Jennifer Jones challenged the qualifications of the newly elected Mayor Jose Lizarraga today in La Paz County Superior Court. Judge Burke began by explaining the town had filed an application to intervene.
Jones read a prepared "legal response" saying she didn't have time to file it. In her statement, she objected to the town's right to intervene, saying certain rules do not apply. As there were no recording devices allowed, we all had to rely on our notes. Jones' statement was read so fast and had so many points listed, it was beyond my ability to write it all down, so here are some of the highlights.
In a hearing of under 40 minutes, Judge Michael Burke agreed with Town of Quartzsite's attorney, Martin Brannan regarding if Lizarraga is considered ineligible to hold office, the seat is vacant. Jones argued ARS statute 16-672-C does not permit intervention. Burke explained state statute ARS 19-216 is relevant, not 16-672-D, which regulates recall elections. In a recall election, if the incumbent does not receive the most votes, he loses. "He is actually being ousted from office by the voters," Burke said. He also said, "no matter what happens, Foster could not be reinstated as mayor."
Jones asked the court to default, as Lizarraga was not present. Jones asked that Brannan, who was not present, "should have recused himself; he is ineligible to be the town attorney." Burke asked Jones to continue.
Jones read another statement listing many allegations against Lizarraga. Allegations included: violations of open meeting laws, not placing Police Chief Gilbert on administrative leave, that there was no bond posted according to 2-1-7 of the town code, that he participated in an illegal vote appointing town attorney Martin Brannan, not officially terminating previous town attorney Pam Walsma, participating in restrictions of freedom of speech, he openly admitted to violating open meeting laws, and other allegations.
Burke said, "All we have at this point is accusations." He asked Jones if there had been any proof presented that Lizarraga has been found guilty in a court of law. She replied no. Burke explained, "until he has been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, these are all just allegations."
Jones focused on the bond issue. Burke asked if she had a copy of the town code. Jones stated she included it in her complaint, but Burke said it was paraphrased. He wanted to research the issue.
He said, "If there is no bond, the office of mayor is vacant. If he has filed a bond, he is still mayor.
Burke also stated he would need to research the matter more. So it's not over, yet.