People in power usually learn quickly that it is easier to apologize afterwards than to get permission in advance.
What is done is done and we must all “move on”… right?
There is a privilege of power that elected candidates get to enjoy, and the Tucson city council and staff seem to use ignorance as a defense without ever being held accountable for learning about the law; either they are stupid and incapable of learning, or they do know better and are deceiving the gullible masses.
All of Tucson seems to have problems with transparency, as even the Arizona Daily Star did recently with their attempt to learn who even applied for the TUSD superintendent job, and now violations of Open Meetings Law are making the news again.
How long does it take for Regina Romero to learn her lesson, and how many times will we accept her ignorance as an excuse?
Back in the 1990s the Tucson City Council was getting into trouble, unintentionally, but one would hope they would have learned that even avoiding a quorum can still lead to violations. From July 24th, 1992:
Mayor George Miller and a councilman have asked state officials to investigate whether four council members broke the Open Meetings Law.
[skipping ahead, the issue was over asking the City Manager Tom Wilson and Fire Chief Richard Moreno to resign]
“We did nothing illegal. We never met with more than three of us in one place,” [Janet] Marcus said.
Four members would constitute a quorum of the seven-member council, requiring that a public notice of the meeting be posted 24 hours in advance.
What the council members were doing, and they were eventually reprimanded for doing so, was meeting three at a time to discuss the issue, so that a quorum of four would never be met.
It turns out that you cannot do this, nor tally up support or how many votes you have.
Miller and Sedlmayr contend that decisions were made without public discussion as a result of the private meetings.
Groups of three council members already met with Wilson and Moreno, telling them that there were five votes to remove them if they didn’t resign before the first public meeting was called.
Miller and Sedlmayr said they were never consulted on any of those decisions.
“We believe the actions of our colleagues show they are trying to run a sub-government to the exclusion of both of us,” they say. “We have a rogue government operating underground. For the benefit of the community, this activity cannot be allowed to continue.”
Well, unfortunately this is Tucson and this type of activity did continue. We fast-forward to May 13th, 2009:
City Council budget talks derailed Tuesday amid allegations of a violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law.
In proposing a plan to cut spending to nonprofit groups and other jurisdictions that could save the city $1 million, Councilwoman Nina Trasoff described meeting with her colleagues “in twos or in threes.”
The descriptions raised questions for at least one council member who was not included, as three of his colleagues were. A meeting of four council members represents a quorum and makes public notice necessary under the law.
The same damn thing was going on, but now with a new crew. Meeting “in twos or in threes” to avoid the quorum is still illegal, as was determined in the 1990s.
We then get to the important part of the 2009 article which links at least two current board members to that lesson in Open Meetings Law.
Scott and Romero backed Trasoff up, at least about the appropriateness of the meetings.
But City Attorney Mike Rankin wasn’t so sure, and he should know better than Regina Romero since he’s a lawyer.
As to whether Trasoff’s string of meetings constituted a violation, he said, “From what I heard today, no comment.”
Now we come up to last week and we have the following in the Arizona Daily Star on August 14th, 2013.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is investigating whether a Tucson City Council member skirted the state Open Meetings Law.
A complaint submitted to the AG alleged Councilwoman Regina Romero used a city employee to communicate her position to other council members on transferring the El Rio Golf Course to Grand Canyon University.
It also claimed the council improperly discussed the GCU negotiations during a closed-door meeting last May.
Regina was trying to deceive the public by, instead of meeting “in twos or threes” as Trasoff did before, she would just have “a city employee to communicate her position to other council members” which is like meeting in twos, except the city employee is now in your place.
Genius? Or still a violation of the Open Meetings law?
If nothing else, it certainly violates the spirit of the law by having a city employee act in your place, thus avoiding a meeting of two council members, so there is a good chance this latest act will be found in violation also.
What is the penalty? All the previous violators of the Open Meetings Law remained in office and some even went on to higher office. So what will happen to Regina?
More than likely nothing other than a public reprimand, which proves that it is easier to apologize afterwards than to follow the laws to begin with.
And she will complete her term and then move on to either replace Richard Elias on the Board of Supervisors after Grijalva retires, or just go straight for the Congressional seat herself.
Thus, since a rise in power is in her trajectory, that will keep the Arizona Daily Star on her side with a defense by Tim Steller on Friday, and continued apologetics and donations from liberal Democrats.
Plus, when power structure accepts apologies from people like Regina Romero, Rodney Glassman and Paul Cunningham, it is as if they now owe them one; they then become silenced in their promise to speak “truth to power” as those now in power hide the truth from the public.
First time, shame on you. Second time, shame on us.