A Douglas City Council Member filed an open meeting law complaint to Arizona’s Attorney General last week over claims that the mayor failed to follow open meeting law for removing an item from the agenda.
It all started with an item added to the August 9 agenda, to remove the city’s Treasurer Luis Pedroza, and appoint Finance Director Alejandro Martinez to replace him.
Douglas Mayor Donald Huish said in that meeting that he wasn’t ready to make an appointment, which he said only the mayor can do according to the city charter, and added that he’d prefer to bring the item up for discussion in another meeting.
“As far as appointing, which is what the request of the three council members were, that’s not going to happen tonight because I will not violate the charter,” said Huish during the August 9 council meeting. He then called on the City Manager to present her report, which was the next item on the agenda.
But Council Member Jose Grijalva, who represents Ward 6, said the mayor did not allow him or the other two council members, who put the item on the agenda, to speak and that the item was removed from the agenda without a motion to continue it to another meeting.
Grijalva said that he believes that conduct violated the state's open meeting law. He posted to Facebook the following day a screenshot of his Open Meeting Law Complaint that he submitted to Arizona's Attorney General. A spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office confirmed Thursday afternoon that they received Grijalva's complaint.
"When it came to that discussion item, I was not allowed to present it on the floor," Grijalva told AZPM Thursday morning. "The mayor basically said — you know — he read the charter and he said that the new appointment has to go through him with the vote of the council, the approval of the council. The problem is that we don't need the mayor's blessing to remove the City Treasurer ... He never tabled it. He never called a motion to table, he never called a motion to take it off the agenda. It was basically, you know, let's move on."
Huish said there was no motion to continue on the item because of the nature of the agenda item that requires an appointment from the mayor and approval from the council, which he said, he was not ready to make and would violate the charter.
"Because of the way that the agenda item was requested, it was outside of the powers of authority of the council to take up," Huish told AZPM Thursday afternoon. "And in order to not violate the charter, that's when I felt that it would be best to put it off to a meeting, an upcoming meeting, where we can work the agenda item that will allow us to discuss it ...
The attorney is telling us ... the agenda item needs to be presented in a different way, so that it can be discussed and not involve an appointment that I am not ready to change or to make," Huish concluded.
Grijalva said that council members can put an item on the agenda if three of them sign on to it, which he said is allowed under the city's charter. Grijalva said the item to remove Pedroza and appoint Martinez to replace Pedroza as the city treasurer was signed by council members Danya Acosta, Michael Baldenegro, and himself.
Grijalva said that he believes that Pedroza, who’s also the Deputy City Manager, “wears too many hats,” and says Pedroza is in charge of the city's finance department, developmental services, streets, water and wastewater, and the city’s public transit. He adds that he doesn't think the treasurer is doing a good job balancing all of his duties.
"For me, if you wear so many hats, you can't hold somebody accountable," said Grijalva. Huish said that he plans to discuss the item once again either during the September or October meeting.
The recording of the August 9th Douglas City Council meeting can be viewed on YouTube.