Quartzsite council votes against seating Foster

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.