Lawmakers lose election but refuse to leave
What would happen if an election took place, and the incumbent losers refused to leave office?
That’s exactly the situation in Quartzsite, Ariz., where two winning candidates for the positions of mayor and town councilman are not being allowed to be seated.
Quartzsite is the town that gained national attention last June when police grabbed a woman who was speaking at a town-council meeting and frogmarched her from the event. (Scroll down for video).
The 2012 municipal election took place May 15, but the old town council in Quartzsite has since refused to seat Ed Foster as mayor and Mark Orgeron as councilman.
Foster collected 56 percent of the vote to easily defeat opponent Jerry Lukkasson, but officials claim he cannot be seated because of an unpaid debt to the town, and so Jose Lizarraga remains at the helm for now.
Orgeron defeated Vice Mayor Barbara Cowell, but is not being seated, as officials dispute his residency in the town.
“This is outrageous,” says Chris Rossiter of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots. “The tea party will not tolerate corruption in public office.”
A rally is being held today at the Arizona Capitol Senate building to express support for Foster and Orgeron, as well as disdain for the councilmembers who lost and refuse to go.
Meanwhile, Orgeron has filed federal legal action, looking for a judge to force the incumbents from office.
Among the points mentioned in his complaint, Orgeron says both he and Ed Foster are legally qualified to be lawmakers in the town, and are, in fact, the legitimate officeholders now since they won the election, with their terms starting immediately.
“The mayor is no longer the mayor of the town, and cannot legitimately exercise the powers of office, and the vice mayor is no longer the vice mayor of the town or a member of the town council and cannot legitimately exercise the powers of office,” the complaint states.
The Arizona Republic reported Foster has filed papers asking La Paz County Attorney Sam Vederman to file a writ under a state law allowing a court to remove usurpers from public office and seat a legitimate candidate.
Vederman told the paper the situation in Quartzsite is volatile, and he worries about violence breaking out.
“We’re exploring the entire situation,”
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