Guest Editorial

BY Janet Mohr  | JULY 2, 2014

How Much Justice Can You Afford?

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During this critical time in Cave Creek, we must understand what is really happening. You are all aware of my opinion about these important issues. This week I am sharing with you an excellent piece by Janet Mohr.
~Don Sorchych

janet mohrI went with Susan Clancy to both recall court cases for support. The following is an eyewitness opinion. In my opinion, both judges seemed fair. I liked them both. They were there to hear the sides and make a determination based on evidence presented. Susan Clancy and Hani Saba and the Cave Creek Caring Citizens Committe did not have the money to pay for an attorney. Quotes for legal representation ranged from $10,000 to $60,000. Hardly worth spending for a job that doesn't pay. The process has been a great learning experience for me.

The initial recall was successful in that we had enough valid signatures. The county and the Town of Cave Creek affirmed that we had enough signatures even after some were taken out for technicalities. Had we not been challenged, the recall would be on right now. Per ARS 19-102D “Signatures obtained on initiative petitions in violation of subsection C of this section are void and shall not be counted in determining the legal sufficiency of the petition. The presence of signatures that are invalidated under this subsection on a petition does not invalidate other signatures on the petition that were obtained as prescribed by this section." The county based the recall on this law. Because certain signatures were invalid does not mean they should invalidate the whole sheet. What was tried in court was whether or not the whole sheet should be thrown out because of a technical error or if just the signatures should be thrown out. As you can see, the LAW reads that technical errors on signatures should not affect the whole sheet. What this is really about is how much money one party has to throw around on legal fees.

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Trenk, Monachino, Spitzer and Durkin brought an argument to court that said because of case law in Parker vs. Tucson, that the county and town of Cave Creek were wrong and the signatures found to be invalid should void the entire sheet. In that case law, the whole petition was thrown out, not just the signatures. The reason why the whole page was thrown out was obvious. The circulators in Parker vs. Tucson were known felons (ineligible for collecting signatures) and they preprinted the information on the front of the page instead of having a signer fill it out. Both of these actions void the whole petition sheet per ARS and per the Secretary of State handbook. Does this mean that the volunteers should abandon what the Secretary of State has in their handbook and the ARS Statutes and start studying case law before they take signatures? It is obvious the recall was thrown out because Trenk could afford to hire an attorney.

It is important to note that there was never an argument on whether the signatures were valid. This was about who wrote in the address, as some spouses filled in the addresses for the other. The Secretary of State handbook says that on a recall, the circulator has to swear that they saw the people sign. Trenk, Monachino, Durkin and Spitzer's argument was that if Parker vs. Tucson stated the whole page needed to be thrown out then all of ours needed to be thrown out. Why? I guess because they said so. Could it have been won with about $20,000 paid to even a fairly adequate attorney? I think yes. Who in their right mind would spend $20,000 +/- for a job to sit on the Cave Creek council? Susan and Hani are way too smart to throw that money away! Parker vs. Tucson has nothing to do with the Town of Cave Creek. Our circulators were honest citizens volunteering because they care about the town, not paid circulators with a criminal background. Our volunteers didn't fill in the petition forms in advance. Clearly, there are enough citizens that want to have a recall election. The lawsuit against CCCC, Susan and Hani did not change that.

It was never about the signatures not being valid. The only signature that was really not truly valid was the one Adam Trenk signed as Gandolfini. Susan asked Adam about it while he was on the stand and Adam tried to plead the Fifth. The judge would not have that and made him answer. Susan did a great job and I appreciate her time and commitment to the town.
The saddest part of this whole process is a petition signing I witnessed – for a person who is disabled and cannot physically sign her own name. She has a medical affidavit and a stamp for her father to sign for her. I witnessed the woman watching her father sign and stamp all four of the recall petitions. The father had signed on the line adjacent. The county threw both signatures out as they saw that the address line looked the same on both lines, even though the daughter’s signature clearly had a stamp. Even by throwing those signatures out, which under the Secretary of State rules could be a technical violation because someone other than the person signing filled out the address (in this case they stamped for them), CCCC clearly had enough signatures for recall. Unfortunately, even with a signed affidavit, and the stamp, the judge threw the whole sheet out in court. All the voices on that sheet cannot be heard per the judge's ruling because they were on the same page as someone with a disability. Really? What about the woman with the disability? Is this fair for her to be treated like this? Is this the intent of the law? Does anyone reading this feel this is a fair process? I find this outrageous. With all the anti-discrimination and political correctness in this world, we had a recall process kicked out because someone has a disability. It is my understanding that accepting this page was all we needed as we were only about 10 signatures off. This sheet alone would have given us 15.

It really is sad that our voices can only be heard if we can afford it. As stated earlier, we had enough signatures to move the recall forward. If we were not challenged, it would be on the ballot. Is that what the framers of the Arizona Constitution intended when they designed the process? I don't think so. It also makes me wonder why someone would try to silence the voices of the people in town by even bringing this matter to court. When the county verified there were enough signatures to go ahead for another election, why would they object and pay so much money to silence the voices of the people?

The important thing to remember in all of this is there were well over 350 valid signatures for Trenk’s recall alone – even after the county and town legitimately threw out the appropriate ones. And all those people still want their voices heard. We have no other choice but to gather the signatures again. We cannot allow ourselves to be silenced because of monetary forces.