When Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego appeared on the nationally broadcasted Sunday morning news program "Face the Nation," Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri watched with interest.
Gallego was talking about the impact COVID-19 was having on Phoenix. When asked by the host Margaret Brennan what more she would like to see done, Gallego said among other things, "We would like to see additional protections including moving restaurants to completely take out."
That response prompted a letter from Chucri, in his role as President and C.E.O. of the Arizona Restaurant Association, challenging the mayor's assertion restaurants contribute to the spread of the virus.
A week earlier, Chucri says with assistance from Senator Kirsten Sinema, he arranged a meeting between the ARA board and doctors from the CDC.
Chucri said the organization was trying to learn what more it could do to help limit the spread of COVID-19 beyond following the current CDC guidelines.
"The CDC says we have no evidence it's coming from restaurants or that restaurants are perpetuating it," Chucri said. "That's why we're making recommendations so it doesn't happen," Chucri says doctors from CDC told them.
"I was a bit surprised by receiving a letter from the Congressman regarding the letter I sent to Mayor Gallego." Mayor Gallego never responded to Chucri's letter.
But Congressman Greg Stanton did. In June, Stanton had sent a blistering letter to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors criticizing its distribution of CARES Act Funds Maricopa County received. Of the 400-million dollars allotted to the county, 175-million dollars remains to be allocated.
Stanton said some of that money should be used for additional testing and contact tracing. He made the same argument in his letter to Chucri, but he also wrote this, "I am concerned that, in your lobbyist role, you have demonstrated this bias by dismissing the possibility that restaurants are a significant contributor to the spread of the virus."
Chucri says the Board of Supervisors is working thru how it will spend the remainder of the CARES Act funds. He also takes issue with the notion the county is not doing enough contact tracing.
"Dr. Birx was here last week saying the contact tracing Maricopa County was doing was appropriate," Chucri said.
Chucri believes he is not conflicted in his role as an elected member of the Board of Supervisors and serving as the President and C.E.O. of the Arizona Restaurant Association. The ARA is a trade group that represents a 16-billion dollar industry in Arizona, which employs 230,000 people.
Chucri says he has answered Stanton's letter. "I don't know where the anger he seems to have for the Board of Supervisors, and now me, personally comes from for asking the Mayor some very simple questions."