Six Sedona residents filed a complaint last week with the Arizona Attorney General’s office against Sedona Fire District Governing Board Chairman Ralph Graves over alleged conflicts of interest with his employer.
The complaint letter was received by the attorney general’s office Thursday, March 18.
Graves is employed by Braun Northwest, and the company sells ambulances to the district.
The six residents — John Mitchell, Don Troutman, Joe Demme, Lowell Johnson, Phyllis Erick and James Erick — asked in their complaint for Graves be removed from office, fined or disciplined in some way.
Molly Edwards, the media relations director for the attorney general’s office, said she could not comment on specific cases, but added complaints are reviewed to see if the attorney general has jurisdiction and then investigated to determine if there are facts to back up the allegations.
She said it could take quite a bit of time to make a decision on any case.
Graves is accused of profiting when the governing board voted to approve purchasing ambulances from Graves’ employer.
Graves said he had nothing to do with the bid and was unaware his employer was going to make an offer.
“I recused myself and left the meeting,” he said. “I had nothing to do with buying three ambulances for Braun.”
Graves said he understands Braun was the best offer and that was the reason why the governing board voted in this way, but reiterated he was not a part of the vote.
“I had nothing to do with the purchase. I had nothing to do with the bid,” he said. “The accusations they are making are all false.”
The complaint alleges Graves, a sales representative with Braun, profited from the sale of this equipment and even voted when the company he works for was involved.
“Mr. Graves repeatedly voted on budget issues impacting these purchases,” the complaint reads. “During a recent board discussion of privatizing ambulance service for the district with a certain independent ambulance service provider, Mr. Graves criticized the possibility and stated, ‘They don’t buy ambulances from me.’”
On July 17, 2007, Braun Northwest was the high bidder for two ambulances and was chosen as the winning bid, according to SFD documents.
Because Braun was not the lowest bid, the governing board was required to give a reason for why it was approving a more expensive product.
The reason given was the selected ambulances had additional compartment space for firefighters’ personal protective equipment and there would be a 45 percent savings to refurnish the two ambulances in four years instead of purchasing new ones.
In 2009, the Sedona Fire District purchased another ambulance from Braun for a little more than $145,000, but there was no bidding process, according to SFD documents.
The letter to the attorney general’s office alleges since Graves is the chairman of a board that purchases capital expenditures from a company in which he is employed as an Arizona representative, there is a conflict of interest.
The complaint letter sent to the attorney general’s office said it finds the conflict of interest unacceptable and stated the bids for the ambulances by Braun is a red flag in itself. The complaint also claims Graves once had Sedona firefighters wash and polish a Braun test model ambulance while he attended a board meeting.
Johnson, on Monday, March 22, said he and the other five individuals who sent the complaint letter to the attorney general’s office plan on seeing this through to the end.