VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 6   | FEBRUARY 9 – 15, 2011


Carefree candidate forum reveals purpose of secret meeting

‘Discussions and deliberations between less than a majority of the members of a governing body… when used to circumvent the purposes of the Open Meeting Law violate that law’

carefree candidate forumCarefree Town Council candidates, attending the Feb. 2 candidate forum, from left, included write-in candidate Jim Van Allen, Michael Farrar, Vice Mayor Glenn Miller, Jim Peirce, Melissa Price, and Planning Commissioner Marty Saltzman. Councilman Doug Stavoe (r) is challenging Mayor David Schwan, seated to his left, in Carefree’s first ever voter election of mayor.  Photos by Linda Bentley

CAREFREE – Shelby Wilson, who emceed Sonoran News’ Feb. 2 candidate forum, opened by saying he was “always curious as to why someone wants the job.”

Candidates were provided two minutes to give an opening statement about themselves and why they were running.

Jim Van Allen said he decided at the last minute to run as a write-in when he found out there were only six candidates for six positions.

He said he has 35 years of hotel business experience and would bring an accounting, budgeting and people background to the post, acknowledging he has a big hill to climb as a write-in candidate.

Michael Farrar, a Coldwell Banker commercial real estate broker, said he is a single father who is interested in preserving and nurturing the qualities that make up Carefree’s unique lifestyle.

Farrar said he is also interested in promoting the business community and would be committed to restoring respect, honesty and trust to town government.

Vice Mayor Glenn Miller, the only current council member seeking to retain a seat on council, said he is 60 years old, happily married to his wife Michelle and has two sons.

Miller said he promises “to listen and do what’s best for all citizens.”

He said the biggest issue is town marketing … innovative marketing.

Wilson said he was skipping over Arthur Gimson, who declined to attend.

Jim Peirce, who filed to have two citizen initiatives, propositions 422 and 423, placed on the ballot, explained state statute requires a two-thirds majority vote to implement a primary property tax. However, his propositions address secondary property taxes, not addressed by the law when Proposition 108 was passed.

Although Mayor Schwan claims he is against property taxes, Peirce said Schwan refused to sign his two initiatives.

D. Melissa Price, who owns Sassy Salon, is president of the Montacino Carefree HOA and has a 20-year background in the aerospace industry, said she is fiscally very conservative and emphasized council needed to be a united team.

Price said the biggest challenge facing council is a total economic plan, which she said could be addressed during review of the general plan.

Planning Commissioner Marty Salzman, a real estate lawyer, said he looks for solutions and practical answers and has no aspirations for grandeur.

He said, “What I’d like to see is in 20 years be able to recognize the town.”

david schwanSchwan said, “I ask you to judge me for what I’ve done as mayor. We have money in the bank and manageable debt.”

He said the town needs experienced leadership, strong enforcement of its zoning ordinances and emphatically stated, “I oppose a property tax, period.”

Councilman Doug Stavoe, who is challenging Schwan for the post of mayor, said he has lived in Carefree for 18 years and, as a result of being involved in the business community, became involved in town affairs.

Stavoe stated he is careful to study every issue from a citizen’s perspective and said his record demonstrates he is a strong advocate for voter choice.

Stavoe said, “I sit before you tonight for one reason – because you voted to elect your mayor,” a voting right he said he consistently supported and which Schwan opposed.

Some of the questions from the audience, which were typed in advance, took on a hostile tone with many directed at Stavoe.

When Peirce was asked if he was still under a court order to not sue the town, he clarified it was part of a settlement agreement in which he agreed to not sue the town in exchange for the town not trying to collect attorney fees after he lost a court challenge.

A statement was lobbed at Stavoe stating he says he wants consistency and stability but opposed four-year staggered terms and now supports term limits.

Stavoe said his ballot initiative, Proposition 421, is for three two-year terms and stated, “I support voter rights to decide who they want up here.”

All the candidates said they were opposed to a property tax.

Stavoe was asked if he obtained permits for the remodeling work to his restaurant in 2009 and if he used a licensed contractor.

Stavoe responded, “Yes” and “Yes.”

When asked if they liked the new signs, Van Allen said he liked what they were doing.

Wilson said he wanted a yes or no answer.

Farrar said he didn’t like the design.

Miller, Price and Schwan answered, “Yes,” Peirce answered, “No,” and Saltzman responded, “Not a yes or a no.”

All answered affirmatively when asked if they supported strict enforcement of the zoning ordinance.

With the Rural/Metro and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office contracts coming up for renewal, candidates were asked if they would make any changes.

Van Allen and Farrar both answered, “Yes and No.”

Miller responded, “Not that I can see.”

Price answered, “Yes.”

Saltzman replied, “We need to negotiate the best deal we can.”

Schwan said, “Probably,” with regard to fire, but said they most likely have the best deal they can get anywhere from MCSO.

Stavoe said it was not just up to the town and the parties should negotiate.

The mayoral candidates were asked their assessment of Carefree’s current financial situation.

Schwan stated the town had a $5 million budget, $4.9 million in the bank and said, “We’re doing good.”

Stavoe said, “We have streets that haven’t been repaired or maintained for 50 years. Over the long term, it’s going to be a concern.”

Wilson asked, “Who’s going to win the Superbowl?”

Stavoe replied, “The Packers.”

When Schwan said he doesn’t follow football, Wilson joked by asking if citizens thought their mayor should follow football.

"What was the most important issue in this election?" was the next question posed by Wilson.

Van Allen said it was the next 50 years, which he said starts with the budget for 2011/2012.

Farrar said he totally concurred and said, “It’s about planning for the future.”

Miller stated, “The budget.”

Peirce reminded everyone about the property tax initiatives on the ballot.

Schwan responded, “Who you elect for mayor.”

Stavoe said it is who the citizens select to represent them and that they have a vision for the future.

Miller and Schwan were asked about the meeting they attended with Bob Gemmill and three former councilmen at the Carefree Water Company office.

Miller said, “I put that meeting together. Since the last election, I wanted to talk to them about marketing.”

Miller said he asked Schwan to attend and because Gemmill was feeling down he invited him along.

“Were we hiding? No. I was picking their brains,” said Miller. “It wasn’t a quorum. It was only three.”

Schwan responded, “It’s interesting to me that this meeting became so important,” and said perhaps it was just to “sell newspapers.”

The reason that unadvertised meeting was so significant, and why it seems even more so now that Miller has finally disclosed publicly what the meeting was about, can be found in Chapter 7.5.2 of the Arizona Attorney General’s Agency Handbook, which discusses “Circumvention of the Open Meeting Law.”

It states, “Discussions and deliberations between less than a majority of the members of a governing body, or other devices, when used to circumvent the purposes of the Open Meeting Law violate that law … Public officials may not circumvent public discussion by splintering the quorum and having separate or serial discussions with a majority of the public body members. Splintering the quorum can be done by meeting in person, by telephone, electronically, or through other means to discuss a topic that is or may be presented to the public body for a decision. Public officials should refrain from any activities that may undermine public confidence in the public decision making process established in the Open Meeting Law, including actions that may appear to remove discussions and decisions from public view.”

Citizens may not be aware but Councilman Peter Koteas and Councilwoman Susan Vanik were the council members assigned to marketing. While Koteas recently resigned from that responsibility due to work pressures, Vanik is still involved.

And, because Miller revealed the meeting was about marketing, even though it only included three current council members, it would seem Vanik would naturally have been clued in afterward as the council member assigned to marketing, an area to which the town has recently devoted substantial resources.