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10/30/2012 5:00:00 PM
Foster seated as Quartzsite's mayor
John Gutekunst
Parker Pioneer

QUARTZSITE - After months of legal wrangling, Ed Foster was seated as Quartzsite's mayor at the town council's Oct. 23 regular meeting. The council approved a resolution, No. 12-17, stating Foster was qualified to serve as mayor. The council's vote was unanimous.

Foster was sworn in by Town Magistrate Lawrence King. As he took his seat on the dais, Foster jokingly said, "Let's see if I remember how to do this."

The council also voted to rescind their appointment of a chair and vice-chair for the council meetings. Following the recommendation of Councilwoman Pat Workman, Councilman Mike Jewitt was appointed vice-mayor.

This will be Foster's second stint as mayor. He was originally elected in May 2010. He lost a recall election to former Councilman Jose Lizarraga in August 2011.

Foster ran for a new term in 2012. He won the general election May 15, defeating Jerry Lukkasson, 401 votes to 315.

On June 4, the council declared Foster and another candidate, Mark Orgeron, not qualified to hold elected office in the town.

In Foster's case, it was because he owed a court judgment against the town. This was a violation of a section of the town code, 2-1-10, which states persons who owe delinquent fees, taxes, or fines to the town cannot serve in elected office.

Orgeron was declared ineligible as the council said he didn't meet residency requirements, and he sued in federal court. U.S. District Judge Roslyn O. Silver issued a ruling July 20 that he was a resident of Quartzsite. He was sworn in and seated on the council July 27.

Foster filed for a "Writ of Mandamus" (Latin "We command") in La Paz County Superior Court requesting a court order that he be seated as mayor. In oral arguments Oct. 17, Foster's attorney, Julie La Benz, said the town's ordinance was illegal in that it went beyond the qualifications for elected office set by Arizona Revised Statutes and the Arizona Constitution.

The attorney representing the Town, Kristin Mackin of the firm of Sims Murray, said Foster was aware of the ordinance and the court judgment when he filed his nominating papers. She said the council performed its legally required duties in judging the election and the qualifications of the candidates.

Superior Court Judge Michael Burke ruled in Foster's favor. He cited a U.S. Supreme Court case, Powell v. McCormack, in which the court ruled the U.S. House of Representatives did not have authority to set qualifications for its members beyond those set by the U.S. Constitution. By analogy, Burke said the council had no authority to set qualifications higher than those set by state law and the Arizona Constitution.

Burke ordered Foster seated by the Oct. 23 regular council meeting. He was also awarded attorneys' fees.

Foster stated after the court hearing the town has a lot of problems. The most recent of these was the announcement from the Arizona Municipal Risk Retention Pool that the town's insurance had been canceled, mostly due to the volume of litigation claims against the town.

Foster said he hoped to work toward getting the town's finances in order and getting the insurance restored.


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