Water board recall petition submitted

Critics say ‘questionable’ actions by Ridgeway sparked Chloride drive

KINGMAN - A petition to recall a member of the Chloride Domestic Water Improvement District was turned in to the Mohave County Elections Department Friday afternoon.

According to former CDWID board member Bert Silverman, the petition was in response to some "questionable" actions by fellow board member Tom Ridgeway.

Ridgeway could not be reached by phone or e-mail before press time.

According to Elections Director Allen Tempert, the petition to recall Ridgeway from the board contained just over 100 names; the town has a population of about 200 residents.

It will take the Elections and Recorder's offices approximately 60 days to check all the names on the petition, Tempert said. The district only needs the signatures of 27 valid registered voters living in the area to move the issue to the Board of Supervisors for approval and to be placed on the next ballot, he said.

By the time the names on the petition are verified and the issue is put before the Board, it will be too late for the November consolidated election, he said. If approved, the recall will show up on the ballot for the March election.

The situation started more than five months ago, said Stephen Woody, the husband of former CDWID Chairwoman Katherine Woody.

Katherine Woody, Bert Silverman and Bill McAdams, another board member, all submitted their resignations during a town meeting on Sept. 22. Silverman said he resigned after he no longer felt wanted or included in the business of the board. Four board members remain.

Stephen Woody said that he was hired by the board five months ago to help with administrative tasks and then to train two part-time office assistants who were hired by the board. Ridgeway was supposed to help with the training and tasks, but didn't, he said.

Ridgeway only started getting involved in August, Stephen Woody said, when one of the part-time assistants allegedly found expense reports from Ridgeway charging $12 an hour for work he had done for the district, $50 a month for a travel trailer to provide security for part of the water plant and other charges for materials and work.

According to Arizona Revised Statute, improvement district board members are volunteers and cannot seek compensation for work they do for the board or the water district, Stephen Woody said. The work was allegedly done without permission from the board and without going out to bid, he said.

Stephen Woody also claimed that meetings of the CDWID board were allegedly called without 24-hour notice to the public, violating open meeting laws. He also alleged that Ridgeway set these meetings for times when then-Chairwoman Katherine Woody and Vice Chair Silverman could not attend.

On Aug. 14, Katherine Woody and Silverman called the Mohave County Sheriff's Office after Ridgeway and another board member allegedly sent home an office assistant and locked themselves in the water district office.

According to MCSO, a deputy did respond to a trespassing incident at the water district office that day, but did not find anyone in the office. No charges have been filed against any of the current or former board members.

"It's a real ugly situation," Stephen Woody said. "These are not the behaviors of an up-front and honest person."

Woody's main concern is a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will pay for a 6-mile pipeline to connect Chloride to a Valley Pioneers Water Company waterline near Mineral Park. The pipeline, once installed, will eliminate some of the problems Chloride residents have with getting potable water.

Around 41 Chloride residents met with District I Supervisors Gary Watson on Sept. 15 to ask the county to take over control of the water district, Woody said.

According to state statutes, the county can revoke the authority of a water district board of directors at any time in order to protect the residents of the district, said County Civil Attorney Bill Ekstrom. The county has only done this once before, about two years ago, in the Beaver Dam area.

Watson confirmed that he met with the residents and recommended that they call a town meeting to work things out. Around 61 residents met on Sept. 22 to discuss the issue. Ridgeway did not attend the meeting, Stephen Woody said.

"This is a local issue that needs to be solved by the local residents," Watson said. "I didn't want to take this from local control. We're not closing a blind eye to what's going on."

"All eyes are on Mr. Ridgeway," Silverman said. "I don't wish him any ill will."