Jim Ferris Nov. 21 2019 TOP meeting

Councilor Jim Ferris claims a town employee’s husband, who also serves on the airport commission, donated to Unite Payson’s recall effort.

Amid the recall effort, Payson Councilor Jim Ferris is falsely accusing a town staff member and her spouse of supporting a recall group based on misinformation.

In a recorded speech, Ferris said Payson’s Chief Financial Officer Deborah Barber has a conflict of interest because of a donation made to Unite Payson by MPG, Inc., a company that sells gasoline at the airport.

Barber’s husband, Jon Barber, does work for MPG, which donated $500 to the recall effort against Ferris and three other council members. Ferris said he based his claim on a website that listed Jon Barber as an owner in the company.

However, Jon Barber says he did not donate to Unite Payson and does not own MPG or control its donations.

MPG owner Margie Oldenkamp addressed the issue at the Nov. 21 council meeting. Oldenkamp, who did not attend the council meeting, had Jeff Robbins read a prepared statement on her behalf. It stated, in part, that Jon Barber is not a partner in her company and that she made the donation to Unite Payson, which is listed in campaign finance documents on the Town of Payson’s website.

Documents from the Arizona Corporation Commission do not list the Barbers as partners in MPG, Inc. And campaign finance reports do not show that the couple has donated to the recall effort launched against Mayor Tom Morrissey, Suzy Tubbs-Avakian, Janell Sterner and Ferris.

When contacted after the meeting, Ferris declined to withdraw his claim.

Oldenkamp made headlines when she held up a pro-recall sign during a council meeting. Morrissey had Oldenkamp removed from the meeting.

In response to Oldenkamp’s claims, Ferris referenced two websites — the Town of Payson and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Both of these websites listed Jon Barber as an owner. Information on the AOPA website has recently changed and no longer lists Barber.

In response to information on AOPA website, Jon Barber said, “When this website was first set up several years ago they didn’t have a designation for just a point of contact, everything was listed as owner. Since that time, they added other categories, but neglected to remove the one that listed me as owner. We never paid any attention to it. That was corrected today. It still doesn’t excuse anyone for not spending 30 seconds on a computer to verify information before using it as a weapon.”

In her prepared statement, Oldenkamp addressed the information on the town’s website.

“It is not the owner’s responsibility to maintain the Town of Payson’s website,” Robbins read on Oldenkamp’s behalf. “The town council needs to provide correct information. It is the town’s obligation, not ours.”

Jon Barber addressed the issue in the wake of a video posted on a Facebook page. Ferris is heard in the video saying, “I want to mention this MPG, Inc. donated $500 to the recall effort of Tom and the rest of us. It just so happens that Jon Barber is a half owner of that company.”

“Oh no,” said audience members.

“Oh, and Jon Barber just happens to be married to Deborah Barber, the chief financial officer of Payson,” Ferris said.

A rumble went through the crowd.

“With Jon Barber on the airport commission and ... you know, it just seems wrong to have someone that is the chief financial officer of the town and her husband donating money to a private recall of the mayor,” said Ferris.

“That’s right,” said an audience member.

“And I think that is pretty disgusting,” said Ferris.

Town code and state law bar a town employee from campaigning during work hours. It also prevents employees from taking actions in their official capacity that would benefit them financially. It does not prevent employees or their family members from donating to political campaigns.

To see the video, visit the Payson First Facebook page https://bit.ly/337oWdn.

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