Supervisors seek inquiry into Van Brunt's felony conviction

A 21-year-old conviction for felony counterfeiting may hold up an appointment of Don Van Brunt as a precinct committeeman for the Mohave County Republican Committee.

Committee Chairwoman Marie Meahl of Lake Havasu City recommended Van Brunt and two other men for the appointments, but the Mohave County supervisors want to find out first whether Van Brunt will be eligible to serve in that capacity.

They voted unanimously Monday to have the county conduct an inquiry to determine Van Brunt's eligibility to serve as a precinct committeeman for Southwest Kingman 17, which includes portions of the city and surrounding unincorporated areas.

Precinct committee members organize precincts, get out the vote "and keep everybody informed," said Meahl, who did not attend the meeting.

She said Van Brunt and the others sought appointments to the precinct committees and required her approval before she forwarded the recommendations to the supervisors, who have the final say under state law.

Van Brunt, the former executive director of the Mohave County Economic Development Authority, has been registered to vote in the county since 1982, County Recorder Joan McCall told the supervisors.

"We have never taken him off the (voter) rolls," she said after the meeting.

Van Brunt pleaded guilty to one felony count of counterfeiting in 1982 in Orange County, Calif., and was sentenced to probation and community service.

Van Brunt did not attend the meeting.

Three calls placed to his office Monday were unreturned.

District 1 Supervisor Pete Byers, a fellow Republican and frequent critic of Van Brunt's, pulled the item from the consent agenda and motioned to appoint the two others while withholding Van Brunt's appointment: Larry Chase of Fiesta 27 and Richard Zalewski of Jamaica 73, both in Lake Havasu City.

District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson responded that Van Brunt has served in the capacity in the past and votes.

McCall said if convicted felons have had their rights restored, they may register to vote as well as serve on precinct committees.

District 2 Supervisor Tom Sockwell suggested an inquiry, which likely would be conducted by the county attorney's office.

Johnson said after the meeting that he voted along with Byers and Sockwell because he wanted to approve the other appointments.

"Obviously, (Van Brunt) has been elected to that position in the past," Johnson said.

"I don't think it is the board's obligation to make that kind of decision."

Byers said afterward that he was not launching a vendetta against Van Brunt, who backed former MCEDA board member Pat Bourque when he ran against Byers in the Republican primary in September 2000.

"I'm not picking on him," Byers said.

Byers said that if an inquiry determines that Van Brunt's rights have been restored, he would vote to appoint him to the committee.

McCall said after the meeting that convicted felons need a letter of reinstatement to restore their rights.

That probably would require a court order, Chief Civil Deputy County Attorney Deborah Herbert said.

Meahl defended Van Brunt and asked, "If this is an issue, why has the recorder allowed him to vote all these years?"

Monday's vote was not the first time that Van Brunt has courted controversy.

Two years ago, Byers swayed the board to rescind a previous decision to rename Griffith Road the Don Van Brunt Parkway, citing thousands of dollars in costs for new freeway signs.