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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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2/17/2012 9:59:00 PM
Official accused of conflict of interest in zoning dust-up
Scott Orr
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - A manager in the Yavapai County Development Services department is under fire after allegations that he suggested a couple buy from a friend's mobile home business as a solution to their zoning violation.

Bruce and Vicki Westover were found to be in violation of zoning regulations on their two Cornville properties because the land - zoned residential - has no home on it, but the Westovers are keeping farm animals there. Development Services also claims that they have "outside storage violations" and unpermitted buildings on the land.

The Westovers said they bought the land, which had a house on it, in 1986, and that a fire destroyed the house shortly afterwards. The county, they said, did nothing about the alleged violations until 2011, when it received a complaint about a rooster's crowing.

Vicki Westover appeared before Hearing Officer Charles Hastings on Nov. 8, 2011, to appeal the ruling.

During the course of the hearing, she told Hastings that County Planning and Land Use Unit Manager Boyce MacDonald told her husband that they would have to put a residence on the land if they wanted to keep using it, he suggested that "a mobile home, manufactured home, or park unit (would work), and then he referred Bruce to a friend of his that sells park units and indicated that they are at a phenomenal price and that would be the easiest way to probably take care of the situation and be in compliance like the county wanted us to."

Vicki told Hastings that they did not want to do that and felt that MacDonald's "handing Bruce a card from a friend that sells park units was a blatant conflict of interest and very inappropriate."

"No good deed goes unpunished," said Hastings.

He ruled against the Westovers, upholding the violation and a $100 fine for each parcel plus a $2,000 civil penalty for each, unless the Westovers stop using the land without a house in place.

They are appealing that decision to the Board of Supervisors.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Bruce Westover said he tried to stop MacDonald when he realized MacDonald was about to suggest he visit his friend's business, but "that didn't slow him down a bit."

Development Services Director Steve Mauk said that isn't what happened at all.

"Mr. Westover just plain doesn't have his facts straight. We did explain what his options were, including a park model," he said, and when Bruce said he didn't know what that was, MacDonald told him where he could go take a look at them.

"I can't help what people say," Mauk went on. "There was no business card."

He acknowledged that "at face value, it sounds bad, but I know my staff and it didn't take place."

He said that MacDonald came back from the meeting and told him, "I sent (Bruce) by this place" to see park models.

"This is not uncommon, that we have people making accusations," Mauk said.

His interpretation of Hastings' comment was that Development Services had allowed the Westovers to keep their garage on the property after the house was gone - that was the "good deed" - but that the Westovers still complained.

Hastings, who was acting in the capacity of a judge in this case, would not comment.

Bruce Westover said the zoning fight would get "massively ugly unless they see it my way."

"I've done what they asked to get along and go along," he said.

Their appeal will be heard by the supervisors at the board meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, because Monday, Feb. 20, is a federal holiday. The meeting is in the County Administrative Services Building, 10 S. 6th St., Cottonwood; it also can be seen by videoconference at the County Administration Building in Prescott at 1015 Fair St.




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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, February 18, 2012
Article comment by: Pickur Battles

"Bruce Westover said the zoning fight would get 'massively ugly unless they see it my way.'" It appears to me that Mr. Westover's comment tells the real story here. Mr. McDonald offered the violator a legal and reasonable way out of the code violation and Mr. Westover plans to make a big enough stink that he hopes it will cause everybody in Zoning to run away from the issue. In a confrontation, that is called the "crazy act" defense. I think that Mr. Westover has about run out of rope in this confrontation wit the county. He will spend more money and cause himself more stress and grief than if he just manned up and put some kind of cheap park model on his property to clear up his code violation. This is a paradigm of "cut off your nose to spite your face."

Posted: Saturday, February 18, 2012
Article comment by: The Public's Zone

If true, and we don't have the evidence, the business card would be a violation of restraint of trade. If you can't hand-out everybody's business card, then you can never hand out anybody's. The better way is to suggest they contact someone local (keeping business local, fair practice) and check the phone directory or other neutral referral directories. Because this is exactly what what you are trying to avoid, any appearances of a conflict in conducting the public's business.

Posted: Saturday, February 18, 2012
Article comment by: suzi bell higgins

Sounds like the people who own the land are total ingrates. They got away with this violation for how many years?????

Posted: Saturday, February 18, 2012
Article comment by: The Watcher

It is soo easy to blame others for the mistakes we make. It seems like the violator is wasting government money by making a big stink instead of fixing the problem. You can get more bees with honey than lemons.

Posted: Saturday, February 18, 2012
Article comment by: Trumped Up Charge

This case is simply rediculous. Who cares if the P&Z employee gave Westover a reference or not? I would expect nothing less from an employee. Westover clearly had a problem and the employee was offering a suggestion as to where to go to solve the problem. The empliyee did not force Westover to go to the park model home seller. Is Westover going to sue when another employee tells him that he can buy a weed-whacker at Home Depot to clear overgrown weeds on his property? Throw out this case and charge Westover a hefty fee.

Posted: Saturday, February 18, 2012
Article comment by: Too bad

Westover's probably going to lose this one. MacDonald will be protected by the benefit of doubt. It's too bad though. MacDonald and his skills belong in a big city, not a county like Yavapai. Why the citizens of the county tolerate the running of a rural area as if it's a city is beyond me! But that's what it has become and the supervisors don't seem to care about changing it back.



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