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Court orders Ed Foster seated as Mayor of Quartzsite
La Paz County Superior Court Judge Michael Burke has
granted Quartzsite resident Ed Foster’s request for a Writ of Mandamus
and ordered him sworn in and seated as the town’s mayor. At a hearing
Oct. 17 in Parker, he ruled the Town Council had no authority to add
qualifications for elected officials beyond those set by the state, as
the town had in an ordinance which stated persons who owed delinquent
taxes, fines or fees to the town could not serve in elected office.
ruled further that, even if the council had this authority, the funds
Foster owes the town were not included the section of the town code
regarding elected officials owing money to the town.
The council will have until their next regularly scheduled meeting Oct. 23 to swear Foster in and seat him.
was the winner of the town’s May 15 election for Mayor, defeating Jerry
Lukkasson, 401 voted to 315. On June 4, the Town Council declared he
was not qualified to serve as mayor. This was done following an
executive session, and no reason was given at the time. It was later
announced that, under Section 2-1-10 of the town code, Foster was
disqualified because he owed the town $2,500 from a court settlement.
filed suit, seeking a Writ of Mandamus (from Latin “We command”) to
order the council to seat him as mayor. In September, his attorney,
Julie LaBenz, expressed optimism the case could be settled out of court.
council rejected a proposed settlement at their Oct. 9 meeting. Some of
the persons from the audience who spoke during the meeting said the
courts should be allowed to decide the case.
In oral arguments
Oct. 17, LaBenz stated the town had exceeded its authority in setting
more qualifications for elected office than those set by the Arizona
Constitution and Arizona Revised Statutes. She added that, even if they
had that authority, Foster owed a court judgment, and that was not
included in 2-1-10.
LaBenz said it was clear the Town Council would do anything to keep Foster out of office.
town has turned democracy upside down,” she said. “It must be made
clear the Quartzsite Common Council is not more powerful than the voters
The attorney representing the town, Kristin
Mackin, of the firm of Sims Murray, responded the state has amended
state statutes along the lines of Quartzsite’s 2-1-10. She added Foster
had the court judgment against him and was aware of the ordinance while
he filed his nominating papers.
Mackin said the council was right
to be concerned about debts owed the town, and they performed their
legally required duty to judge the election and the qualifications of
the candidates. She said a Writ of Mandamus could only be granted when
public officials have not performed their duties, and added state law
provides councils with some discretion in matters like these.
said the question was whether the town had the authority to set
qualifications for elected officials beyond those set by the state. He
cited a Supreme Court case, Powell v. McCormack, from 1969 in which the
court ruled the House of Representatives did not have the authority to
set qualifications for elected office beyond those set by the
By analogy, Burke said this meant the town did not
have the authority to set more qualifications than those set by state
law and the Arizona Constitution. He said the council can judge the
qualifications of elected officials, but they cannot set new ones. He
further ruled that, even if Section 2-1-10 were valid, it did not
mention or cover court judgments.
Burke granted the Writ of Mandamus and ordered Foster seated by the next council meeting. He also awarded him attorney’s fees.
was no other way this could’ve turned out,” Foster said after the
hearing. “The council needs to realize the rules apply to them.”
Foster said the entire matter, along with the investigations of vote fraud, has cost the town a lot of money.
said he hopes to work toward bringing Quartzsite back together. He said
he hoped to get the town’s finances in order, and to have its insurance
“I’ve got quite a job to do,” he said.
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