Councilwoman-elect Patty Warden will not take a seat on the Miami Town Council, after a resolution saying so was approved at its Oct. 22 regular meeting.
Vice Mayor Sammy Gonzales abstained from voting, and Councilman Mike Black had an excused absence from last Monday’s meeting.
All others, including Councilwoman Patricia Bringhurst who was sworn in moments earlier, voted to approve Resolution No. 1214, determining that Warden “is not qualified to serve on the Town Council and prohibiting her from being seated.”
The agenda item stated that Gila County Attorney Bradley D. Beauchamp would make a presentation on Warden’s qualifications to serve as a council member.
However, when it came his turn to speak, Beauchamp said, “I am not going to give you my opinion. That’s not my job.”
“That’s your job,” he said, motioning toward the council. “I don’t live in Miami.”
Beauchamp told the council it could have prevented Warden “from being on the ballot, but that didn’t happen,” adding, “You knew back in July.”
He went onto say that the council also could have acted “five days after canvassing the election, but that didn’t happen.”
“The options were there,” he said. “This was an option back in July,” if her residency didn’t seem correct.
Beauchamp told the council its option at the Oct. 22 meeting was to “vote to seat her and administer the oath,” based on Warden’s proof of residency.
He told the council that if it refused to seat Warden, she has the option to go to court and file a petition for a writ of mandamus, which is known as “a lawsuit against the government.”
“That’s up to her,” he said, and Warden was heard to respond from the audience, “And I will.”
“In the end, it’s your decision to make,” Beauchamp told the council.
Miami Town Attorney Susan Goodwin called it a surprise to her that Beauchamp would not render an opinion on the matter.
Goodwin had received the complaint July 17, but referred it to Beauchamp, she said.
He said that Goodwin believed she had a conflict of interest and therefore could not render a decision herself, but that he did not agree that she had a conflict.
“We didn’t do nothing,” said Goodwin, adding that she believed at the time that questions surrounding Warden’s residency “warranted further investigation.”
Goodwin reiterated, “We didn’t just sit here and do nothing.”
“I asked for an investigation,” said Councilwoman Rosemary Castaneda. “The fact is you have to be a resident of Miami to run for council. That’s the law, and legal is legal.”
She went on to say that while Warden claims to live on Reppy Street, “My side street is Reppy, and she doesn’t live there.”
“I looked at everything (the documents) you looked at,” Beauchamp said. “If you want my legal opinion, I’m not going to do that in open meeting. If you want my legal opinion, we can do that in executive session.”
Beauchamp pointed out that on May 29, under penalty of perjury, Warden had signed “a sworn statement that she lives here. Other people gave statements that she doesn’t.”
“It appeared to me that nobody wanted to make the call, so they wanted me to make the call,” he told the council.
Castaneda said, “I wasn’t asking you to make that decision. I live four houses down from where (Warden) claims to live.”
“Who would you call on to make that decision?” said Castaneda, to which Beauchamp replied that Warden’s residency could have been determined based on items such as utility bills and voter registration records.
“Who is paying the utility bills at that address?” Beauchamp said. “Is (Warden) registered to vote in Miami?”
Councilwoman Susan Hanson told Beauchamp, “I didn’t want you to lead us all like little cattle. We had covered it all in the documentation” that was submitted.
Moments later, Hanson tried to move to approve the resolution, and Councilman Jose “Angel” Medina seconded. Instead, the discussion continued.
Gonzales questioned what was factual or not regarding Warden’s residency. “I have to base my decision on facts,” he told the council. “I have to be fair here, guys.”
“The fact is that you have to be a resident of Miami,” said Castaneda, adding that there are residents who live “a mile or two down the road, just right outside of the town limits,” and come to the meetings, “but in their honesty, they will not run for council.”
Saying that her sister, Brenda Spurgeon, could not get up and speak due to health issues, Connie Ramos read a letter from Spurgeon, who rents property from Warden.
“No one came to question me,” said Spurgeon, adding that she allowed Warden to plug into her electricity, and that Warden lives in Miami but stays with her dad to take care of him.
When it came her turn to speak, Warden said, “The mayor says he lives here, but on his Arizona State taxes, it says he lives in Mesa. His kid goes to school in the Valley.”
While Mayor Darryl Dalley did not respond during the Oct. 22 meeting, he later told the Silver Belt, “I was investigated, and I meet all the requirements.”
Members of the audience took to the podium to speak, including Robert Wilkinson, who said he has lived in Miami since 1999. “Patty has lived in Miami most of the time I’ve lived here. I would like to see what’s fair happen here.”
Barney Absher said, “I walk down the road on Reppy every day and I have seen her (Patty) all the time. If you want me to go under oath, I will.”
Sharon Licano said she has lived in Miami for 16 years and “Patty does not live there,” adding that she would sign a statement to that effect.
When the time came to vote, Gonzales abstained, but the rest of the council approved the resolution that Warden would not take a seat.
Warden and her supporters left the gallery, making remarks to the council on the way out, including “You’re going to get sued.”
The group stayed outside the council chambers but could be heard talking for part of the rest of the meeting.