Judge sets hearing in Foster election case

A hearing has been set for Quartzsite Mayor-in-Waiting Ed Foster’s case asking a court to seat him as mayor of the town.

In La Paz County Superior Court this morning, Judge Burke declined to issue an ex parte order seating Foster as mayor right away, opting to give the Town of Quartzsite a chance to defend their actions “disqualifying” Foster as mayor, despite being elected to the office in May.

Foster is asking for a writ of mandamus from the court, which would compel the Town of Quartzsite to issue Foster a certification seating him as mayor. This comes after the La Paz County Attorney’s Office agreed to the dismissal of its quo warranto action, which argued that Jose Lizzaraga and Barbara Cowell were illegally purporting to hold office.

The County Attorney acknowledged in a legal document that Lizarraga was no longer exercising the power of the office of mayor, but argued that he did not “resign” as he said, because he was not the mayor at the time anyway. The document also acknowledged that Cowell was no longer purporting to exercise the office of vice-mayor, but said she did not ‘resign’ but was “ousted” by the rightful holder of that office, Mark Orgeron, in “a related federal action.”

The document argued that Foster had the right to ask the court for an order seating him in office.

Foster’s attorney Julie LaBenz agreed a timescale with the judge, which would involve summonsing the Town to court on September 6th with a prepared response from each party.

At issue is a town ordinance declaring that candidates for office must not owe any money to the Town. Arizona state election law bears no such requirement, so the case may hinge upon whether Quartzsite can establish by itself more stringent requirements than state law demands.

The judge told LaBenz that if both parties were ready on September 6th, they could proceed directly into oral arguments in the matter. LaBenz said this would either lead directly to an order to seat Foster as the Mayor of Quartzsite, or it could lead to a trial by judge or jury.

The parties will have until August 30th to respond.