Quartzsite, AZ- PRESS RELEASE from Town of Quartzsite, Sept. 30, 2011
"The La Paz County Superior Court affirmed yesterday that Jose Lizarraga is the mayor of Quartzsite. The ruling came after failed mayoral candidate Jennifer Harris Jones filed a contest of the election challenging Lizarraga’s qualifications to be mayor.
"The Court found that none of Jones’ allegations were founded and denied every request Jones made for relief. Lizarraga, who had refrained from presiding over the Common Council during the pendency of Jones’ failed suit, has resumed his rightful role and the popularly elected Mayor of the Town of Quartzsite having ousted Ed Foster as a result of the August 30, 2011 recall election.
"The Town anticipates that Jones, who had publicly been declaring victory in spite of having failed to prove any of her allegations or obtain any of the relief that she was seeking and who had falsely claimed that the Town’s Application to Intervene had been denied, will not accept the ruling of the Superior Court and will either appeal the Superior Court’s order or bring a new suit in light of yesterday’s ruling. The Town also anticipates that Jones will meet with the same lack of success in any future challenge to Lizarraga’s election."
case no. CV201100117
Jennifer Jones, former mayoral and council candidate, challenged the eligibility of Jose Lizarraga who won the mayoral recall election of Aug. 30th.
A hearing was held Sept. 22, 2011 in La Paz Superior Court. Lizarraga did not file an answer. Town of Quartzsite Attorney Martin Brannan filed an Application to Intervene on the issue of whether the relief requested by Jones could be granted. The relief requested by Jones was to reinstate Ed Foster as Mayor if Lizarraga did not qualify.
Jones first asked that a default be enetered against Lizarraga because he did not file an answer. The court denied the request, citing A.R.S. 16-675 (A) which requires that if the answer is not timely filed, the court shall proceed with the hearing of contest ex parte.
The court found that the Town as an interested party, but only on the issue of whether Foster could be reinstated as Mayor, and allowed the application to intervene on that issue only.
In her Statement of Contest, Jones challenged Lizarraga violated open meeting laws; that Lizarraga thwarted Mayor Fosters' investigation into wrong-doing by him and the council; that the town council, including Lizarraga, unlawfully changed the law to thwart Foster's investigation into conduct by the town council and Lizarraga; that the town council and Lizarraga engaged in various acts in violation of the law intended to impede investigation into Lizarraga's misconduct; that town council and Lizarraga participated in unlawful revocation of town businesses and vending permits; that Lizarraga was unlawfully sworn in as mayor at a special meeting on Sept. 6, 2011; that Lizarraga did not post the required bond prior to him assuming office.
In his ruling, Judge Burke explained Section 2-1-7 of the Town Code covering the posting of a bond by council members appears to all the town to "proceed under A.R.S. 9-302 (B) which allows an incorporated city or town to obtain and deliver to the city or town clerk a blanket bond conditioned on faithful performance of all such city's or town's officers."
Jones argued that if Lizarraga is not qualified to be mayor, then Foster should be reinstated as he received the second largest number of votes. The Court found that A.R.S 19-216 could not allow Foster to be reinstated as mayor, because is is not possible for an incumbent to be recalled and at the same time be retained in the office.
Quartzsite town Attorney, Marin Brannan, filed a memorandum on September 28th, citing various statutes and sections from the Quartzsite Town Code and Arizona Revised Statutes, presenting arguments on the issue of Mr. Lizarraga's qualifications as well as to the relief requested by Jennifer Jones. "The court finds that the pleading is improper given that the Town Attorney did not appear at the hearing to argue the Town's position, and waited until the day before this Court had to file its finding and judgment before filing it, thus not giving Ms. Jones the opportunity for rebuttal argument. Accordingly, this Court will not consider any of arguments presented in the memorandum and will not consider the proposed form of decision order."
In the case of Jennifer Jones vs. Jose Lizarraga, Judge Michael J. Burke ruled Sept. 29, 2011,
"... it is the judgment of the Court that Contestee Jose Lizarraga is qualified to hold the office of Mayor of the Town of Quartzsite if either he posted the required bond or if the town has a blanket bond that covers all its officers. If the required bond is not posted, then he is not qualified to hold the office of Mayor of the town of Quartzsite and the vacancy should be filled pursuant to A.R.S. 9-235 and 9-236" According to Town Manager, Alex Taft, "the blanket bond covers all elected officials, including Jose Lizarraga. "
"... it is the judgment of the Court that Contestee Jose Lizarraga is qualified to hold the office of Mayor of the Town of Quartzsite if either he posted the required bond or if the town has a blanket bond that covers all its officers.
If the required bond is not posted, then he is not qualified to hold the office of Mayor of the town of Quartzsite and the vacancy should be filled pursuant to A.R.S. 9-235 and 9-236"
According to Town Manager, Alex Taft, "we have a blanket bond that covers all elected officials, including Jose Lizarraga."