Water advisory committee violates open meeting law

Not only was the entire discussion a blatant violation of Arizona’s open meeting law, the committee documented that breach in its minutes

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david prinzhornCAVE CREEK – After repeated efforts to obtain a copy of an agenda during which the water advisory committee (WAC) reviewed the town’s Rancho Mañana Golf Course water contract per Town Engineer/Utilities Manager David Prinzhorn’s (r) Dec. 16, 2014 e-mail stating such, we received nothing and the records request was closed.

After asking to have my Jan. 6, 2015 records request reopened, I was told the subject was discussed during the January and February 2015 WAC meetings, which was after Prinzhorn’s e-mail stating the contract had already been reviewed by the WAC.

Last week, after reopening the request, Town Clerk Carrie Dyrek directed me to the minutes from the Dec. 10, 2014 WAC, which was only approved during the Feb. 3 meeting, with an item under the heading “Non-Agenda Topic.”

bill allenBill Allen (l), chairman of the WAC, who served countless years on the town’s planning commission, several as chair, and David Smith, who serves on the WAC, Budget Committee and is currently chair of the planning commission, should be well versed in Arizona’s open meeting Law.

According to the minutes, despite the subject not being on the agenda, Allen asked WAC member Bob Morris to discuss his findings of his review of the Rancho Mañana water contracts.

Morris went on to explain his understanding of the contract, in that it priced CAP water, well water and effluent but did not contain any requirements to furnish CAP or well water.

He stated, “Rancho Mañana is getting a steal of a deal … We are not recovering capital charges, maintenance charges, operating expenses or administrative. This is a loser and ought to be stopped.”

According to Morris, the contract is written in a way that all the requirements are on the town with no requirements on Rancho Mañana.

And while WAC member Tony Geiger suggested having an attorney review the contract since no one on the committee is a lawyer, Morris, who noted the contract goes to 2046 with pricing based off CAP water rates, said he did not see a duty to supply any other water besides effluent.

Prinzhorn, who should also be aware of Arizona’s open meeting law, also participated in the discussion.

Not only was the entire discussion a blatant violation of Arizona’s open meeting law, the committee documented that breach in its minutes.

Dec. 11, the very next morning, was when Prinzhorn unilaterally decided the WAC’s non-legal review of the contract was sufficient and advised staff the town would stop supplying Rancho Mañana with CAP and Vermeersch Well water beginning Jan. 1, 2015, setting off a firestorm.

Town Manager Peter Jankowski said he knew nothing about the WAC discussing the Rancho Mañana contract and, had it been properly agendized, he would have called Rancho Mañana Golf Course General Manager Dale Samar to let him know.

According to Jankowski, when anyone is appointed to a committee, board or commission, Dyrek provides them with a document that addresses Arizona’s open meeting law.

Advisory committees are specifically addressed in an opinion issued by the Arizona Attorney General, which was last updated in 2012.

It states: “Advisory committees are subject to all of the requirements of the Open Meeting Law. A.R.S. § 38-431.01(A), (B). An advisory committee is defined as any group officially established, on motion and order of a public body or by the presiding officer of the public body, and whose members have been appointed for the specific purpose of making a recommendation concerning a decision to be made or considered or a course of conduct to be taken or considered by the public body.”

The document also addresses discussing and deciding matters not listed on the agenda and states: “The public body may discuss, consider, or decide only those matters listed on the agenda and ‘other matters related thereto.’ The ‘other matters’ clause provides some flexibility to a public body but should be used cautiously. The ‘other matters’ must in some reasonable manner be ‘related’ to an item specifically listed on the agenda.

“If a matter not specifically listed on the agenda is brought up during a meeting, the better practice, and the one that will minimize subsequent litigation, is to defer discussion and decision on the matter until a later meeting so that the item can be ‘specifically’ listed on the agenda.”

Because the Rancho Mañana Golf Course contract was not even remotely related to any of the listed agenda items, at least one person in the room should have attempted to halt the illegal discussion from carrying on.

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