Direct election of Carefree mayor controversy on the rise
By Curtis Riggs | January 14, 2009
Coady turns in initiative petitions
CAREFREE – Although it will be another week before anyone is certain if Town Councilman Bob Coady’s initiative calling for direct election of the mayor will be on the ballot of the May 19 primary election, several councilmen are talking like its place on the ballot is already assured.
Mayor Wayne Fulcher is taking every opportunity he can to discredit Coady’s initiative, which he calls a “political gimmick.” At the Jan. 6 town council meeting several councilmen, with Vice Mayor Lloyd Meyer leading the pack, took turns attempting to embarrass Coady for his efforts to place responsibility for electing the mayor with Carefree residents instead of seven town councilmen.
Coady, who turned in petitions with 401 signatures on them to Carefree Town Clerk Betsy Wise on Jan. 16, said he does not understand the anger of the rest of the council toward his initiative. He tried to get Fulcher to place the matter on the agenda twice before the Jan. 6 ambush.
“It seems strange that any elected official would deny citizens their constitutional right to vote,” Coady said. “That disturbs me a great deal.”
One of Fulcher’s main problems with the initiative, which he calls “not in the best interest of the process” is citizens have had “no opportunity to ask questions about it or get an explanation of it.”
Despite Coady’s initiative coming straight out of Arizona Revised (A.R.S.) Statutes, Fulcher is concerned about the wording of the initiative because it states the candidate receiving the most votes for mayor shall be elected to office. Acting Carefree Town Attorney Mike Wright said if approved the initiative would open the door for the filing of lawsuits on Jan. 6 because it does not require mayoral candidates to receive 50 percent plus 1 of votes cast to win election.
“If we find out what is written lowers the standard for electing the mayor below the council then we will have to face that,” Fulcher said. “Before we change what is working we need to get all the information. When Carefree voters get all of the information they will make the right choice for Carefree.”
Coady responds, “No reasonable person would file a lawsuit to take away rights from the citizens of Carefree.”
Town Clerk Wise said the petitions submitted to her “seemed to be in order.” She sent the petitions to be certified by the Maricopa County Board of Elections on Jan. 20. The board has 10 days to certify the petitions.
“There was nothing glaring. There were a few signatures which were not valid, but there were still plenty,” she said. Coady needed 255 valid signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.
The irony of the controversy about Coady’s initiative is that on March 10 Carefree voters will vote on a measure, which was backed by the majority of the council, to increase the length of their terms from two to four years.