Sunday, January 22, 2012

Quartzsite election fraud scandal

    The town has decided that recently appointed Councilman Mike Jewitt will run officially unopposed for a two year term at the March 13th Primary Election, despite the fact that former Magistrate Judge and current Town Clerk Terry Frausto altered the candidate’s paperwork. Jewitt replaced Jose Lizarrga, who had to resign in order to run for mayor.
    Candidate Sean Austin wants to run against Jewitt, but all council candidates will now be forced to run against each other for the two seats currently held by Vice Mayor Barbara Cowell, and Councilman Joe Winslow, according to the ballot submitted by the town. La Paz County Election Board Director Donna Hale stated, “I do not believe the ballot is subject to change as it has been authorized to go to print by the Town Clerk, Terry Frausto.”
    After all of the candidate paperwork was officially received by the town in December, Frausto took the liberty of writing in the dates for the term of office instead of having the candidates themselves do it properly, prior to stamping the documents “received”. Frausto had called council candidates to ask whether they wanted to run for a two year or four year term.
    Candidate Jennifer Jones came in before Christmas to fill out the form, but was informed by Frausto that she had altered the document. When Jones exclaimed ”You know you’re not allowed do that!” Frausto replied “Well I did. I just wrote it in there...I did it for everybody.” For the custodial officer to alter a public record after it is stamped received is a class four felony under ARS 38-421 and a knowingly filing a forged document is a class six felony under ARS 39-161. Knowingly violating election law is a class 6 felony under ARS 16-1010.
    The town sent candidates a press release in January, calling the two year term a “special” election, but  no special election was advertised for and it is not listed as a special election on the sample ballot.     
    To make matters worse, the town failed to legally "call" for a special election, and only posted a notice on the town website for a "primary" election for "three (3) Council Seats and Mayor's Seat" with no mention of a special election. Interestingly, The "Public Notice" was not even signed and posted until November 30th, 2011 - over two weeks after the candidate packet distribution date, and after incumbents Barbara Cowell, Joe Winslow and Mike Jewitt, as well as incumbent supporter Starr Bearcat had pulled their packets. Many in the community are speculating that they were given personal notice.
    “After consultation with the Secretary of State’s Elections Department, the town discovered that, unless context made it otherwise clear - as in the case with incumbents and mayoral candidates, the nominating petitions would be the sole determining factor in determining whether a candidate was running for the regular council primary election or the special council primary election”, according to the press release prepared by controversial Town Attorney Martin Brannan. The town “relied solely on the contents of the nominating papers submitted in making that determination.”
    Nominating papers were anything but clear however, with Jewitt indicating he was running in the “Regular” election. Candidates had varied responses on the petitions; Orgeron, Jones, Austin and Workman wrote in “primary”, Bearcat and Winslow wrote “2012”, and Cowell wrote in “Quartzsite Town Hall & Senior Center”.
    Additionally, the Municipal Elections Manual from the Arizona League of Cities and Towns specifies that "a separate nomination petition must be prepared for a two year term in addition to the regular petitions for the four year terms". This was never done by the town and Jewitt filed a standard petition, for a four year term. Technically speaking, it doesn't appear he's running for his own seat.
    Inquiries to Secretary of State Elections Director Amy Chan received the response that the end result of her own advice is not any of her concern, When asked “if the nomination petition does not state it, and the Threshold Exemption Statement was altered by the custodial officer after the fact, how can it be determined who may run against whom?” Chan replied “this is a local matter that must be settled among the interested parties” So any  “interested parties” would have to file a civil suit in Superior Court.

Read this and other stories in the online version of the DESERT FREEDOM PRESS at:


  1. JAN19 issue does not download

    1. Large file size may cause a slow download so try again. I checked it and had no problem.

  2. I don't understand why the Secretary of State isn't outraged and involved. The Petition forms are from his office, stamped "Secretary of State, Revised 7/20/2011." On his website it says he "Serves as Chief Election Officer for the State and certifies candidates and measures ... to the ballot and certifies election results."

    Seems to me that Mr. Bennett has jurisdiction when his own forms are used in an election and when he's the Chief Election officer. Seems a smart politician would get involved, if only to file a lawsuit on behalf of the residents of Quartzsite. Lots of positive press for nominal effort.

    1. Yes, it never fails to amaze me how AZ officials fail to seize the opportunity for an easy victory for the people, and simultaneously gain the positive publicity for doing the right thing.