Mon, July 15

CV removes 2 P&Z commissioners <br><i>Town council cites absences, espousing personal agendas in dismissals</i>

Staff photo by Carol Keefer

DALE Harvey (left) and John Strathmere (at podium) responded to the council's comments Wednesday night.

The town council voted 5-1 at its June 18 meeting to dismiss commissioners Dale Harvey and John Strathmere from the P&Z Commission following a lengthy discussion led by council member Jackie Baker.

Harvey has been on the commission since June 2001, and Strathmere was serving his second term, a commissioner since 1998. Commissioners are appointed by the council.

A two-term council member, Baker told attendees Wednesday evening that Harvey and Strathmere had "been rude and disrespectful to our staff, they have questioned what the council has given them to do; more than that they have shown disrespect to the council, staff and this community by not being present at regularly scheduled meetings."

Baker said she had complaints from commissioners as well as staff.

She discussed excessive absences by the two commissioners from October 2001 to June 15, 2003, and within the past six months noted that Harvey missed three meetings and Strathmere four. She pointed out that rarely was there a meeting when all the commissioners were present.

She said that in December of last year a letter went out reminding board members and commissioners of the importance of good attendance after two or three P&Z commission meetings had been cancelled due to lack of a quorum. She said the staff would sometimes show up and not the commissioners. Even then, it was a big problem, she noted, stressing that council depends on the work of the commission and its recommendations.

Baker explained recent incidents that prompted the council agenda item over Harvey and Strathmere's misconduct and attendance.

"During the June 5 meeting, we had a business applicant. We all know what an issue this has been. It did not occur to me that the Planning and Zoning would not go through the process, ask questions that would be helpful. Instead it was an hour-and-a-half tirade and harangue by Commissioner Strathmere espousing a lot of personal feelings and agenda, instead of focusing on legitimate questions and concerns important to the entire council and community."

She maintained that Harvey, acting as vice chair, permitted the actions.

The June 5 P&Z meeting involved a controversial issue dating back to December 1998. It was an application by the Yavapai-Apache Nation requesting an amendment to the General Plan land use map from residential/agriculture to industrial and a use permit for sand-and-rock extraction in order to create property to be used for agricultural on parcels commonly known as Cloverleaf Ranch (310 acres). The applications were submitted by Jim Binick, agent for the Y-A Nation.

Dickinson later explained that the Y-A Nation never requested industrial zoning, but because of the general plan and related town ordinances and resolutions, the mining operation could not be allowed without a zoning change.

Baker said Harvey implied that there was council wrong doings — "there's been the behind-the-door actions that should have been open to the public. I guess people are real concerned that maybe there is some fast shuffling going on," she quoted Harvey as saying at the June 5 meeting (reflected in the minutes). She said Harvey also intimating the council was holding excessive executive sessions keeping the public at bay on the sand-and-gravel issue.

Mayor Mitch Dickinson told both commissioners, "The attendance alone is well below accepted standards, but what causes me the greatest deal of concern is raising into questions that the council doesn't have the authority or right to go into executive sessions. Anyone close to the circle knows full well, one of reasons is legal actions and advice and at no time did the council behave inappropriately in the suit with the town and Yavapai-Apache Sand and Rock."

He told Harvey his comments were "totally unacceptable" when putting his own personal thoughts "out in the public forum."

Council member Tony Gioia, the only "nay" vote, attempted to defend the actions of both men saying that often public forums become embroiled in arguments, that for the most part he felt it healthy and part of the public process.

At the June 5 meeting the commission had only enough time to debate the amendment; the use permit was to be carried over to the June 12 P&Z meeting. (At that meeting, Binick clarified to the P&Z Commission that "the purpose of the use permit application, which is promulgating the general plan amendment, is to support the reclamation mining activities at the site." Robert Foreman made a motion to approve a recommendation to go to council to the change to industrial; the motion failed due to lack of a second. A second motion was made by Strathmere to deny the amendment; three voted to deny — Whitmire, Stathmere, Harvey, but it too failed because four votes were necessary.)