Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mayor Ed Foster finally seated!

Over five months after the people of Quartzsite elected Edward Foster back into office, the Quartzsite Town Council caved in to a Writ of Mandamus issued by La Paz County Superior Court Judge Michael Burke and seated the Foster as Mayor. His oath of office was administered by Municipal Court Judge Lawrence C. King. Foster chaired the remainder of the meeting, which included voting Councilman Michael Jewitt in as Vice Mayor.
The appeals court is currently considering whether to remove Jewitt from office, in an election challenge brought by John Prutch. The case has been given expedited consideration and a ruling is expected any day now.

Volume 2 Edition 17


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Burke orders Foster seated as Mayor

“We told them months ago that their action was illegal. This has cost the Town of Quartzsite a lot of money, if you look at Mark’s [Orgeron] fees, and the voter fraud investigation, and my legal fees. We need to now go about putting Quartzsite back on track.” Ed Foster told Parkerlive Online.

After vigorous argument from both attorney's, Judge Burke agreed with Foster's attorney Julie La Benz and ruled that the controversial ordinance was in fact illegal, and they council had exceeded their authority in disqualifying Foster. He added that even if Ordinance 2-1-10 were legal, he did not see that Foster could be legitimately disqualified because of it.

Ironically, at last night's "Meet the Candidates", sponsored by the Parker Area Chamber of Commerce, candidate for County Attorney Dan Field (who had drafted 2-1-10 to exclude former Mayor Steve Bennet from holding office when Field was Quartzsite Town Attorney) defended the legality of the ordinance stating "it was even precleared by the Justice Department". Glen Buckalew, one of Field's opponents in the November 6th election countered that the ordinance violated Arizona Law and the Arizona Constitution.

Foster was ordered to be seated by October 23rd. He was elected 5 months earlier and should have been sworn in on May 22nd, but the sitting council (including officials who had been voted out) voted to disqualify Foster.  The Town Council voted 4-2 last week to reject a settlement deal agreed to by both attorneys in the case and the taxpayers will now be on the hook for the additional legal fees.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Letter confirms, Municipal Risk Pool dumps Quartzsite

Police Chief Jeff Gilbert was reinstated on September 25th. On the morning of September 27th, Interim Town Manager Laura Bruno received a phone call from Ann Gergen, President of  the Arizona Municipal Risk Retention Pool (AMRRP) notifying Bruno that the town's insurance coverage was indeed cancelled. Bruno's desperate pleas for reconsideration were clearly heard by Public Works Director Emmett Brinkerhoff, and a formal letter was sent to the town on October 5th (see below). Despite false claims from other media sources, The Desert Freedom Press was the only news source to correctly state that this was an unavoidable reality.

Given that Councilman Mark Orgeron's choice to replace Town Manager Alexandra Taft was Laura Bruno, it is unlikely that the Risk Pool will reinstate or that another firm would offer affordable coverage when the town chose not to hire a manager certified for the position who was properly vetted and approved by the insurer. What happens next is anyone's guess.

October 5, 2012

Laura Bruno
Interim Town Manager
Town of Quartzsite
P.O. Box 2812
Quartzsite, AZ 85346

Dear Ms. Bruno,

I am writing to inform you the Arizona Municipal Risk Retention Pool (AMRRP) has made the difficult decision to terminate the Town of Quartzsite's coverage under its Property and Liability Coverage Agreements because the Town is failing to satisfy underwriting requirements. This letter is the Town's notice of coverage termination effective midnight on January 6, 2013. The Town's workers' compensation coverage with AMRRP will continue under the existing Workers' Compensation Coverage Agreement.

The Town of Quartzsite's Membership Agreement includes the following provision:

5. Termination of Agreement.

5.1 With Cause. The Board may at any time during the term of this
Agreement or any extensions thereof suspend or terminate coverage for
(i) nonpayment of the Coverage Fees or any other breach by the Member of the terms of this Agreement; or (ii) the failure to satisfy underwriting requirements established by the Pool. In such case, coverage shall be suspended or terminated and membership shall be terminated pursuant to Section 8 of this Agreement.

AMRRP is invoking its right to terminate Quartzsite's Property and Liability Coverage pursuant to this provision. AMRRP has made every effort to avoid the need for this action. The Town received letters dated September 7, September 25 and September 27, all of which communicated the seriousness of underwriting concerns in Quartzsite. In those letters, AMRRP cited the following specific concerns which to date have not been effectively addressed:

• Failure to provide adequate Town management to ensure that typical governmental and administrative controls are properly in place for the prote.ction of the public and the Town's employees.
• Failure to maintain and effectively manage a loss control program.
• Full utilization of AMRRP's Personnel Assistant Lifeline (PAL) for employment decisions.
• Leadership and management action to reduce risk and improve the risk profile of the Town.
• Solicitation and following of advice from the League regarding appropriate Town management and decision making processes.

Ongoing factional disputes within the Quartzsite Town Council and resulting employment decisions have created numerous claims and the potential for additional losses. AMRRP has received more than thirty claims against Quartzsite since early 2010, many related to the factional decision-making practices of the Town Council and ensuing employment disputes. In its history, AMRRP has never received so many claims against a municipality in so short a time and of such a nature as in Quartzsite.

Quartzsite's actions and operating environment have created a very serious financial drain on resources contributed to AMRRP by other Arizona cities and towns, and will continue to do so if the Pool does not take immediate action. Quartzsite's continued failure to rectify these circumstances and take effective corrective measures means the Town is not able to meet AMRRP's underwriting requirements for coverage.

Section 5.1 of the Membership Agreement affords Quartzsite with certain rights that are set forth in
Section 8 of the Agreement. Section 8 states:

Suspension. In the event the Member (i) fails to pay its Coverage Fees as specified herein; (ii) fails to comply with any of the other terms of this Agreement; or (iii) fails to satisfy underwriting requirements established by the Pool, the Board may, if such failure is not cured after ten (10) days' written notice, terminate the Member's coverage under the applicable Coverage Agreement. The date of such termination shall be referred to as the "Coverage Termination Date" Notwithstanding such termination of
coverage, the Member shall retain its rights to the return of any surplus or
other distributions from or assets of the Pool for a ninety (90) day period (the "Ninety Day Reinstatement Period") following such notice by the Pool. To retain this right, the Member must notify the Pool in writing during the Ninety
• Day Reinstatement Period of the Member's election (the "Reinstatement
Election") to reinstate coverage by delivering to the Pool a payment in an amount equal to any outstanding Coverage Fees and otherwise curing the failure giving rise to the termination of coverage. Upon the Pool's receipt of such payment and evidence documenting that the Member has cured the failure giving rise to the termination of coverage, together with such underwriting data and other information as the Pool may reasonably request, and provided that the Administrator determines (in the exercise of the • Administrator's sole and absolute discretion) that the reinstatement of coverage is appropriate based on sound business judgment, loss control and underwriting criteria, and loss experience during the Ninety Day Reinstatement Period (or applicable portion thereof), coverage under the applicable Coverage Agreement will be reinstated, effective as of the Coverage Termination Date. If the Member fails to provide the Pool the Reinstatement Election (together with such documentation, data and other information as required pursuant to this Section 8) during the Ninety Day Reinstatement Period, or if the Member provides the Reinstatement Election (together with such documentation, data and other information as required pursuant to this Section 8) during the Ninety Day Reinstatement Period and the Member's coverage reinstatement is denied pursuant to this Section 8, upon the expiration of the Ninety Day Reinstatement Period, the Member shall cease to be a member of the Pool and shall lose all rights as a member of the Pool including (without limitation) the right to return of any surplus or other distributions from or assets of the Pool and coverage under any Coverage Agreement. In the event of such termination, the Member shall be relieved of any liability for ordinary Coverage Fees under Section 7 for fiscal years after the year of the Member's termination. The Member's liability for additional assessments shall continue to the extent provided in Section 9 below.

Pursuant to Sections 5 and 8 of the Membership Agreement, AMRRP hereby gives notice of its intent to terminate Quartzsite's Property and Liability coverage effective on midnight, January 6, 2013. Quartzsite has the right to correct its current failure to meet underwriting guidelines within the next ninety days, which will serve as Quartzsite's "Ninety Day Reinstatement Period." Quartzsite may seek reinstatement of its coverage within this period by presenting AMRRP with evidence demonstrating that it has cured all of its failures giving rise to this termination of coverage. If after Quartzsite has provided evidence of correction AMRRP determines, in the exercise its sole and absolute discretion, reinstatement of coverage is appropriate based on sound business judgment, loss control and underwriting criteria, and loss experience during the Ninety Day Reinstatement Period, coverage under the Coverage Agreement will be reinstated.

Please let me know if you have any questions regarding this termination notice.


Ann Gergen
President for-AMRRP

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Council votes to not seat Foster as Mayor

Against their attorney’s advice, the Quartzsite Council voted against seating Mayor Ed Foster this morning during a contentious council meeting where a settlement in the case was up for a vote.
After convening behind closed doors with their attorney, the council members returned in front of the gathered audience and council member Mike Jewitt read the motion, which admitted that the town ordinance used to prevent Foster from taking his seat as elected mayor was potentially illegal:
“The ordinance that led us here today was questionable at best and there was real concern about its legality. As the Council was presented with more reliable information, we came to realize we need to end this before the costs become untenable. It is our desire as a town council to start to heal our community rather than to continue to pursue unproductive tactics, attacks, lawsuits and disruption. There has been enough fighting in our community, we have spent enough on lawyers; enough is enough. In order to bring an end to all this litigation, we have worked to reach an amicable settlement. Under the terms of this settlement, the Town will reimburse Mr. Foster $8,450 for the cost …[inaudible]… as required by law, and reimburse Mr. Foster $1,600 for his back wages as mayor from June through September. And the Town will recapture $2,555.10 for the balance of Mr. Foster’s adjudicated legal fees plus accrued interest he owes the Town. With this settlement we can move forward and focus our efforts on working in the best interests of the citizens of our community. I therefore move we accept this settlement agreement and mutual release between the Town of Quartzsite and Mr. Foster.”
Council member Crooks then made note of a legal opinion from the Goldwater Institute saying the council had no right to disqualify Foster on the basis of the ordinance. This opinion is joined by others, including recently appointed judge of the La Paz County Superior Court and current County Attorney Sam Vederman, who filed motions saying there was no question as to Foster’s legitimacy as mayor.
The council heard from many in the audience who urged the council not to seat Foster, some saying that he is a divisive figure in town politics, others saying that the judge should decide. They were opposed by a succession of audience members who rose to say that the people had elected Foster as mayor and the council should not stand in his way.
Recently elected council members Mark Orgeron and Pat Workman then cast the only votes in favor of the settlement, while Crooks, Kelley and Anderson – who were among those who voted to disqualify Foster after the election – voted against it, along with Jewitt.
The decision will now rest in the hands of Judge Michael Burke at La Paz County Superior Court. Oral arguments will be heard Wednesday, October 17th.
Earlier in the same council meeting, council member Workman was formally censured for allegedly allowing a confidential document to fall into the hands of Desert Freedom Press publisher Jennifer Jones, and Town Manager Laura Bruno announced that the municipal risk pool had issued a 90-day notice of termination of the town’s insurance policy.

Volume 2 Edition 16

Still working on getting it online. A new computer is on the way!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Councilwoman Pat Workman 's 2nd Ad Hoc

    A notice of possible quorum of the Quartzsite Town Council was not posted for Tuesday's "Ad Hoc" ethics meeting, yet all members of the Town Council were present while action that is to come before the council on October 9th was discussed. Councilpersons Carol Kelly and Mark Orgeron listened from the audience, as did the subject of the meeting, Councilwoman Pat Workman. This is the second such attack on Workman by her fellow members of council since she took office in June of this year.
    In a meeting where it was expected that members of the Ad Hoc would "review complaint and recommend action" against Workman, there was no actual discussion. Councilman Mike Jewitt read a report by an unlicensed "private investigator", and a prepared speech was given by Councilwoman Norma Crooks. It was not clear who had written their statements or how the participating members had come to a consensus over recommending that Workman be censured for an alleged breach of a "confidential" document.
    There was no evidence presented against Workman, no reference to any written legal opinion that the document in question was actually confidential, and no mention of any video or audio recording from Interim Town Manager Laura Bruno's office to substantiate the hearsay levied against Workman.
    Citizens left the meeting wondering how yet another private investigator was hired without official council approval and at what cost, in a matter in which the town manager herself was the custodian of the document.