John R. Prutch, P.O. Box 740, Quartzsite, Arizona 85346
May 31, 2012
Town of Quartzsite
Attention: Mayor Lizarraga, Council Members and Administration
Quartzsite, Arizona 85346
Dear Council Members and Other Public Officials,
It could not be a more unpleasant job to write a letter like this, but I could not let this travesty continue without making an attempt to encourage reason to take hold among the government officials who are supposed to serve this community. MyGrandchildren are going to know that I spoke up when the job needed to be done.
I want to take a moment to put what I have to say in context with the chain of current events. I think these points are relevant to where we stand at this moment: First, the Town of Quartzsite abruptly terminated the bulk of its police force following allegations of wrongdoing on the part of Chief Gilbert presented to authorities by the terminated officers and staff. They didn’t gradually change law enforcement staff, the town chose to terminate these dissenters at once. It makes you wonder how many cases had to be dropped suddenly due to these terminations. What has been the real public safety impact?
It appears that the key role of Town Clerk also saw upheaval, whenKaren Norris failed to join in violating open meeting law. This is another improper termination and resulting lawsuit. The town has terminated the bulk of the Finance Department. The same mismanagement of human resources is apparent here, as well. How much experience and investment has been lost in these jolting
terminations alone? What sort of leader squanders so much of the people’s investment so callously?
The Town of Quartzsite’s administration appears to have contributed to personal attacks on candidates by placing Mr. Mark Orgeron’s career in jeopardy through their cronies in the school system. Surrogates for the town accused a candidate of faking a knee injury in order to garner a “sympathy vote”. The administration appears to be lashing out at the Fire District and attempting to assassinate the character of Jose Lizarraga, as well as myself.
When County Attorney Sam Vederman reached out to authorities for an objective accounting of the town’s behavior, he too is attacked and ridiculed. When Mayor Lizarraga adjourned a meeting to protest the town’s behavior, it appears he was assaulted by the Town Attorney Martin Brannan. How can you condone the intimidation of a public official? After all, you could be next.
When is it enough for you? Does this have to reach a point where there is an absolute traffic jam of litigation until you realize that town governance has failed?
On the town’s agenda for the meeting to be held onJune 4, 2012, Town Code2-1-10 (Ordinance 09-15) is mentioned as part of a judgment of “qualifications” of the incoming candidates. To the best of my recollection, this ordinance has never been used before to “judge” candidates already elected by the people of Quartzsite. While it may have been used to stop candidates from running for office, and should have been challenged in court at that time, it has not been, (as far as I can recall), used to disenfranchise the electorate in this obvious manner.
On January 21, 2011, many of you received A REVIEW OF ORDINANCE 09-15 MADE BY THE GOLDWATER INSTITUTE a review of Ordinance 09-15 made by the Goldwater Institute and part of their opinion is as follows: “on behalf of theGoldwater Institute, a government watchdog and litigation organization, to express concerns regarding Quartzsite Town Ordinance 09-15, which sets requirements for the eligibility of town mayor and council candidates. It has been brought to our attention that this ordinance has been used to prohibit otherwise qualified candidates from running for these offices. Because it established eligibility beyond those set by state statute, the Town of Quartzsite acted outside the scope of its authority in passing and enforcing this ordinance.”
The Goldwater Institute letter continues on to illuminate problems with ordinance 09-15:
“Additionally, Quartzsite’s interpretation of its “judge of qualifications” power appear to be incorrect. ARS 9-234 allows a city to “judge the elections, qualifications and returns of its members,” in language nearly identical to theUnited States Constitution….”
I must repeat that you received this generous warning from theGoldwater Institute in January of 2011. I have attached the document to this letter in the event you wish to review it in its entirety.
I would also like to bring your attention to the case of SARA D. MOYA v LENORE P. LANCASTER IN HER CAPACITY AS TOWN CLERK FOR THE TOWN OF PARADISE VALLEY where the same maneuver was attempted. The court found against the Town of Paradise Valley stating among other things “A municipality possesses only those powers expressly delegated by the legislature.”
To put it simply, the Town of Quartzsite may not establish itself with powers already possessed by the State of Arizona. The administration may not pass laws beyond the power granted to the municipal corporation by the state and federal governments.
In deploying Ordinance 09-15 to disenfranchise the electorate of their choice of candidates, you stand to risk the disillusionment of many of your constituency by blatantly stating by way of deed, “Your vote doesn’t count.” In the use of this ordinance, you sow the seeds of division in our community for years, because there is no more un-American, un-democratic act than telling a whole group of American citizens, ”Your vote does not count.”
If you use this ordinance, you invite yet another lengthy and expensive litigation effort that the town cannot afford and volunteer the people you are supposed to serve to unwanted and costly attention. It is my understanding that legal resources are “enthusiastic” to engage such a clear over-reach for power by this town administration through Ordinance 09-15.
I hope you can see that even after all the spurious and false allegations that have been spread through our community about me, the Fire District, and others, that I am still trying to serve this town. I am still willing to serve and help you to move this town forward. Quartzsite has all the potential to be a great place to live and settle down, if you just start down a path of responsibility to your office. Do yourselves and the citizens of this town a favor by fulfilling your obligation to the voter and seat the properly elected candidates to their offices as has been willed through a vote of the people.