As of late this week, a Town of Clarkdale ordinance will become effective that states all considerations and discussions of applicants to fill vacancies on the town council must be held in public session.
Although it may seem obvious that discussions and the appointing of a town council member should be deliberated in a public forum, Town Manager Gayle Mabery said it is a gray area in state law.
"Some city and town attorneys advise their clients that council appointments can be treated under the executive session statutes that allow certain personnel matters to be discussed," said Mabery. "Our town attorney has always advised the opposite. Our council wanted to protect against any ambiguity and have it written directly into our ordinance that such deliberations should occur in open sessions."
The ordinance was put on an agenda item and approved at a meeting late last month as a reaction to controversies that arose in the City of Avondale regarding this issue, Mabery said.
Avondale Director of Communications and Public Affairs Pier Simeri said council went into executive session to discuss the appointment of a new city mayor. They then came out and voted in front of the public.
"Our city attorney felt strongly that we did not violate open meeting laws," said Simeri.
However, criticism arose after the appointment of the mayor. Simeri said a short while later, a council seat opened up and the city had to appoint another member. Council approved a motion to hold that meeting in public.
"Elections are public, and if you have to do an appointment, it should be public as well," said Clarkdale Administrative Services Director Joyce Driscoll. "It's not a personnel issue."
Driscoll said this issue of town and city council deciding who should fill vacant seats differs from city to city.
"State statute does not have guidance on this process," she said.
She said the Town of Clarkdale has always done it this way.
Cottonwood City Clerk Marianne Jimenez said the mayor and council in Cottonwood have always deliberated in public as well. Cottonwood's code states council must establish a process for filling the vacancy at the first public meeting after the seat becomes available.
Jimenez said discussions and appointment of a councilperson would then be placed on agendas for future public meetings.
The ordinance comes at election time. Although four candidates ended up running for the two open council seats earlier this month, it wasn't until late January and early February when there was more that one candidate. The council would have had to appoint a member if the three write-in candidates had not filed papers.
Two Candidates in a runoff election in May
Candidates Greta Schiegg and Curt Bohall are running for the one vacant seat left on Clarkdale Town Council. There will be a general election held May 16 to determine who will be elected to serve the four-year term.
Shiegg and Bohall received the majority of the votes for the write-in candidates in the primary earlier this month. This sent them to the run-off election.
Current Vice-Mayor Jerry Wiley's name was the only name on the ballot. He received a majority of the overall votes and, therefore, was re-elected.
Bohall is focused on public involvement. As a member of the planning commission for the Town of Clarkdale since September 2004, he hopes to see more public input in the future.
"Our elected and appointed officials can't be expected to know what the community wants if there is no participation from the community," he said.
Bohall has lived in Clarkdale for 14 years and the Verde Valley since 1985.
After retiring from the Navy in 1972, Bohall worked for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Schiegg is concentrated on growth. She wants to see "productive and viable growth" that takes in consideration natural resources.
Schiegg has lived in the Verde Valley, on and off, for 23 years. She was the youngest EMT, firefighter and CPR instructor at the Sedona Fire Department when she was 19.
The General Election is a vote-by-mail-only election and will be held May 16. Voters will be mailed ballots the week of April 24. Early registration is encouraged due to new requirements that have been instated due to the implementation of Proposition 200. The last day to register to vote is April 17.