Investigation finds two Marana Town council members violated ope - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Investigation finds two Marana Town council members violated open meeting laws

Marana Town Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler violated open meeting law with an e-mail. Marana Town Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler violated open meeting law with an e-mail.
Marana Town Councilman David Bowen violated open meeting laws with a series of one-on-one conversations following a town council meeting. Marana Town Councilman David Bowen violated open meeting laws with a series of one-on-one conversations following a town council meeting.
E-mail sent by Roxanne Ziegler that violated open meeting laws E-mail sent by Roxanne Ziegler that violated open meeting laws
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MARANA, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Two Town of Marana council members have violated open meeting laws, according to an investigation conducted by a Phoenix law firm hired by the town. 

The first violation stems from a number of one-on-one discussions Councilman David Bowen had with Mayor Ed Honea, and fellow council members Roxanne Ziegler, John Post, and Herb Kai after a July 1 council meeting regarding Heritage Farm Park. According to the Law Offices of Curtis, Goodwin, Sullivan, Udall & Schwab, "This violated the open meeting law because they serially involved a quorum of the Council and were related to a matter reasonably foreseeable to come before the council." 

The law firm concluded a second open meeting law violation occurred when Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler sent an e-mail to three other council members constituting a quorum, "The e-mail was a violation of the open meeting law because it proposed certain actions on matters reasonably foreseeable to come before the council." 

Open meeting laws are important because they're in place to ensure elected officials conduct government business in an open and transparent manner. It's the right of the people to know how their taxpayers dollars are being spent and how elected officials are exercising their powers granted by the people. 

Marana's Town Attorney Frank Cassidy opted to refer the matter to Curtis, Goodwin, Sullivan, Udall & Schwab to avoid any possible conflicts of interest since his office works closely with the council. Susan Goodwin writes in her conclusions, "the open meeting law prohibits both (i) discussions among a quorum of the Council regarding matters reasonably foreseeable to come before the council and (ii) proposals by one Councilmember to three other Councilmembers regarding a matter that is reasonable foreseeable to come before the Council. Even if there is less than a quorum present at any one time, if subsequent discussions result in a quorum being involved in the discussion, that would constitute a serial meeting."  

When reached by phone both Councilmembers take full responsibility. Roxanne Ziegler said, "it was a mistake and I've lost sleep over this. I'm a third term council member. I know better. I was in a hurry. Instead of hitting two keys, I hit three keys." In her e-mail to three other council members Ziegler wrote, "it looks like we all agree the Heritage Farm discussions need to stop for now. And we can do that with our votes at 8/5/14 meeting." Ziegler explained in a phone interview with me that she has growing concerns over the cost of several projects including Heritage Farm and a proposed multi-million dollar police station, "the town has taken on some capitol improvement projects that will be bringing down our reserves. We've got so many projects going on that need to be addressed before we build another park-we've already got seven." 

Councilman David Bowen was also quick to own up to his mistake, "it was an inappropriate thing to do but I didn't know it at the time." Bowen says he never intended for his conversations with other members following a council meeting to to influence a vote,"as a Councilman for Marana, I have a responsibility to uphold not only the law but also its spirit. In some recent one-on-one discussions with other council members I did in fact violate the law with regard to open meetings, although I was not aware at the time that I was doing so. I accept full responsibility for my actions. Marana's citizens deserve transparency in their elected leaders." 

Following her investigation, Goodwin recommends Ziegler's July 28 e-mail should be placed in the Council Packet and be made available to the public at the next meeting at which time the Heritage Farm Park matter is on the agenda. That meeting is set for 6 p.m. at the Sept. 9 study session. Goodwin also recommends that training on the specific issues of e-mails and serial meetings be held for all council members. 

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