Originally Published: October 10, 2000 7:15 p.m.
PRESCOTT – Political sparks flew at the Yavapai Republican Men's Forum Monday when Dana Womack, a member of the Prescott school board seeking re-election, accused State Rep. Linda Binder (R-Lake Havasu City) of discourteous conduct.
The event at Pete's Family Restaurant heated up when Binder asked Womack for information about her background. Binder noted it wasn't in Womack's campaign literature, which Binder described as "just propaganda."
When Womack did not directly respond to Binder's question, Binder clarified by asking what Womack had done in her community.
Womack responded that she was "very instrumental" in establishing Washington Traditional School, which recently had the highest AIMS scores in PUSD.
"You're missing the point," said Binder, "I want background, background."
"Miss Binder, I thank you very much for your interpretation of my response. I'm answering your question in my own method and manner. . . And so, yes I have been instrumental in other issues here locally. . . and I came to the district administration and said, 'We parents can do more than bake cupcakes, we can be involved in the educational process,' and ultimately the traditional school concept was implemented in our district. . ."
Binder continued to press Womack, saying she wasn't answering her question.
"Miss Binder, you are known for your rudeness, and this is a perfect example," Womack shot back, sending a murmur through the audience of about 50.
Binder, top District 1 vote getter in the recent primary, had earlier thanked those present for their support and asked that it continue through the upcoming general election. She and two others – Rep. Barbara Blewster (R-Dewey) and Democrat Henry Camarot – are competing for the pair of District 1 seats open in the House of Representatives.
Womack, a 45-year-old homemaker, is seeking a second four-year term on the Prescott board. So is Gordon T. Maddux, Prescott YMCA's director of fund development, who also spoke at the forum.
Dee Navarro, 57, a legal assistant, accountant and tax preparer, making her first run for the board, also participated. Maddux and Navarro used the allotted three minutes at the forum's start to acquaint the audience with their backgrounds, accomplishments and goals. Eric Moore gave biographical information for another newcomer, furniture executive Steven R. Campbell, who was out of town. During that three minutes, Womack primarily focused on her platform and voting record.
In all, four candidates are campaigning for three slots on the PUSD board.
After the forum, Binder seemed to shrug off Womack's "rudeness" remark, saying, "My comment is that it's not worthy of a comment."
Binder said she asked Womack the question because "I'm always interested in (a candidate's) background – are they married, do they have any kids, where did they go to school. That's the first thing you always talk about is yourself, what you bring to the table, your experience, what have you done for your community."
Binder said she still wanted to hear Womack answer the question.
"Everybody else has been very kind about telling us how they got here from there, and that's so much of a person's makeup and helps form a person's character," she said. "(That's why) I'm always interested in background."
During the forum question and answer session, Rex Mason told Womack she had a reputation of being "a bomb thrower" who shakes things up.
"I kind of like that in local commissions, but there's a fine line between being a bomb thrower and being disruptive – it's a very fine line – and a lot of us feel you've crossed over that line in the past four years," Mason said. "Would you pledge to be more cooperative and work with the board if you're re-elected?"
Womack said she's often been accused of not being a team player.
"But what you have on the school board is four members who, without exception, rubber-stamp everything that the administration places before them, and if being a team member means you have to go along and rubber-stamp all recommendations (to) the school board, I would not pledge to do that," Womack said.
Maddux asked to respond.
"That is an absolute bald-faced lie," he said. "There are five individuals on the school board – Dana and four others – and . . . I'd certainly never go to the administration and say, 'How do you want me to vote on this?' and neither do any of the others. We all vote exactly as we should vote, our consciences."
Womack maintained that members receive board briefings with agendas before meetings. "Every single voting item has accompanying it an administrator's recommendation, and I am saying that in the past 45 months there has been approximately 700 items that we have voted on, and I am the only one, to the best of my knowledge, that has not rubber-stamped each and every of the 700 items."
In answer to another question, she said she wasn't implying that the administration's making recommendations was inherently flawed or wrong. "But I'm saying that if you have a governing board, elected body, who rubber-stamps every single administrative recommendation, you do not need a governing body."
Binder said she's familiar with administrative recommendations, which elected officials may follow or not.