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Sat, Sept. 21

New referendum sought in Camp Verde<br><i>Public vote pursued in resignation rule</i>

File photo

ERIC EBERHARD wants

a public vote on the

resign-to-run rule.

Eric Eberhard, who was removed from his council post this fall in a recall contest vs. Howard Parrish, is seeking a public vote on the issue. Eberhard asserts that last week's council decision is merely a pre-emptive strike by the current council 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 this week.

The council attempted two weeks ago to pass a "resign to run" ordinance in Camp Verde, only to have it flounder for lack of support. However, last week's decision to consider a $50 monthly stipend as salary means that a state "resign to run" rule would affect the council.

In a split 4-3 vote last Wednesday night, the council approved a re-wording to call the money "salary," forcing council members to fall under a state statute governing resignations.

"You can't vote yourself a salary," Eberhard said of his reasons for pulling referendum petitions. "The whole thing is ridiculous. 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 in recent weeks.

Eberhard continued, "They're scared to death that Tony might consider running for mayor." Although the focus of discussion, Gioia has not publicly announced his candidacy for the mayor position.

Council member Jackie Baker theorized last week that a $50 monthly stipend for each council member's expenses should be considered an annual salary. "I don't personally know any other cities and towns that pay their council a flat amount and define it as anything other than a salary," she said during the meeting.

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 also concurred, saying that the IRS considers the money as income.

Bullard, who said calling it 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.

Dickinson previously attempted to alter the rules for Camp Verde officeholders seeking other political positions, but the council did not vote to direct staff to research his 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 Gioia would have been affected by the ordinance if they were inclined to run for mayor or other office next spring. Baker, Parrish, and Mayor Brenda Hauser — and Dickinson himself — have terms that expire in 2003 and would therefore have been exempt.

Hauser summarized that last week's discussion had little to do with salary itself, and everything to do with politics.

"Basically what we're talking about here is not the per diem," Hauser said. "It's so Tony cannot run for mayor."

The motion to rename the $50 as salary was approved by the council with Hauser, Gioia, and Hunter voting against the measure. Eberhard said this week that he must collect 164 signatures to force the issue to a public vote next spring.

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