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6:34 PM Fri, Sept. 21st

AG finds CYFD board members violated open meeting law several times

Members will be required to go through Open Meeting Law training sessions

Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority’s administration building in Prescott Valley is where the Central Yavapai Fire District and Chino Valley Fire District boards often host their public meetings. (Max Efrein/Courier)

Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority’s administration building in Prescott Valley is where the Central Yavapai Fire District and Chino Valley Fire District boards often host their public meetings. (Max Efrein/Courier)

In early August, the Arizona Attorney General‘s Office found that members of the Central Yavapai Fire District (CYFD) board violated Arizona open meeting law on several occasions dating back as far as December 2017.

The first two violations pertained specifically to CYFD board members ViciLee Jacobs and Tom Steele. On both December 14, 2017, and March 15, 2018, the pair crafted written statements requesting that items be placed on the board’s agenda for upcoming meetings and recommended that actions be taken on the items.

In both cases, they addressed the statements to at least one other member of the five-member board. By doing so, it created a quorum outside of a public meeting, which is a violation of open meeting law, according to a letter written by Oramel Skinner, the Chief of Government Accountability and Special Litigation Unit at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

“The key consideration in reaching this conclusion is the determination that the communications at issue go beyond simply asking for matters to be placed on an upcoming agenda and instead constitute proposing legal action of the Board, which is reserved only for public meetings,” Skinner wrote.

More open meeting law violations took place when CYFD board chair Darlene Packard refused to let two members of the public, Larry Jacobs and Chris Kuknyo, speak during the board’s “Call to the Public” on February 26 and March 26. In those cases, Packard quickly identified what the men were addressing in their speeches to be legal matters outside the jurisdiction of the board. Skinner did not find this to be a legitimate reason to prevent Jacobs and Kuknyo from speaking.

“When a public body makes an open call to the public, the public body must ensure that speech on matters within the jurisdiction of the public body is not censored solely because of the content of the speech,” Skinner wrote. “In this case, a violation occurred when the Board, through Board Chair Packard, halted speech that was conceivably within the jurisdiction of the public body.”

Because of these and other near infringements of open meeting law by CYFD board members on other occasions, the Attorney General’s Office is requiring all current CYFD board members to attend an Open Meeting Law training session within 60 days of receiving the letter from Skinner, which was issued on Aug. 7.

The board is currently working on determining exactly when that training will take place.

Follow Max Efrein on Twitter @mefrein, email him at mefrein@prescottaz.com or call him at 928-445-3333 ext. 1105.