Thursday, September 22, 2011

No mayor for Quartzsite?


This morning, something happened in the La Paz County Superior Court that few expected. Mayor Elect Jose' Lizarraga was determined to be "unqualified" if he failed to obtain and file a bond prior to taking office, as required by Quartzsite Town Code.This was only one of several allegations made against him by third place mayoral candidate Jennifer Jones, who contested Lizarraga's eligibility for office.

Lizarraga had not filed the required response to the contest of the August 30th mayoral election, and did not show up to court today. Contestant Jones motioned for a default judgment, but Judge Michael Burke stated the law allowed for the hearing to proceed "ex parte".

No one was present to legally represent the interests of the town, after Judge Burke had granted them intervention for relief, in the event that Lizarraga was found ineligible under the law. However, Jones argued that:
     "The arguments listed in the town’s motion to intervene were based on false premise. First, election contests were not known at common law and therefore they are purely statutory and are special proceedings, not actions at law or suits in equity.  Harless v. Lockwood, 85 Ariz. 97, 32 P.2d 887 (1958);  Brown v. Superior Court in and for Santa Cruz County, 81 Ariz. 236, 303 P.2d 990 (1956).
     This means the procedure is strictly in accordance with ARS §16-671 through 16-678.  Nowhere in these statutes is there a right of intervention and the parties are limited to contestor and contestee under ARS §16-673, 16-674.B, and 16-675.  The Town of Quartzsite is not a party under these statutes." 

Jones also asserted that Town Attorney Martin Brannan had erred in his claim that the town council has an “absolute right” bestowed upon it to appoint a mayor, to fill a vacant position, and that the mayor's seat must be filled by election, under state law and town code. Judge Burke grudgingly concurred. 

The town of Quartzsite will apparently not have a mayor, until the next election, in the spring of 2012. Because Arizona law states: "In case of the absence of the mayor the council may appoint one of their number to act in his stead.", Vice mayor Barbara Cowell is expected to chair the meetings, approve the minutes, and perform other mayor duties, but cannot assume the title or stipend of the position. 

A written ruling in the case is expected within five days.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Town granted intervention in Jones v Lizarraga election dispute


Tomorrow morning at 10:00 am, there will be a one hour hearing at the La Paz County Superior Court regarding Jennifer Jone's contest of the mayoral recall election in Quartzsite, AZ - Case No. CV201100117. Mayor-elect Jose' Lizarraga did not file a timely response, but the Town of Quartzsite filed a request to intervene, and Judge Burke granted the request, prepared by Town Attorney Martin Brannan. Jone's contest of the election maintains that Jose' Lizarraga is ineligible under town ordinance 2-1-10, and since incumbent Mayor Ed Foster had the second highest number of votes he is not recalled.

The La Paz County Superior Court is located at:
1316 Kofa Ave, Suite 607
Parker, AZ 85344
Phone: 928-669-6131
Fax: 928-669-2186
Monday – Friday 8am – 5pm

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Quartzsite serves termination notice on police whistleblowers

Officers Dominguez, Norris, Yeomans, Frakes and Kemp, of the Quartzsite Police Department who filed complaints against Police Chief Jeff Gilbert in May have been given a letter of intent to terminate by the Town of Quartzsite today, for appearing in Federal Court on Friday, instead of being on "house arrest".  They were ordered to a termination hearing tomorrow, Sept 16th.

QPOA officers with Rep. Carl Seel, at Quartzsite Liberty Fest.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Quartzsite Officers statements about Quartzsite "emergency" on July 10th, 2011


The following are the sworn statements of Quartzsite Police Officers James Kemp and Michelle Norris, made to the Office of the Attorney General, Open Meeting Law Enforcement Team (OMLET), regarding the declaration of an "emergency" in Quartzsite on Sunday, 7-10-11

Statement by Officer Kemp About “Emergency” Condition
07/10/11, J.C. Kemp Q35
On 07-10-11, I went to the Quartzsite Police Station to pick up some paperwork from my box. Upon entering the station, I saw Ofc. Norris, Ofc. Rodriguez, and Chief Gilbert. As I stopped to check the warrants board, I heard Ofc. Norris call me and ask me to come into the patrol room where they were
I entered and asked them what was going on. The Chief explained that earlier that morning, the Town Council had called a special meeting to announce a state of emergency in Quartzsite, due to threatening emails sent to them and the Chief. The Chief then proceeded to read me an email that said something to the effect that the person who wrote the email would not mind if the Chief was killed.
Ofc. Norris then cut in and asked him why she and Ofc. Rodriguez, who were on duty that day, had not been informed of a state of emergency. The Chief stated that he had been unaware of what the council was going to do until just a short time ago at the meeting.
At his words, I grew angry, as I had been shown an email from Chief to the La Paz County Sheriff's Office asking for their assistance, as death threats had been issued over the internet, and Quartzsite was discussing calling a state of emergency.
I asked the Chief how serious a threat he thought it really was, if he had not told his own officers in advance, as all officers receive death threats, usually in person while making an arrest. Chief again said he had not told us, as he himself did not know the town was calling a state of emergency till just a few minutes ago. I again asked him if the threat was actually credible. At this point, he seemed to get visibly angry at me, and asked me, "How can you of all people not take this threat seriously?"
I told the Chief that since we now "knew", we needed to call and inform all the officers working for our department that the town was in a state of emergency. The Chief said no, that the officers would be informed as they arrived for their shifts of duty. I said I believed that if death threats were being made against Quartzsite Officers, and since the people making the threats were local and knew where all the Officers lived, we needed to inform all Law Enforcement Officers right away, to heighten their alertness at home as well as on the street, working. The Chief shook his head, and stated the Officers would be notified over the next few days as they arrived for duty.
At this time, I turned away from Chief and told Ofc. Norris and Ofc. Rodriguez that we needed to call all the officers and give them a heads up, and that I personally intended to do just that myself. Chief then left the station.
Ofc. Norris then told me that she and Ofc. Rodriguez had been called to town hall, where they were confronted by a crowd of people who were upset and angry, because the town was declaring a state of emergency, and the Chief was going to be in charge of everything. Ofc. Norris said she was so angry that Chief had let them walk into the situation blind, with no warning, that after the meeting, she followed him to the Eatery and confronted him in the parking lot. Ofc. Norris stated that the Chief told them to meet him at the station.
I called Sgt. Ponce and told him what had happened, and the reasons why Ofc. Norris was upset. I then mentioned to Sgt. Ponce the email we saw on Friday the 8th, 2011, and told him it was wrong of Chief not to warn us, since he obviously knew before the meeting occurred on the 10th. Sgt. Ponce also recalled the ewmail, and told me he would inform the other officers.
End. James C. Kemp

Statement by Officer Norris About “Emergency” Condition
On July 10th 2011, I was dispatched to 465 N Plymouth Road to the Quartzsite Town Hall in reference to suspicious activity. While en route dispatch said that they received a call from Ed Foster who advised that he was told he was to meet Chief Gilbert at Town Hall and it was suspicious. Upon arrival, I noticed a large amount of people in the parking lot of Town Hall. As I got out of my vehicle several people, including Ed Foster came up to myself and Officer Rodriguez. They were angry saying that an illegal meeting was going on and they were locked out and not allowed in town hall. Foster said that he was at home when Chief Gilbert and Xavier Fausto came and asked him to go with them to Town Hall for an emergency meeting. Foster said he refused to ride down with them but said drove to the Town Hall in his own vehicle. When he walked up to the doors of town hall he noticed all the council members and some of town hall staff were there having a meeting. Foster said it was an illegal meeting. He said Xavier Fausto opened the door and told Foster they were having an emergency meeting. Foster said he told them the meeting was not legal, was not open to the public and said he would not attend. He said Frausto refused to allow anyone to attend the meeting and he locked the door so no one could get inside the building. Foster said he wanted to file a complaint. After several attempts to contact Chief Gilbert and Sgt. Fausto, Officer Rodriguez contacted dispatch and requested assistance from a La Paz County Officer. An Officer from La Paz County Sheriff's Office arrived and talked to Officer Rodriguez and to Ed Foster. I was at the back of the building when the meeting ended and Chief Gilbert walked out. He told me not to allow anyone at the back of the building or in the rear parking lot. Chief Gilbert and Xavier Frausto then gave council members a ride home. I was confused as to what emergency was taking place because I had seen Chief Gilbert several times that morning. I was in the office earlier that day and Chief Gilbert walked in, went past me and into his office. He never said anything to me about an emergency. I had been passed multiple times by both Chief Gilbert and Xavier Frausto several times in different places while driving around town that morning and had attempted to call both of them several times but neither of them would answer. I felt if there was some type of emergency in town then Officer Rodriguez and I should be notified for safety reasons since we were the officers on duty at the time. I saw Chief Gilbert drive into the Main Street Eatery Restaurant and Laundry Mat.
I turned around and pulled into the parking lot. I asked Chief Gilbert if he could explain to me why there was a State of Emergency in Quartzsite. I told him I was upset that I and another officer had been on Duty for several hours today and not been notified of any emergency. If there was an emergency I felt for officer safety reasons, we should have been notified right away. Chief Gilbert said he had planned on telling us later but would go ahead and talk to us now. He said to meet him at our office. Officer Rodriguz and I met Chief Gilbert at the office. Officer Kemp had walked into the officer and joined our conversation. Chief Gilbert told us that Quartzsite Officials, Council Members, and Officers had received a lot of death threats via email in the past week and because of this a state of emergency had been called. I explained to Chief Gilbert that I was upset and I didn't feel it was right that he had enough death threats on Officers, Officials, and Council Members to cause a State of Emergency, yet he didn't notify his officers of this information. I explained to him that knowing the officers are the easiest targets because we can be easily identified, we should have been and could have easily been notified by him as soon as the death threats were received. Officer Michelle Norris

Friday, September 9, 2011

Quartzsite mayoral recall election challenge filed in Superior Court


Thursday, September 8th, a legal challenge to the election of Jose Lizarraga was filed in the La Paz County Superior Court by Jennifer Jones, publisher of The DESERT FREEDOM PRESS. Jones was also a candidate on the ballot for the mayor recall election that unseated popular "people's mayor" Ed Foster, but had publicly asked voters to support Foster.

The summons was served on Mayor Elect Lizarraga's wife this morning, at their home, by a private process server. Lizarraga has until 5 pm Wednesday, September 14th, to file a response with the court. The civil case is between private parties Jones and Lizarraga, so town attorney(s) may not represent the newly elected mayor. Jones filed "in pro per", and will represent herself.

The Contest of Election surrounds Lizarraga's eligibility under Quartzsite Town Code 2-1-10. Ironically, Mayor Foster wanted this town ordinance repealed, and placed it on the Council Agenda last spring, but the council including Lizarraga supported the ordinance and voted in favor of taking no action. They refused to even engage in public discussion on the matter with Foster. 

From the complaint:

Statement Specific Facts Disqualifying Contestee from Office of Mayor
5.   Arizona Revised Statutes Authorizes this Statement of Contest.  Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 16-672.A.2 provides that an elector may contest the election of any person declared elected who was, at the time of the election, not eligible to hold the office.
 6.    Contestee Violated the State of Arizona’s Open Meeting Law.  On December 21, 2010 at a Town Meeting, Contestee and the majority of the Town Council violated the Open Meeting Law.  In an opinion by the Office of the La Paz County Attorney dated January 28, 2011 and attached hereto as Exhibit “B” County Attorney Samuel Vederman states on page 6: “it is our belief that the Open Meeting Law was violated.”  On page 3 of that letter, County Attorney Vederman clearly points out the Contestee participated and violated the Open Meeting Law at that time.  In Exhibit “C”, (an article in the Arizona Republic dated July 17, 2011, on page 4, 11 lines from the bottom)  it states: “In interviews, Lizarraga [the Contestee] and Lukkasson…said they do not care if some council meetings are deemed unlawful or if public-records laws are broken.”  Further, at “Meet the Candidates” night, on August 27, 2011,  Contestee publicly acknowledged that the December 21, 2010 Town meeting did violate Open Meeting Law. This demonstrates a clear and express violation of  Quartzsite Municipal Code 2-1-10 C wherein it states that a violation of open meeting laws is a disqualification to run for office. Contestee is currently under investigation for additional violations of the Open Meeting Law by the Arizona Attorney  General’s Open Meeting Law Enforcement Team.
7.  Contestee Thwarted  Mayor Ed Foster’s Investigation into wrong-doing by the Town Council and Contestee.  Former Quartzsite Mayor Ed Foster undertook a series of investigations into possible misappropriation, misuse and waste of Town funds.  Town Council and Contestee undertook actions to thwart Mayor Foster’s efforts at every turn, to wit:
(a)  Town Council Including Contestee Refused to allow Mayor Foster and Contestant to have access to public records.  The Town, under the direction of the Town Council (including Contestee) refused to provide records to the Contestant, which were determined to be within the scope of Open Records, as determined by  Arizona Ombudsman – Citizen’s Aide. The Town, under the direction of the Town Council (including Contestee) also refused Mayor Foster’s repeated request for records related to Town checks, which Mayor Foster suspected of being questionable.  Attached hereto as Exhibit “D” is a true and correct copy of the  ”Final Report of Investigation” by  Arizona Ombudsman-Citizens’s Aide which has findings that the “Town wrongfully denied [the Mayor’s] public records request.  Contestee was a member of the Town Council and voted wrongfully to deny said request.  Indeed, paragraph (b) below details the length that Contestee went to secret records from Mayor Foster.
(b)  Town Council Including Contestee Unlawfully changed its laws  to Thwart the Mayor’s investigation into Town Council and Contestee’s actions.  In a meeting of the Town Council held on Tuesday, June 8, 2010, Town Council and Contestee  passed a resolution prohibiting the Mayor from receiving any reports from the Town without an approval vote of the Town Council.  (See Attachment “E” resolution 060810-6).  This unlawfully restricts the powers of the Mayor which under Arizona Revised Statutes,  9-236 states that “The mayor of the common council shall be the chief executive officer of the town..”  Further, this effort by the Town Council and Contestee to stop the Mayor from obtaining records that must be available to a chief executive officer of a Town constitutes felonious secreting of documents under Arizona Revised Statutes,  38-421 which makes it a felony for an officer having custody of any record to…”secret the whole or part thereof…”   Contestee voted “Aye” on this illegal provision for the express and felonious purpose of keeping records from Mayor Ed Foster.
    (c)  Town Council Including Contestee Engaged in Various Acts in violation of the law which have as a primary purpose to thwart investigation into Contestee’s misdeeds.  Town Council and Contestee engaged in a pattern of illegal and outrageous acts designed to thwart investigation into Contestee’s illegal acts, to wit:
(i)    At the October 26, 2010 Town Council meeting, the Town Council, including Contestee,  sanctioned, by ordinance and participated in the unlawful restriction of content based speech during “Call to the Public” after being provided with case law by Contestant.  Contestee voted “Aye” on this illegal provision. Subsequently, on June 28, 2011,  a video of  denial of Contestant’s rights to speak was posted on Youtube and was viewed over two hundred thousand times and resulted in national and international attention being focused on Quartzsite. (See: Exhibit “G”)
(ii)    At the October 26, 2010 Town Council meeting, the Town Council, including Contestee,  sanctioned by ordinance, and participated in the unlawful revocation of Town business licenses and vendor permits without Due Process of Law. Contestee voted “Aye” on this illegal provision. (See: Exhibit “G”)
(iii)    Contestee has violated his sworn oath of office while a member of Town Council, and other acts in violation of law as set forth in Exhibit “D” attached hereto and made a part hereof.
    8.    Contestee participated in his unlawful swearing in to office as Mayor.   Contestee was sworn in as mayor at a special meeting on September 6, 2011.  (Note the swearing in and the completion of the canvas of election and declaration of results thereof was done at the same time at the special meeting.  Quartzsite Town Code, section 2-1-3  (See Exhibit “A”) provides that “Council Members shall assume the duties of office at the regularly scheduled Council meeting next following the date of the general election.”  Neither this code section or any other section whatsoever authorizes Contestee to be sworn in at a special Town Council meeting.   Contestee usurped the office of mayor before the time to contest the election has expired. Also, under information and belief Contestant understands that Contestee failed to obtain a bond for the office of mayor (as required by Quartzsite Town Code 2-1-7) prior to being sworn in.  (See Exhibit “A” ).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lizarraga usurps Foster as mayor of Quartzsite

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011 candidate and former Councilman Jose Lizarraga was sworn in as mayor, in a special meeting of the Quartzsite Town Council. The unusual action was not undisputed. Town Attorney/Town Prosecutor Martin Brannan's contention that it was a lawful maneuver was questioned in a written complaint, by The DESERT FREEDOM PRESS publisher and mayoral candidate Jennifer Jones. Mayor Ed Foster, who was recalled by the wife of Councilman Jerry Lukkasson, was expected to retain his position for another week, until the regular council meeting.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Quartzsite videographer arested in town hall

Another critic of Quartzsite officials has been jailed in what appears to be retaliation. Local Realtor Doug Gilford has gained notoriety as the blogger and videographer who filmed the unlawful removal of Desert Freedom Press Publisher Jennifer Jones, from a June 28th town council meeting. The video has been viewed over two hundred thousand times on Gilford's YouTube channel.

Yesterday afternoon, around 3:30 Gilford was at the counter in Town Hall, filing an open records request for town hall feed surveillance tape when Assistant Town Manager Al Johnson confronted Gilford.  Apparently feeling threatened, Gilford set his camera on the counter but didn't hit record, when suddenly Johnson snatched it from across the counter. When Gilford called for police assistance, he ended up being arrested instead of Johnson.

Gilford was booked into the La Paz County jail on charges of harassment, trespassing, and false reporting to law enforcement. He was released on $500 bond. Mayor Ed Foster and Doug's wife Teri picked him up at time around 8pm last night.

Since filming the now infamous Jennifer Jones video, Doug Gilford has been assaulted with a barrage of misdemeanor charges. He was charged with three counts of harassment and noticed to turn himself into the La Paz County Jail for asking Councilman Winslow a question about the town council's failure to put embattled Police Chief Jeff Gilbert on administrative leave, following criminal allegations by 80% of his department.

When Gilford showed up at his arraignment this week, he was informed that he was being charged with ten additional misdemeanors for harassment, disorderly conduct and false reporting to law enforcement, for complaints he had filed against town officials. He will be arraigned on all thirteen charges on September 13th, at 10am,  in the Quartzsite Magistrate Court, under Judge Karen Slaughter.

Gilford has been for driving around town with a large sign directed at the Quartzsite Town Council that reads: "GO QUIT RESIGN!"

He has no prior criminal history, and is best known for his volunteer work with the homeless with his wife Teri.

For more information, follow Doug's blog at: