Sedona AZ (June 25, 2012) - The office of the Arizona Attorney General issued a ten page letter addressing Open Meeting Law, audit, Fire Chief selection violations and other complaints filed against the Sedona Fire District Board reports SedonaEye.com in this exclusive report.
The office of the Attorney General addressed the letter to William R. Whittington of Boyle, Pecharich, Cline, Whittington and Stallings of Prescott, Arizona. Whittington, recently appointed, will be acting as counsel of record to the Sedona Fire District Board.
The Attorney General’s office noted, for the record, three members of the Sedona Fire District Board were subject to a citizen-initiated recall in 2012 and that all three recalled Board members were unseated by the electorate. The 2012 recall election was held prior to the release of the June 20, 2012 Attorney General’s SFD Board findings.
Sedona Fire Board members David Blauert, Phyllis Erick and Charles Christensen were recalled, and new members Nazih M. Hazime, Corrie Cooperman and Diane Schoen were elected. Craig Dible (appointed seat) and Ty Montgomery (elected seat) were not subject to the recall and remain on the Sedona Fire District Board.
The Attorney General’s office noted the recall election results unseated the SFD Board Chairman (Blauert) and two of the Board members (Erick, Christensen) listed in the complaint and who were subject to the Attorney General office findings and actions.
The Sedona Fire District Board allegations had been answered on its behalf by then-counsel Blake Whitman of Ridenour, Hienton and Lewis in a letter dated August 4, 2011. The Attorney General determined that it disagreed with Whitman’s arguments and found the SFD Board inappropriately conducted its executive board meeting of June 8, 2011 and violated the Arizona Open Meeting Law (A.R.S. 38-431.03).
Furthermore, the Attorney General’s letter to the Sedona Fire District Board finds the Board in violation of the Arizona Open Meeting Law during Sedona Fire District Audit Committee meetings in January 2012. The Attorney General’s office letter names Sedona Fire Board Clerk Charles Christensen and one other committee member (name withheld here), acting on behalf of the SFD Board, as justification for its finding.
The Attorney General’s office did note that the SFD Board recognized issues with the first audit committee and that it was replaced with a new committee.
The Attorney General’s office also found SFD Board members actions during the Sedona Fire District Fire Chief Selection Committee search violated proper notice to one of its candidates. The Attorney General did note that the SFD Board committee meeting violation was based upon legal guidance.
At the next Sedona Fire District Board agendized meeting, that candidate, acting upon his own discretion, may demand certain recourse, and is granted the right to hear Executive Session search committee tapes of January 11 and 19, 2012 that pertained to discussions of him.
If transcripts of the Executive Search committee meeting sessions were made, that candidate can be provided instead with copies of those transcripts. That same candidate may determine if those discussions, in whole or part, are to be made public.
For reasons of privacy and as such public disclosure is the mandate of the candidate, and as it does not enhance or detract and or compromise the integrity of this news report, the SedonaEye.com determined disclosure of that candidate’s name unnecessary at this time.
As recourse for these actions, the Attorney General’s office directs the Sedona Fire District Board that the minutes of the June 18, 2011 executive session be read at the next scheduled meeting and copies of same be distributed to the public stating that the session is not entitled to confidentiality.
The Attorney General’s office will monitor the Sedona Fire District Board meeting notices, agendas and minutes for six months and if concerns are found, the issues will be addressed through SFD counsel now Attorney Whittington.
For three months, legal counsel well-versed in Open Meeting Laws will be present at all regular Board meetings after a settlement between the Sedona Fire District Governing Board and the Attorney General is executed.
The Attorney General’s office ordered Open Meeting Law requirements training for the Sedona Fire District Board members and publicly acknowledged the Open Meeting Law expertise of Attorney Whittington and required that he, or someone of acceptable stature and knowledge, attend the next three SFD board meetings.
The Attorney General’s office ordered the SFD Board to develop and implement a written training policy on Open Meeting Law for its Board members and members of its committees. The policy is to be submitted to the Attorney General for review and approval.
The ten page letter from the Attorney General’s office to the Sedona Fire Board is to be read aloud and copies distributed to the public at its next Regular Board agendized meeting: The ten page letter is to be approved and or ratified at that meeting, and a copy of those Board meeting minutes sent to the Attorney General’s office as legal notice.
The letter is to be countersigned by the members of the Sedona Fire District Governing Board and its members and returned to Assistant Attorney General Kevin Smith on or before July 31, 2012. If the letter is not signed or the Board is in disagreement with its findings, the Attorney General will move forward to enforce the Open Meeting Law and seek appropriate remedies.
The SedonaEye.com has attempted to provide factual information without editorializing and acknowledges receipt of the Attorney General’s office ten page letter from an anonymous source on June 21, 2012. The SedonaEye.com withheld immediate publishing of this exclusive news story dated June 23, 2012 until such time as all parties to the letter were in receipt of same. The SedonaEye.com may publish at a later date, in full, all ten pages of the letter as received without comment for public perusal.