TAYLOR — After a review of an open meeting law complaint filed on January 13 by Alice Franco, and the response filed by Taylor Town Attorney William J. Sims III on behalf of the Taylor council, the Office of the Arizona Attorney General determined that Taylor violated the law in three of the four items in the complaint.
The issues in the complaint filed by Franco relate to the proposed $750,000 purchase by the Town of Taylor for the 147-acre Taylor Business Park, located near Pinedale Road and Airport Loop, from Hatch Development. The time period of the alleged violations is from August 2018 up and until the January 13, 2019 filing date of the complaint.
A summary of the findings by the AG’s office regarding the complaint were sent via certified mail to the Town of Taylor in care of their attorney, William J. Sims III, on May 2. A first class mail letter was sent from the AG’s office to complaintant Alice Franco on May 10.
According to the Attorney General’s findings:
Issue #1 (violation)
The executive session of October 4, 2018, was not properly noticed, and the minutes of that session did not contain a sufficient summary of the matters discussed during the session; additionally, names of those who were present or participated were not listed.
Issue #2 (violation)
Concern was noted by the AG’s office during their review that notices, agendas and minutes for council meetings do not appear to be posted on the council’s website as required, and minutes of the meetings are not available within three working days after a meeting, also required.
Issue #3 (violation)
In the January 3, 2019, council workshop meeting there was no call to the public, yet the mayor opened up the workshop for comments or questions from members of the public “who are not on one side or the other.” A violation occurred when the mayor halted speech that was conceivably within the council’s jurisdiction, and limited the time an individual could speak, based solely on the individual’s identity. When the workshop was opened up for comments or questions, the council became obligated to comply with the normal requirements of a call to the public whereby a member is allowed to speak on any matter under the jurisdiction of the council.
The mayor prevented a member of the public from speaking about a prior business park contract saying they were not going to talk about that, and told the member to sit down. When Richard Franco identified himself, the mayor gave him a 30-second time limit; no time limit was imposed on any other member.
Issue #4 – (violation not sustained)
The allegation that a quorum of the council met outside of a duly noticed public meeting and decided to purchase the Taylor Business Park was not substantiated by the AG’s office. They said because only three of the seven council members attended the discussion there was no quorum and therefore no council meeting occurred.
Finding no recent open meeting law violations by the Town of Taylor, and due to the determination of each of the issues in the complaint by the AG’s office, all Taylor council members and pertinent employees will be required to attend an open meeting law training conducted by the Arizona Ombudsman-Citizens’ Aide, another pre-approved organization, or a pre-approved attorney within the next 60 days of the receipt of the determination letter.
Additionally, recommendations were made by the AG’s office to the council regarding each issue in the complaint as to how such issues should be handled to avoid violations in the future.
All persons elected or appointed to a public body are required by Arizona statute to review the open meeting law materials at least one day before taking office.
On May 21 Town Manager Gus Lundberg told the Independent by phone, “We do not agree with the determination. The only other option is to go to litigation, so we will undergo the training.”
In an email to the Independent regarding the determinations made by the AG’s office regarding her complaint, Franco said, “It’s a shame that we couldn’t get any answers to simple questions about the town’s decision to buy the business park without enlisting the help of the Arizona Attorney General’s office, but we certainly appreciate their diligence and prompt attention in addressing our concerns.”
Richard Franco, Alice Franco’s son, and the person who was told by Mayor Smith at the workshop meeting that he could have 30 seconds to speak said, “Since their workshop meeting was nothing more than a sham, I think what we would really like to see now is that they hold a real workshop meeting with their attorney present to basically address all concerns that people might have, and get them to face the public and explain what the true cost really is.”