Resign-to-run rule on hold in Camp Verde
An attempt by town council member Mitch Dickinson to alter the rules for Camp Verde officeholders seeking other political positions died on the vine on Wednesday night.
The Camp Verde Town Council did not vote to direct staff to research Dickinson's proposal.
Dickinson had placed an item on the agenda called a "resign to run" ordinance, which would force a council member to resign his or her post in order to declare candidacy for the mayor position or other elected office. He said it would not affect a council member who is up for re-election soon, but only those with more than a few months left in their terms.
According to the time frame of his proposal, only council members Leroy Hunter, John Reddell, and Tony Gioia would be affected by the ordinance if they were inclined to run for mayor or other office in the spring.
Jackie Baker, Howard Parrish, Mayor Brenda Hauser and Dickinson have terms that expire in 2003 and would therefore be exempt. Hauser reminded Dickinson of that on Wednesday night. "This would only affect Tony, Leroy, and John?" the mayor queried. "Anyone with two years left in their office?" Dickinson replied.
"I think it's important that the citizenry be served in the best possible fashion," Dickinson said in support of the agenda item. He said the proposed rule would affect a candidate once that person has made a public declaration for office or filed the appropriate paperwork.
Council member Leroy Hunter spoke against the proposal. "If I run for mayor and I resign [from council], you still have to appoint someone to take my place. I think we're limiting the choice of the public by this ordinance."
Dickinson conceded of his proposed ordinance, "It would be incentive for you not to resign to run for mayor." He added, "It is my understanding that this type of ordinance has withstood some kind of challenge before."
According to Town Attorney Julie Kriegh, however, a 'resign to run' ordinance in Litchfield Park has not been challenged in court as far as she is aware. "I'm not sure it's been challenged, but Litchfield has had it for more than 10 years," Kriegh told the council.
Said citizen activist Leon Raper, "We need at least one or two public input sessions, for the public to comment on this. Just because another town has a code that's been in effect for 10 years … it's probably just because nobody's challenged it."
Council member Jackie Baker theorized that a $50 monthly stipend for each council member's expenses should be considered an annual salary. That way, town leaders would fall under a similar state statute governing employees.
Dickinson agreed that council members should be considered paid employees because they file 10-99 tax forms based on receiving the money. Finance Director Dane Bullard concurred, saying, "It comes regardless of whether [council members] go anywhere or not. It should be regarded as salary."
Former council member Eric Eberhard — in attendance that night to receive a plaque from the council recognizing his efforts — disagreed with the stipend being considered salary.
"We pay tax, but not as a salary," Eberhard said. "It's a reimbursement for expenses and we deduct those expenses."
No vote was taken on Dickinson's 'resign to run' proposal. Kriegh said previously that, if Camp Verde were to adopt such a rule, it could be the first of its kind for a Verde Valley community.
Kriegh said the roughly one-page ordinance was proposed previously in 1999, but the town council at the time did not pass the ruling. According to the language of the proposed ordinance, the concept of resigning to run eliminates "the impression that the current public office was used to gain political advantage in the position sought."