There are numerous, good arguments for and against term limits for politicians. The ongoing actions by long-time Paradise Valley Town Councilmember Paul Dembow, real and alleged, make a strong case for the policy. That’s because when someone has been in office too long they can start doing strange, dumb and even unethical things. They get too comfortable in the job and start thinking they are above it all, the temptation and logic goes. It’s about them, not you.
So let’s dive into this a little more as recent events in Arizona’s toniest town are startling.
Years ago there was a tragedy. Dembow’s daughter, while driving, hit Paradise Valley resident Mr. Howard Brown. He was killed. Brown’s surviving family members alleged a cover-up and pursued it mightily through legal means. They suggested the Paradise Valley Police Department showed favoritism by calling Dembow and allowing him to take his daughter, an adult, away from the scene. The daughter was apparently not tested for being under the influence despite a purported history of such. Litigation ensued. Notably, both Dembow and the Town of Paradise Valley prevailed in court.
But that’s not where it ended for the Brown family. It has engaged in a multi-year effort to embarrass Dembow and remind the public of what took place. Freeway billboards. Road signs. Corner protesters. Speaking at town council hearings. The list is long.
Dembow has understandably become frustrated. He’s won in court. And he is a father. And what parent wouldn’t do just about anything to come to the aid of a child?
But, at times, Dembow’s conduct has been as shocking as the Browns. Lashing out at other councilmembers. Embarrassing the body. Engaging in suspect behavior that has, in part, caused the Town to spend taxpayer money to review council ethics. Even opening the town up to other potential legal claims not yet prosecuted.
And now, this: new, shocking allegations by the Browns that he stole a family cross placed at the scene of Howard Brown’s death. They even have a video, according to media reports and commentators on social media, that proves it. Here is a link to the video.
Following the incident’s furor, Dembow claimed it was not him according to this article in the Town of Paradise Valley Independent. We’ll let readers decide for themselves if the video shows it’s him or not.
But for us it’s real simple: If Dembow did commit this moral or actual crime he should resign from office immediately. Can there be any better determination of conduct unbecoming? If Dembow refuses to do so, he should be removed by his colleagues. We can’t think of anything more despicable, despite the ongoing tumult with the Browns, than wiping out the memorial to a dead person. Council removal by colleagues has happened in Mesa due to a councilmember’s DUI, in Tempe for purported unwanted sexual advances and providing minors with alcohol, and in the Arizona State Legislature – where members have gone wayward.
Dembow’s actions, besides the denial, will be revealing. If we were publicly accused of such a disgusting thing – and there was no truth to it – wouldn’t a defamation suit be logical? That would be easy money. But Dembow knows that if he sues he will open himself up to discovery and depositions, something that will be high-risk, under oath, if he is hoping the “grainy” video is inconclusive. The plot thickens.
Because of its questioned history with things Dembow the Paradise Valley Police Department declared a conflict and referred an investigation out to Scottsdale’s police department. How hard can this be? Where was Dembow during the night in question? Alibis? Evidence? Credit card receipts? Streaming records? Technology to determine if the video does indeed show him? Who else could it have been? All of us see such crosses and memorials on roadways throughout Arizona to honor the fallen. Who would remove any one of them except the demented?
Somebody here is right. Somebody is wrong. Somebody is lying. And the stakes couldn’t be much higher for those involved. As much as many have been disturbed by Dembow’s actions since the onset of his dispute with the Browns, the latter should also pay if they falsely claimed it was Dembow that committed this insidious act.
So here we are with something even Agatha Christie couldn’t have made up. Exoneration or an ethical exit? If the latter is needed Dembow’s peers should remember he is hardly indispensable in a town of the capable. Being someone’s drinking buddy or dais-sharer shouldn’t be an excuse for inaction. Dembow would be quickly replaced, forgotten, except as the best, worst example of why Paradise Valley should have term limits like Scottsdale, Phoenix and many others.