughter’s vehicle.

Unfortunately she could not stop. Mr. Brown, by all accounts was a good man, a great father, a great husband, a NASA engineer and an entrepreneur. He was the patriarch of his family, and from testimony given in court, someone I would have respected if I knew him.

The Brown’s attorney sued 17 entities looking for deep pockets where they can extract money. The Town, my daughter, the officers and I were fortunate that the Brown case was completely without merit and the jury evaluated the evidence not the emotion.

I want to give a public thank you to Mike Halvorson of Jones, Skelton & Hochuli who represented me in this case and Brian Ruben and Kristen A. Briney of TRK Law firm who represented my daughter. I’m thankful for our American justice and jury system.

Why was I included in the lawsuit when I was not driving the car or in the car? How could a father be responsible for his adult daughter’s accident? Arizona is one of a handful of states that has a law on the books called, “The family purpose doctrine.” What is that? It can be exemplified by the following scenario best, It’s Thanksgiving and you forget the gravy as you’re making the family feast, you toss your teenager the keys to your car and he gets into a wreck heading to the store.

As a parent, you could be responsible.

The Brown family’s attorney used this esoteric law to come after me. My daughter was an adult not a teenager, I did not provide her a car and she was not living with me nor receiving my support. Yet I still had to endure almost three years of legal wrangling, public recrimination and a jury trial to be in the clear.

How many parents have purchased a car for their kids? How many of those kids, who are adults, have moved back in to their family home after college, perhaps in between jobs or they moved back to Arizona after living out of state? Even with their new spouse perhaps?

Now imagine they get into an accident and you’re sued. You could be responsible with the family purpose doctrine as the legal argument. Crazy, but this is the law in Arizona.

I’m happy this case is over for our Town, our police force and my family. I pray for the Brown family regularly and hope they find peace. I know my daughter has not driven a car since because of the accident with Mr. Brown. I pray for my daughter to find peace.

After the verdict, I was leaving court and one of the Brown family members muttered under his breath, “This isn’t over.” He was certainly right about that. Mr. Brown will forever be missed and nothing will bring him back. My daughter will never be the same and nothing will change that.

On Council we aspire to be transparent and give full disclosure regarding all Town matters. 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.

Some of the bombshells dropped in the deposition?

  1. The Councilman called Tiffany Driscoll Brown; she did not reach out to him.
  2. The Councilman used his influence to get a copy of an old 9-1-1 call placed from my home to the Town of Paradise Valley Police and shared the information with her.
  3. The Councilman said referring to my family, and I quote, “His family is a F’d up family.”
  4. The Councilman questioned the police investigation specifically questioning field sobriety testing among other things.

These comments stoked the Brown family’s anger and were another trigger for the lawsuit. 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.

Even if you assume that everything the Councilman said was 100 percent true, which it is not, do you want such people representing you? Why would someone serving on Council toss our Town, Police, and Council under the bus? Shame on him! Apparently he does not know what fiduciary responsibility means.

To be clear what I’m saying is not only based only 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.

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 he not deny what was said under oath during the deposition, he also would not provide a written statement to help our Town during litigation.

Who was the Councilman identified under penalty of perjury? Mark Stanton.

To my face Mark was always genteel. 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?

Earlier today I told Councilman Stanton I 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. Why he would do this to an aggrieved family at their lowest time? I was going to ask him to let his Town know why he took these actions? Why did he ignore his fiduciary responsibilities and foment a multi-million dollar case against the Town he serves? I offered him the opportunity to set the record straight tonight.

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.

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