A top-level employee who works in the park department of a city’s mayor is a longtime friend of one of the city’s highest-ranking political figures, and the city has begun to investigate how the insider could have worked so closely with her, according to people familiar with the matter.
The insider, who is not identified because she is not authorized to speak to the media, has worked at the city of Parkville since at least 2012 and has had an office in a senior role at the mayor’s office, the people said.
She is believed to have worked with Mayor John Del Rosario since the fall of 2015, but the city said she had been with the city since 2014.
Parkville is in the suburbs of Phoenix and is home to more than 2 million people, including many children.
The mayor has been criticized for using his office to advance political agendas at City Hall and has denied wrongdoing.
Del Rosaria, a Democrat who has led the city for nearly 20 years, said last week that he is “shocked” to learn that someone with his personal knowledge of his administration had been working at the parks department, saying that it would be a “grave mistake” to do that.
He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While the mayor has declined to say why he was in touch with the insider, the city was briefed on the matter by Parkville Police Chief Jeff Mays, who oversees the park division.
He said the city is “trying to determine if there are any potential violations of city ordinances” and would make an announcement when appropriate.
The Parkville insider has worked for the city under a variety of titles, including park chief, park ranger, park operations manager, parks administrator, park manager and park chief of staff, Mays said.
Park officials were notified last week of her involvement with the mayor, he said.
The city of Phoenix said Monday it was cooperating with an investigation into how the Parkville employee became a city employee and that it has begun an internal review of the matter and is taking “appropriate action” if required.
The city has said the insider’s employment ended in March.
The mayor declined to discuss the probe.
Parkville, which is in suburban Phoenix, is located about 15 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix and has a population of about 690,000 people.
It is home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose ballpark is located in nearby Scottsdale.
The Diamondbacks announced last week it had hired former Parkville Park Ranger Joseph Zabala as the team’s new park ranger.
Zabala, who previously served as park operations chief for the Phoenix Suns, was also named park ranger at the University of Arizona in 2017.
Park Valley is the second-largest city in the city, with a population about 1.5 million people.