Mayor Ed Foster had called for a special meeting to be held Tuesday morning at 9am, in order to give the town council a chance to make their ongoing "emergency" legal. Recently reprimanded Town Attorney Martin Brannan advised the council it was an "illegal meeting" just because it had not been posted to the town website.
However, Quartzsite Town Code section 2-4-2 states that the mayor can call a special meeting with twenty four hours notice, and that "In the case of an actual emergency, a meeting may be held upon such notice as is appropriate to the circumstances." Brannans assertion that the special meeting agenda needed to be posted to the town website in order to be legal might therefore mean that despite declaring an emergency in a locked door emergency meeting, there was no "actual emergency".
Mayor Foster had posted the notice of the special meeting on bulletin boards around town, as well as notifying Town Clerk Karen Norris that it needed to be posted last week. Foster stated that Norris had been prohibited from doing her job. Norris had placed Mayor Foster's agenda item on the "regular" meeting agenda, scheduled for the same time. Town Manager Alex Taft is ultimately responsible for the town's website updates.
Town Attorney Brannan insists that the "regular" meeting is legal, because three council members signed for it, but that would only be required for a "special" meeting as stipulated by Town Code 2-4-2. A "regular meeting" is held only at 7 pm, accordin to Town Code 2-4-1 and has a set agenda that includes public comment as outlined in 2-4-6. From the audience reaction, it appeared that even the laypersons watching this intentional violation of law understood the complexities of what was taking place. The Attorney General's Office is now reviewing this video.
Other meeting highlights, included a report by the town manager that included the following:
The Town Engineer suggested going forward with a “transportation master plan”. The cost of the plan could be funded through an ADOT “Planning for Rural Assistance Grant” and monies would go to the town engineer for the study.
A “Safe Routes to School Grant” is in pre planning stage with ADOT. Town Manager Alex Taft had previously indicated that the grant was needed to improve walking safety for the elderly on a road that is conveniently located near the elementary school.
The Hi Jolly way finding and B10 landscaping grant has been started. It will fund placing signs on the Interstate telling drivers where the "Hi Jolly" cemetary monument is, and for landscaping along Main St near the McDonalds. This will be paid for by ADOT enhancement funds.
According to Taft, Quartzsite is receiving a 3.7 million grant by the USDA for wastewater treatment expansion.
The consent agenda was approved without questioning why payroll is still not listed by which amout was paid to what employee, and it contained the following curious item:
3. Approval of ratification of actions regarding Regular Council Meetings and public participation; approved by Council at the Emergency Meeting of July 10, 2011.
As predicted, Mike Jewitt was appointed to fill the council vacancy left by Jose Lizarraga, who stepped down to run against Ed Foster in the August 30th recall election. Jewitt was appointed and sworn in with such haste that Vice Mayor Cowell didn't bother to state "motion carried".
Item 3, to execute an agreement to take part of the "Rice Ranch" property from Chaunce Hamilton for town use was passed.
Item 4, to possibly train a town employee to conduct backflow testing of wells was postponed. Ironically, Assistant Town Manager Al Johnson had a meeting in the Planning and Zoning Office with someone from a backflow company the previous afternoon.
Lastly, item 5, the town will give a reduction in the "per fixture" water and sewer rates to churches for the summer months, but not to the towns nearly vacant RV parks.