A quorum is a quorum

By Linda Bentley | July 1, 2009

Deadline to ratify potential open meeting law violation missed
CAVE CREEK – On May 15, Town Manager Usama Abujbarah sent an e-mail reminder about being subject to the state’s open meeting law to Bruce Biemeck and Scott Dahne, the two-member Audit Committee.

Usama AbuhbarahAbujbarah wrote, “… To avoid possible legal ramifications, it shall be necessary that ALL written, verbal and electronic communication cease until … agenda(s) be prepared by town staff, publically posted … a minimum of 24 hours in advance of any communications between both of you.”

Abujbarah also stated they must include the date, place and time of their meeting or phone call, and emphasized the meeting “MUST be open to the public.”

If they failed to conform, Abujbarah said he would be required to notify the Attorney General’s Open Meeting Enforcement Team.

Dahne fired off a response, copying the town clerk, the mayor and a few council members.
He wrote, “Yes, Bruce and I have been talking on the phone. You see, we are also friends and can talk about whatever we desire that doesn’t pertain to the audit committee.

“We also recently talked about changes to the White Paper that needed to be completed.
“Let me, however, simplify things for you …” and, in all caps and boldfaced type, he wrote, “Please consider this e-mail as notification of my immediate resignation from the audit committee.”

On June 11, Dahne sent an e-mail to the mayor and council with the subject line: “False accusations by the town manager against two of the town’s citizens.”

Insisting a formal written apology from the town manager was due him, Dahne gave the town seven days to respond and said, “Once that apology is received by myself and copied to others, I will consider this matter closed and will not need to take any further action.”

Seven days came and went with no response, so Dahne contacted the mayor and three council members.

According to Dahne, the mayor said he didn’t like the tone of his e-mail but agreed to meet, providing Dahne used “kind words.”

Dahne asserts the committee members were advised by Abujbarah they could communicate with one another, provided they didn’t discuss anything related to the audit committee.

Abujbarah, who is well versed in Arizona’s open meeting laws, said he would never have said anything like that.

Dahne believes Abujbarah accused them of open meeting violations because “the audit committee was uncovering some things in this town” the town manager didn’t want made public.

Dahne stated, “Give me an apology and it will be over.”

Abujbarah says he has no reason to apologize.

On June 18, Councilman Adam Trenk sent an e-mail to the mayor, council and town clerk stating, “Evidently they are considering legal action if they do not get an apology and an admission that the allegations were false.”

Trenk asked several questions about Dahne’s assertions, including whether or not any action was going to be taken.

Town Clerk Carrie Dyrek replied to all immediately with the request, “Please do not reply to this e-mail. I have spoken to Councilman Trenk about open meeting law issues that include e-mail correspondence. He and I will go over some protocol issues next week since he was not able to participate in newly elected officials training.”

Because Trenk’s e-mail wasn’t sent until after 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 18 and town hall is closed on Fridays, there was no way to amend the June 22 council meeting agenda to add Trenk’s potential open meeting violation for ratification, which, by statute, must be done within 30 days to avoid nullification of any future council action on the subject. The next council meeting is scheduled for July 20, which exceeds the 30-day limit.