FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
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 Ironically, Mayor Foster wanted this town ordinance repealed, and placed it on the Council Agenda last spring, but the council including Lizarraga supported the ordinance and voted in favor of taking no action.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” ).