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Archive for July, 2012

Send In Your $20

28 Jul

In the May 15 general election, the cost per council seat to hold a [necessary] election is about $2,333.

Costs [unnecessary] of about $60,000 have been incurred for the losing effort by the Quartzsite  Town leadership – to prevent Mark Orgeron from rightfully taking his seat, even though mandated by the voters!

The math says that those costs average about $20 for each person living in Quartzsite. Example: A family of four – $80. Either now or later.

 
 

Mark Orgeron Seated On Council

27 Jul

 

Mark Orgeron

At today’s special Quartzsite Town Council meeting, Mark Orgeron was sworn in as Council member by Judge T. Carnevale. Orgeron replaces Barbara Cowell who was to attend the meeting but did not appear. She has been accused of usurping. Mr. Orgeron was elected May 15 in the general election. Town leadership took actions to prevent him from taking his Council seat. Since that date, hundreds of very patient Quartzsite voters have waited to see their newly elected official “on the job”. Mr. Orgeron was warmly greeted by members of the Town Council who only hours before had defied his right to the seat. Mr. Orgeron was forced to hire law firm Snell & Wilmer LLP to take the Town to United States District Court in Phoenix to bring about the inevitable outcome. This nearly all at Town taxpayer expense of tens of thousands of dollars.

Mr. Orgeron will begin his duties immediately. He is your representative if you live in Quartzsite. He can be contacted by calling the Town offices at (928) 927-4333.

Video much appreciated, contributed by Southwest Desert News / MPI, LLC (copyright)

 
 

Council Dumps Orgeron Offer!

25 Jul

[Revised July 26 7:40am and 10:07 am]

Councilwoman Patricia Anderson marched out of the executive session at today’s special meeting. She took her seat, requested a roll call, then promptly announced that the Council had made a decision in the executive session! Here is how it went:

[Roll Call]

Chair: “Let it be noted that the council decided not to settle with Mr. Orgeron at this time.”

Town Attorney Brannan: “Just for clarity you’ve authorized me to continue negotiations to reach a settlement. So you’re not ruling out a settlement there just has not been a settlement at present.”

Chair: “Alright thank you. OK at this time we’ll adjourn.”

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Commentary:

  1. The council must not make decisions in executive sessions out of the public eye.
  2. A council member must not reveal discussions which took place in an executive session.
  3. The presiding officer of a council meeting ought not to adjourn the meeting before the agenda is finished.
  4. Today’s meeting was apparently illegal before it started. The Town Clerk posted public notices too late.
  5. The presiding officer adjourned the meeting without motion, on her own. Wasn’t this parliamentary infraction by former Mayor  Lizarraga the reason the Town gave to reconvene the May 15 meeting?

(Orgeron v. Town of Quartzsite will go back to court for continued negotiations.)

 

Video much appreciated, contributed by Southwest Desert News / MPI, LLC (copyright)

 
 

Martin Brannan Disrespects Councilwoman Workman During Meeting

24 Jul

As an apparent personal attack this morning on Councilwoman Pat Workman, current Quartzsite Town Attorney Martin Brannan stated:

“I don’t know what BIZARRE UNIVERSE the former council members that Ms. Workman talked about live in, but …”.

“I don’t know of any municipality that operates in such a backwards fashion.”

He was referring to the Councilwoman’s prior complaint that Town checks were being issued to vendors well before the Council’s actual approval.  Brannan was trying to say that she was describing a practice not followed by any other municipality in [his] universe.

HOWEVER, a reader of this website named “RBmt” graciously offered the results of some online research. It seems that many towns follow such a practice in this very universe:

1.  approve the expenditure   2.  sign the checks.

=========================================

July 24, 2012at3:56 pm

Mr. Brannan claims:
“When you approve the checks, you are not approving the checks being paid, you are approving the ledger of the checks that have been paid… What you are approving is the ledger… if you refuse to approve the ledger this does not mean that the check has not been paid, cashed, or cleared… I don’t know of any municipality that operates in such a backwards fashion.”

I disagree. This is exactly how it works in my city, in the small town I grew up in, and a very quick Google search produces several confirming statements:

Bonney Lake, WA “The City’s general payment terms are net 30 days. The Accounts Payable section is responsible for
processing vendor invoices and other remittances in a timely manner. The City issues checks twice a month after approval by the City Council, with payments mailed out after approval. ”

Woodbury, NJ “The City of Woodbury has a centralized Accounts Payable system that processes payment of invoices following approval by the City department that made the purchase and the bill list approval by City Council.”

Corcoran, CA “Checks are issued twice a month after approval by the City Council which meets the first and third Monday of the month. Invoices are due in at least two weeks prior to each meeting to ensure proper processing.”

Douglas, WY “All payments for purchases of goods or services may only be made with prior approval from City Council. Prepare & present vendor payment requests to City Council for approval. Approval is made at the first Council meeting of each month, which is held on the second Monday. Deadline for payment requests is Tuesday prior to the second Monday of each month.”

Ashdown, AR (City council minutes)  “After a brief overview from City Clerk Kirk Mounts the accounts payable for the month of May and the June payrolls were approved for payment by the Council on a motion made by Council Member Pennington, seconded by Council Member Adkison. Motion carried.”

 
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Martin Brannan’s “Report / Announcement”

24 Jul

Quartzsite’s Town Attorney entertained the Council and public this morning with a long dissertation, during the portion of time reserved at the beginning of each Council meeting for “Reports & Announcements”. So, after the chair made a plug for her favorite restaurant, Mr. Brannan spoke up. Lots of it was unlike a report or an announcement:

“I am going to report on several things right now. First …  is the investigation into voting irregularities. When I was hired as the Town Attorney I was provided with the obligation to perform the duties both that are prescribed by this council and by the Arizona Revised Statutes by the State Legislature. Those include ARS sections 16-924 and 16-1021 which deal with the imposition of civil and criminal penalties for violations of Title 16 which is the voting section of the voting Title of Arizona Revised Statutes. With regard to the hiring of investigators both by contract and by ordinance this council has promised that the Town Attorney will have the resources necessary to do the job that the council hired the Town Attorney to do. And that was the basis for hiring Mr. Humphrey. Mr. Humphrey was hired under Section 3-409 of the Quartzsite Revised Town Code formerly Section 3-4-8. he provides professional service an order …? … … does not apply to his situation.

We are continuing in this investigation I intend to be meeting with the Attorney General in the next week or two weeks to ask him to take over the investigation because they have resources far beyond whatwe have. If they refuse to do that of course the Town will do what’s necessary and I’ll do what’s necessary under State law to enforce these statutes. We’d just be better served if the Attorney General did it.

Second thing I want to discuss is consent agenda. Under the Town Code and also under Section 41 of Roberts Rules which is incorporated by Town Code the consent agenda is not subject to discussion. If you want to discuss an item and it’s in the consent agenda when you approve or amend the agenda you move it into regular business. The consent agenda is not subject to discussion. You can discuss what’s on the consent agenda simply by moving it into the regular business section. That is laid out in Town code and also in the Policy Procedure Manual. And that’s the way that you talk about something that’s on the consent agenda. Even then, you are limited to talking about what is actually in the consent agenda and not tangential issues regarding what is in the consent agenda.

Next thing I want to discuss is approval of the ledger. When you approve the checks, you are not approving the checks being paid, you are approving the ledger of the checks that have been paid. I don’t know what bizarre universe the former council members that Ms. Workman talked about live in, but the ledger has been run in this town as far as I can tell from  the records from the finance department for the last 5, 6 or 7 years, has been that as long as ..that expenditures are made and the ledger is approved by the council. If you do not agree with a ledger .. a payment of something on the ledger then if that payment was made in violation of the town code you take action based on that. But what you are approving is a ledger. You are approving a financial document that shows has been paid and what has not been paid. If you refuse to approve the ledger, that’s just means that the ledger has not been approved. It doesn’t mean that the check hasn’t been paid, it doesn’t mean that the check hasn’t been cashed, it doesn’t mean the check hasn’t cleared. These payments have been made and that’s the way the Town does business because if we had to wait for the council to provide approval to make payment …[miss discounts …] …  I don’t know of any municipality that operates in such a backwards fashion. If you think that a payment has been made in violation of the Town Code then by all means send a letter to the AG.

The next thing … In September pursuant to the Town Procedure Policy the Council is supposed to elect a chair and a vice chair to run the meetings. My anticipation is that there will be no chair or vice chair very shortly. The council can proceed in one of two fashions. You can do what we’ve been doing which is follow Section 4.1 of the Procedure Policy which is having the senior member present chair the meeting and next most senior member present being the vice chair of the meeting. Or you can accelerate and have a vote and decide who other than those individuals you want to run the meetings until September.

As far as also we need to tighten up a little bit with I suggest that you need to tighten up a little bit by following the Town Code and Roberts Rules. One way to do that if the Council members let Alex know when you’re available in the first week of September I would be glad to put on some Roberts Rules training – for the council. And I suggest that that be done.

One thing that happens frequently that should not happen is the chair of the meeting makes motions. The chair of the meeting engages in discussions without seating the chair. Under the Town Code that is not permitted. If the chairperson wants to engage in discussion then the chairperson turns the meeting over to the vice chair so that there is some person other than the one who is speaking who decides whether or not the person speaking is in or out of order.

The last thing that I want to address to give the council notice of is the Attorney General’s office is inquiring into allegations of open meeting violations by our municipal boards. I am working with the Attorney General to try to figure out how we get around this situation. What has happened is the boards go dark in the summer because we don’t have an adequate number of people to have a quorum the months of June July August. What’s been happening in the past what’s always been done is the minutes are presented to the board the next time they meet, and then they are approved and they’re posted. Well when you meet in May and the next time you meet is in September there are no minutes to post until September. And that doesn’t seem in my mind at least to comply with what State Law requires. I’m not positive the way I read the State Law that minutes actually have to be approved . I beilieve that a recording of the meeting or a recording of a draft minutes can be posted within ten days of the meeting without having them approved by that committee or that board. What we’re looking for is some guidance from the Attorney General’s office as to how they want these boards to function in the summer months. In fact, for the May meeting of these boards the minutes have not been posted they haven’t been posted because the clerks to those boards have not provided the meeting minutes because those boards have not approved those meeting  minutes. How we get around that I am not sure but I am working with the Attorney General about how to get around that situation.”

This transcript may contain errors.

 
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Injury Collision Highway 95 Tuesday Afternoon

24 Jul

On a straight stretch of HWY 95 at Milepost 97 about 7 miles south of Quartzsite, a semi truck and trailer owned by Sarah Farm Milk was attempting to pass a backhoe traveling northbound. The semi truck hit the backhoe from behind that was doing about 25mph; the semi was doing about 65mph. The semi hitting the backhoe caused it to roll over several times throwing the driver Shawn Lavoie 41 to the ground. When medical arrived on scene Mr Lavoie was conscience and alert complaining of head, neck, and back pain and said he did lose consciousness for a short time. Mr. Lavoie was treated on scene by Quartzsite Fire Dept., River Medical Ambulance, and then was transported by Care Flight Helicopter to Good Sam Medical Center for further care. The driver of the semi was uninjured. Investigation is continuing.

Story and Video much appreciated, contributed by Southwest Desert News / MPI, LLC (copyright)

 
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Attention! Council Meets Tomorrow – Wednesday 9:30am

24 Jul

SPECIAL MEETING CALLED

Tomorrow at 9:30 am the Quartzsite Town Council will meet to essentially consider allowing newly elected Council member Mark Orgeron to be properly recognized. Orgeron brought a legal action against the Town of Quartzsite in U.S. District Court in Phoenix to force the Town to drop their resistance to allowing him to take his Council seat. The Town and Orgeron’s attorney Kory Langhofer of Snell & Wilmer L.L.P. reached a settlement agreement compromise, which the Council will have an opportunity to approve at the meeting.

Kory A. Langhofer

 

 
 

July 24 Town Council Meeting

24 Jul

New revelations.

Copyright Southwest Desert News / MPI, LLC

 
 

Vehicle Vandalized In Eatery Parking Lot

21 Jul

On Thursday, a vehicle was vandalized in broad daylight while the driver dined at the Main Street Eatery.

The patron has not yet reported the crime.

 
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New Councilman Mark Orgeron Prevails In Federal Court

21 Jul

Story contributed by Quartzsite Outsider

Late Friday afternoon federal Judge Roslyn Silver ruled in favor of Quartzsite Town Councilman-in-waiting Mark Orgeron, in the matter of Orgeron v. Town of Quartzsite.

At issue was the Town’s patently frivolous contention that Mr. Orgeron was not a resident of Quartzsite. Judge Silver was very  gracious toward the Town, giving it every benefit of the doubt, not getting angry or using the word “frivolous.” Nevertheless, it’s clear from what she wrote, (excerpts below), that the Town had no basis to prevent Mr. Orgeron from taking his duly elected seat. One hopes, given her statements, that she will award Mr. Orgeron attorney fees because the Town forced him into this action.

But it’s not quite over. Unfortunately, Judge Silver did not immediately order the Town to seat Mr. Orgeron, but told the parties to confer and offer a joint proposed order. Their deadline is Tuesday the 24th, the day of yet another Town Council meeting without the Town’s duly elected official in office.

(Mr. Orgeron had also sought to use this action to seat Mayor-elect-in-waiting Ed Foster. However, since Mr. Foster was not a party to this lawsuit, Judge Silver could not make a ruling to seat him one way or the other. Mr. Foster is still waiting on the state’s Quo Warranto action.)

Judge Silver’s Order can be downloaded  HERE .

Poignant excerpt below:

———-

The Court admits to some confusion regarding Defendants’ decision to disqualify Plaintiff based on these statutes.   There can be no serious dispute that Plaintiff had an “actual physical presence” in Quartzsite for close to three years prior to the election.

Defendants [Town] presumably had some basis for determining Plaintiff was not a resident of Quartzsite but Defendants chose not to present the Court with that basis.

————–

 
 

Monsoon

19 Jul

Images provided by Southwest Desert News / MPI, LLC – Thanks Bill!

 
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Voters’ Choice Shut Out Of Quartzsite Town Hall

19 Jul

Story contributed by Quartzsite Outsider

Today Quartzsite Assistant Town Manager Al Johnson threatened Quartzsite Councilwoman Patricia Workman with trespass if she came to Town hall unannounced or “any administrative area of the town government . . .”

According to Mr. Johnson, Councilwoman Workman now has to make appointments to see HIM prior to performing her public service. And she is not allowed to speak to anyone in Town administration other than Mr. Johnson or she’ll be arrested for trespass!
The way the letter reads, she cannot even file legal papers or inspect the record in the Municipal Court without being arrested!

Ignoring the blatant constitutional violations here, this is a Councilwoman we’re talking about. A public servant. As such, Mr. Johnson’s threat is arguably a violation of the spirit, if not the letter of A.R.S. Section 13-2402, which says,

A. A person commits obstructing governmental operations if, by using or threatening to use violence or physical force, such person knowingly obstructs, impairs or hinders:

1. The performance of a governmental function by a public servant acting under color of his official authority.

Such a violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor for every count.  http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/13/02402.htm

(Given the history in Quartzsite, it’s doubtful Chief Gilbert, or his officers—who days ago admitted to arresting a citizen without probable cause after a phone call from Al Johnson—will arrest his boss. Gilbert’s number is 928-927-4644. Nor will the La Paz County Sheriff, Don Lowery, get involved. (Lowery wrongly claims he doesn’t have jurisdiction in Quartzsite. Even though he sent a deputy to investigate when former Mayor Lizarraga was allegedly assaulted by the Town Attorney, Martin Brannan. 928-669-6141))

The Assistant Town Manager, who seems to be acting on his own without legal authority or advice (since there is no cc: to the Town’s Attorney, Martin Brannan), claims that one reason for his threat is because Councilwoman Workman cannot be trusted with documents marked “Confidential.”

In a bizarre “Animal House” double-secret probation twist, Johnson talks about two documents the Town had made, a secret one for itself and one for Councilwoman Workman, the latter it  distributed only to the Councilwoman. Johnson says Councilwoman Workman cannot be trusted because she released the “confidential” letter to the public. And so he is threatening her with trespass! (An additional implication is that she cannot see any official Town documents Mr. Johnson doesn’t want her to see, confidential or otherwise. Like unauthorized checks?) We don’t know if the letter Al Johnson sent to Councilwoman Workman is also different from an “official” one he wrote for the Town!

But Councilwoman Workman did not violate any law by making Mr. Johnson’s first letter to her public. A phone call to Kathryn Marquoit, Assistant Ombudsman for Public Access (602.285.9136) confirms what Mr. Johnson should know. According to Marquoit, “stamping a letter ‘Confidential’ means nothing.” Marquoit said such a letter would still be available through an Open Record Law request. (Marquoit also offered that “they have some interesting interpretations over there [in Quartzsite].”
Besides, if the Councilwoman had violated a law, the proper remedy would be to report her to the authorities. Not threaten her with trespass. Further, in his letter Johnson libels Councilwoman Workman with unsubstantiated claims of “abusive behavior” from “multiple town employees.” We wonder if that refers to Councilman Workman exposing the unauthorized check for $11,000 signed by town employee Alex Taft and “employee” Vice Mayor Cowell, as reported two days ago?  http://qtown.us/blog/2012/07/17/quartzsite-embezzlement-smoking-gun-found/

So a lowly ASSISTANTTownManager is threatening a Town Councilwoman. This is like a staffer at the Arizona Senate telling a State Senator they couldn’t come to the Senate building! Or that a State Senator could only do public business with the staffer. In any other place, that staffer would be fired for insubordination. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen in Quartzsite until the incumbents are out of power.. That’s why a majority of the voters voted the incumbents out of office in May. But even so, the incumbents refuse to leave! It’s taking a federal and state action to force them out. No wonder Mr. Johnson is so brazen. And ridiculous.

 
 

Quartzsite – Embezzlement Smoking Gun Found!

17 Jul

Last week newly seated Quartzsite Town Councilwoman Patricia Workman sent a complaint to the Arizona Attorney General, alleging embezzlement by Quartzsite Town Manager Alexandra Taft. Now Councilwoman Workman has the proof. And the incumbent Town Vice Mayor, Barbara Cowell, is implicated too!

At issue is the unauthorized expenditure (that is, theft) of Town funds  to pay a Private Investigator to investigate the March, and now May, Quartzsite elections (and to investigate the Quartzsite voters) where a majority of voters voted to oust the incumbents. Councilwoman Workman has found an unauthorized check to the Investigator, signed by Town Manager Alex Taft and Vice Mayor Barbara Cowell, for north of $11,000. (Copy of check at http://aview.info.  The home page of aview.info also has a good play by play breakdown of the Town meeting videos concerning the investigation: what was said, who said it, and when.)

This $11,018 check was issued BEFORE it was approved by the Town Council.  When Councilwoman Workman, who was not privy to this information, asked Taft about the check before voting to authorize it, Town Manger Taft said “I don’t know where it [the check] is in the system.” But Taft had signed the check eleven days before the meeting!

Since Taft had prevented Councilwoman Workman from seeing the contract to the Investigator (claiming that Workman would have to file a Public Record Request), Councilwoman Workman moved to table the issuance of the check. A majority of the Council, including Vice Mayor Cowell, agreed. Even though Cowell had signed the check with Taft a few days beforehand! (Vice Mayor Cowell is a defendant in the state’s unusual quo warranto action, where the state is moving to force Cowell out of office because she lost her election. And Taft knows she will be out of a job once the newly elected officials are seated. Both are challenging the results of the May election, claiming that the winners are not qualified for office. But the Town Attorney has filed legal papers in a related matter where he cites case law saying the time to challenge a candidate is before an election, not after.)

Now, way back in March, the incumbents started talking about investigating irregularities in the Town’s March primary elections. According to the meeting minutes, the Town Attorney, Martin Brannan, said that investigations of alleged election irregularities were the province of the State Attorney General or the Arizona Secretary of State or Department of Justice. Nevertheless, the Town has hired two Private Investigators and paid them over $30,000 to date to investigate the May general election—where the incumbents lost.

Councilwoman Workman has scoured the minutes and cannot find any discussion about this expenditure. If the incumbents did approve it, it must have happened in secret – either an unlawful meeting or in Executive Session. But the Council is prohibited by law from secret meetings or making contracts in Executive Session.

Councilwoman Workman will be forwarding this new information to the AttorneyGeneral.

Arizona does not recognize “embezzlement” per se. Rather, it’s considered Theft, under A.R.S. Section 13-1802. (Specifically A.1.)

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Thanks to Quartzsite Outsider for contributing this story!

 
 

Machine Guns, Ropes, Video Recorders

17 Jul

Honorable Councilwoman Pat Workman was today publicly insulted by this letter from the Town of Quartzsite. The so-called “CONFIDENTIAL” letter was seen laid face up on the receptionist’s desk for all passersby to see, even the public.

EDITORIAL. You guys in Town Hall slay me. Your bad jokes are killing me. This one bombed. Fasten your seatbelts for a crash!

Councilman Joe Winslow threatens to machine gun 5 people in the front row of public seating, and you don’t react. Now, you claim that newly elected Councilwoman Pat Workman is too dangerous a person to be near Town staff in the employee areas. It’s a good thing that she wasn’t trying to video record anybody, or she might have been immediately arrested! it’s a good thing she didn’t try to speak publicly at the podium, or she might have had her arm broken! LOL.

 
 

Ed Foster Warns Town Manager

17 Jul

Today, Mayor-elect Ed Foster wrote to Alexandra Taft, Town Manager, to warn her of a potential breach of her fiduciary responsibility to the Town of Quartzsite. Refer to the “Quo Warranto” legal action brought against former mayor Lizarraga by La Paz County Sam Vederman’s office.

 
 
 

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