Nation's mining abeyance signed<br><i>Allegations of open meeting law violation remain unresolved</i>
Council Member Tony Gioia responded this week to the court document being signed. "I made every attempt to have the discussion leading up to this decision made public," Gioia said. "Basically, public participation was denied."
He continued, "At this point, the council majority has granted that abeyance, and there will be hearings on the permit process for Yavapai-Apache Sand & Rock." He encouraged anyone with ongoing interest or concerns to attend the permit hearings.
Mayor Brenda Hauser said this week that she filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Office on March 27 regarding possible open meeting law violations, but did not get a response. Regarding her reason for the complaint, Hauser commented, "We didn't come out into public session."
According to paperwork filed Feb. 12 in Superior Court, the town requested that the mining matter be held in abeyance pending attempted resolution with the Yavapai-Apache Nation and its mining company. The legal filing was intended "for the purposes of compromise and settlement," according to the document.
Town Attorney Julie Kriegh signed the document on behalf of the town following private talks on Jan. 21. The council was slated to direct staff regarding tribal mining litigation, and did not make any public vote on that subject following the executive session.
Political activists later contested the way the legal decision was made. Former town council member Eric Eberhard also called the actions a "potential open meeting law violation."
According to Arizona Revised Statutes: "A public vote shall be taken before any legal action binds the public body." Eberhard pointed out that state law mandates all legal action of public bodies must occur during a public meeting.
"The town takes the position that there was no open meeting law violation," read a response from Kriegh. "Legal action as it applies to open meeting laws does not refer to filings made in court or other types of legal action by an attorney." Her statement also asserted that it was in the best interest of the town to discuss the matter confidentially.
Camp Verde prevailed in its legal case against the unsanctioned mining operations of the Nation, according to a decision from Lindberg late last year. That decision stated: "The nation has failed to produce any facts or evidence demonstrating that its excavation operation is exempt from the zoning regulatory scheme."
The bottom line is that the court ordered the nation to "cease and desist in mining operations on the properties at issue unless and until they comply with the mining regulations of the town of Camp Verde." The nation has continued mining the land while applying for a use permit, which according to the nation's public relations firm is acceptable while the matter is being resolved.
Camp Verde entered into a suit with the Nation in 2001 for what the town perceived to be an illegal mining operation. The nation operates a sand-and-gravel mining operation without a use permit on fee land they own, which is zoned residential and located within town limits.