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Fri, Sept. 20

'Resign to run' referendum rejected

File photo

ERIC EBERHARD says

the petitions were

rejected by the clerk

for reasons that are

not legitimate.

Former town council member Eric Eberhard pulled referendum petitions in October to force a public vote on the subject, but the clerk's office nixed the effort, citing insufficient signatures as well as "petitions with an incorrect political committee number."

According to the clerk's office, the movement against the establishment of a $50 flat fee as salary for council members had 153 unverified signatures for petition number REF-02-15; 15 signatures indicating REF-02-05; and one petition containing 15 signatures with a "defective circulator's affidavit."

Eberhard, however, contends that the petitions were rejected on a technicality, and the total unverified signatures submitted—or some 183 signatures—is more than the required 164 necessary to refer the matter.

"It boggles the mind," the former council member said after he learned the news. "If [insufficient signatures] was the case, a simple one-liner would have explained that." He continued, "If that's true, I would say their letter is incompetent."

The town clerk's office, however, stood by its decision.

"There weren't enough signatures; they needed 164," said Virginia Jones, assistant town clerk. "The initial review was 157. They were almost 10 short right off...There was not enough signatures, bottom line."

She said that any referendum number discrepancy was determined after the fact. She concluded, regarding the difference in petition numbers, "Those things do affect petitions."

Eberhard's contention was that a decision by the new council majority is merely a pre-emptive strike by that majority against council member Tony Gioia's ability to run for mayor in the spring.

"They're trying a back-door way of accomplishing the same thing," Eberhard said when the most recent ordinance passed.

The council previously attempted to pass a "resign to run" rule in Camp Verde, only to have it founder for lack of support. However, a later decision to consider a $50 monthly stipend as salary means that a state "resign to run" rule would affect the council.

"The whole thing is ridiculous," said Eberhard. "It's a pattern of attacks on Tony. I find it amusing that Mitch passed a resolution to pick on Tony."

Council member Mitch Dickinson was the main proponent of the issue. Although the focus of discussion, Gioia has not announced his candidacy for mayor.

Dickinson said that council members should be considered paid employees because they file 10-99 tax forms based on receiving the money: a $50 monthly stipend for each council member's expenses.

Finance Director Dane Bullard concurred, saying that the IRS considers the money as income.

Bullard, who said calling the money a per diem is a misnomer, also admitted that the subject is a gray area and that $50 a month only comes out to "something like 28 cents per hour," which falls well below the accepted minimum wage.

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