No public hearing means possible violation of the Open Meeting Law

GOLDEN VALLEY - The Central Sacramento Valley Area Plan Committee might have violated the Arizona Open Meeting Law when the group passed the Area Plan that has been sent to the Mohave County Planning & Zoning Commission.

The committee met on March 8 in open session attended by all members of the standing committee. The executive committee had asked members to vote in advance on the draft.

Two members refused to use the voting cards, saying that there had been no public hearing on the draft.

Committee Chairman Paul Bekolay, a Canadian landowner, pushed the first draft of the area plan through the first and only public hearing on March 8.

The Western States Constitutionalist Alliance has demanded all records and minutes of the apparently legal ad-hoc committee.

"I was delivered the "draft" three days before the meeting," said Val Starr, who was a member of the executive committee.

"I was told that only two members of the standing committee had not voted by ballot card to approve the draft. I was one of them.

"First, I didn't get a ballot card, didn't recall any authorization for the use of a ballot card by the standing committee at any public hearing, nor had such a vote ever been agendized or recorded in the minutes of the committee.

"In the 19 months of existence of the committee, I've missed two public meetings and one executive committee meeting," Starr said.

"It seems that a few members of the executive committee have taken the title 'executive' to extreme. Even if I had received a ballot, I knew it would be a violation of the Open Meeting Law. We had made no attempt to get our final proposal out to the landowners. No one has seen it except the executive committee, and at the last minute the standing committee," he said.

"Planning & Zoning Rep. Kevin Davidson seems to have told the executive committee that Christine Ballard - Mohave County Planning and Zoning director - wanted it done now!

"I was forced by this stupid action to resign as liaison officer and leave the executive committee. I'm running for supervisor in a county that is notorious for Open Meeting Law violations," Starr said.

Starr, the WSCA national chairman, mentioned his concerns to two other WSCA board members. It was those individuals, not Starr, who took the issue to the Constitutional watch-dog" status, according to a news release from the organization.

"The WSCA advisory attorneys determined that a violation of the Arizona Open Meeting Law appears to have occurred. By a vote of 4-1, the WSCA managing directors have determined to fully investigate the possible violations, and the possible conspiracy of certain members of the Central Sacramento Valley Area Plan Committee to subvert due process," the release states.

"It appears that the standing committee, with the exceptions of the select members of the executive committee, were not aware of the violations of the state statutes, and were not advised of the proper procedures by their assigned advisor, Kevin Davidson of Planning and Zoning," he said. "It's not clear if Mr. Davidson is fully aware of requirements, as he is only a 'planner.' What is clear is a legal requirement to inform these committees of the legal responsibilities, which appears not have taken place with this committee," the release states.

"It is clear that certain members of the executive committee, after being informed of their legal problems with the ballot system, exerted authority, enforcing their unlawful vote on the draft plan. The draft would have passed, as we understand it, without the pre-public hearing cards.

"There was a motion to discard the vote cards, which was rejected by the standing committee. Thus, all except the non-voters are in violation of Open Meeting Law. Further, there was no name count, only a voice count: Three members, as we understand, did not vote for the violation," he said.

"When we receive all the records we will know better how to proceed. We are going to be fast on this. The Arizona Solicitor General will be aware of our complaint one way or another before the end of the month."

The investigation is chaired by Lou Tranka, WSCA national vice chairman.