France rarely makes headlines in Phoenix, Arizona. So I was delighted to see a well-known French company Veolia on the first page of the Arizona Republic business section.
Then, I read the article.
The Phoenix City Council again has rejected a startup business' bid to provide shuttle-van service for passengers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The decision could enable Veolia Transportation's SuperShuttle to continue a 23 year monopoly over shuttle service at Sky Harbor Airport.
Well, it would be except for the sex.
Veolia Transportation's dealings with the city are under investigation by the Federal Transit Administration because Veolia's lobbyist, Elissa Mullany happened to be in a "romantic relationship" with then-Mayor Phil Gordon during the hot summer when the council awarded to Veolia a five-year, $385 million contract for managing most of the city's bus routes.
The muckraking Phoenix New Times summoned Phil Gordon and Elissa Mullany to explain their complicated intermingling of interests in 2009 when its reporter Sarah Fenske discovered Gordon's multiple payments to his girlfriend Mullany as well as trips and favors.
Mullany worked for Gordon's campaign and maintained a romantic relationship with the mayor while working as a paid lobbyist for numerous businesses dealing with the city Gordon ran.
The Federal Transit Authority is investigating how Veolia Transportation Services was awarded a $385 million, five-year contract to run 33 out of 99 Phoenix bus routes.
Says the New Times:
Mayor Phil Gordon first professed support for Veolia Transportation to win the city's huge bus contract at a June 2009 City Council meeting. The mayor's endorsement came even before competing business proposals were on the table and during a time when his relationship with Elissa Mullany was the stuff of City Hall rumors.
Causing concern, after the mayor said he wanted the contract to go to Veolia, was that the company had hired Mullany, his then-alleged love interest, as a consultant in 2007 and still was cutting her checks as it competed for the city's business.
Veolia was just one of many businesses that Mullany lobbied for as the mayor's (well paid) girlfriend.
Phil Gordon's term as Phoenix Mayor ended this month, leaving a legacy which includes a light rail system, new university campuses and serious questions about mixing personal with business affairs. (See the Tucson Citizen.)
Veolia Transportation is a division of Veolia Transport Worldwide, a subsidiary of Veolia Environnement, the world leader in environmental services which was originally founded as the French water company, Compagne GEnErale des Eaux. CGE changed its name to Vivendi in 1998. Veolia Environnement was spun off as a separate company in 2000.
Fortunately, no one in Arizona knows it's French...