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Quartzsite, Arizona

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quartzsite Town Council places Town Manager Alex Taft on admin leave

Quartzsite, Arizona - It was a Special Meeting that was supposed to happen last Friday, but Town Attorney Martin Brannan challenged the legality of the agenda. It was rescheduled for today at 3pm. But Brannan asked La Paz County Superior Court Judge Burke to step in and place a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Town Council from acting on the items on the agenda.

Reports of the judge signing the TRO prematurely created confusion at Town Hall, staff, council members and the public. Judge Burke signed the restraining order about an hour before the meeting was to begin. Council members were served the TRO paperwork as they entered the Town Hall just prior to the meeting.

Five of the six current members of the Quartzsite Common Council appeared at today's meeting. (Carol Kelley was absent due to medical issues). According to Judge Burke and Brannan, the council could only discuss and take action on one of the four items placed on the agenda.

Only Item 1 was open for discussion; regarding discussion and possible action on the services of Town Manager Alex Taft. Brannan and Council Member Mark Orgeron argued about the limitations placed upon the council by Burke. Brannan said the council could only terminate Taft without cause and without discussion. Orgeron disagreed, saying he interpreted Burke to say they could not discuss the other three items. Council had hoped to discuss services of Asst. Town Manger Al Johnson and reinstating Quartzsite Police Chief Jeff Gilbert and Sgt. Fabiola Garcia.

Council member Norma Crooks motioned to go into executive session for advise from the attorney. Brannan advised the council they could not got into executive session, because the notice had not been placed on the agenda, let alone any agenda in the past year. Brannan challenged council to find any agenda in the past year that contained the notice.

Council member Mark Orgeron then proceeded to read the notice on today's agenda pursuant to ARS 38-431.03 (A)(2), 38-431.03 (A)(3) and 38-431-03 (A)(4). Brannan then advised the council they could not go into executive session because they did not specify the statute, even though Orgeron had just read the statutes.

Council adjourned into executive session and when they returned, voted 4-1 (with Mike Jewitt voting nay) to place Taft on paid administrative leave at the end of the meeting. No reason was given. Council explained the limitations on Taft while being on paid admin leave. Council announced Terry Frausto, Town Clerk, would be the interim Town Manager and shall have no contact with Taft regarding town business.

As Taft was leaving at the end of the meeting, many people applauded.


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