Glendale Open Meeting Law Violation

ScruggsFingerWagThere’s been a run of fingers pointed in many directions at Glendale City Hall. It was always like that, probably every city of similar size has similar personal clashes.

One of the favorite weapons is registering open meeting law violation complaints. Why? They’re free, and the rules are actually a little vague.

It’s hard to do business without talking to the people you’re doing business with, yet government officials are enjoined from doing so except in public.

Recent Accusations And A Recall

Councilmembers Sherwood, Chavira, Knaack, and Martinez were unsuccessfully targeted recently. Sherwood was targeted more than once and was cleared by the Arizona Attorney General.

finger_clooney

Me, pointing

Of course, when that anti-casino shot at Sherwood didn’t work, a recall committee was formed.

The people behind the recall effort have a long record of expensive political failures in Glendale, so it was little surprise the first attempt at gathering signatures to recall Sherwood failed miserably.

They came back with more money (from as yet unnamed sources) and got the necessary signatures the second time around.

An election in November with a Tea Party candidate opposing Sherwood will eventually determine if the effort is successful.

Anyway…

Open Meeting Law – Quorum Not Allowed

Finger-TrumpThe open meeting regulations are designed to ensure that civic business is done in the full light of day instead of behind closed doors.

To that end, one of the strictest rules is that a majority of a government body may not gather to perform public business outside the confines of public meetings.

In Glendale’s case, that means only three members of the City Council, including the mayor, may gather as a group outside very public functions. Once four members are involved, it’s a quorum of the governing body and it becomes illegal.

Newbie Mistake?

On December 15, a little more than a week after being installed as a Glendale councilmember, Cholla District representative Lauren Tolmachoff wrote a response email (click here) to Brent Stoddard (Glendale’s Intergovernmental Program Director) who had formerly responded to her inquiry about the process for selecting a vice-mayor.

In that email, Ms. Tolmachoff states:

Bart, Jamie, Ian and I feel this is a pressing matter.

Bart is Bart Turner (Barrel District), Jamie is Jamie Aldama (Ocotillo District), Ian is Ian Hugh (Cactus District).

That’s a textbook example of a quorum problem and indicates an open meeting law violation because four people are mentioned as having one common opinion.

It’s pretty much exactly the same thing that was used in the complaint based on a Sherwood email, where all four people mentioned were accused of open meeting violations.

Whoops.

Storm Clouds Brewing

finger_arnoldThere was an degree of apparent enmity brewing between Tolmachoff and Fischer based on the tone of emails they were exchanging. You could almost visualize the hands on the hips or “snapping a z” moves while those emails were being sent.

We won’t bore you with more emails here, but it’s odd for a person with as short a tenure as Tolmachoff to be already involved in a snippy brouhaha.

After being admonished by then City Manager Brenda Fischer, Ms. Tolmachoff continues in the email string to explain:

I have not spoken to Ian other than socially since being sworn in.

Of course that’s likely to be true, there’s no reason to believe anything else.

But, other words in the problem email sound like everything was ready to go with four votes for Ian Hugh to be the vice-mayor:

What do you need to move this forward? I can ask everyone who is agreement (sic) to email you so you have a consensus, if that will be sufficient.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

What Now?

With the city government in a state of national spotlight turmoil because of the emergency council action to nullify the Coyotes arena management agreement, the timing is ripe for people to be gathering ammunition against the parties involved. It’s politics, and in Glendale it’s becoming a normal process to build claims for punitive actions toward councilmembers.

Just ask Sherwood.

I don’t know who has the time or the resources to continually pursue these things in Glendale, it’s an exhausting process.

UPDATE 06/15/2015 4:36 pm: Four sets of recall paperwork have been pulled from the Glendale Cityu Clerk’s office this afternoon. No word on whether there are actually four targeted people or who the papers are meant for.