BISBEE — A Sierra Vista resident put the county on notice during the Board of Supervisors May 21 meeting, by saying, ”The county is out of compliance.”
Tom Crosby spoke up at the end of the meeting and told the supervisors of a problem with the consent agenda item on the approval of demands and budget amendments for operating transfers. He said the agenda documents for payments should be included with the other agenda public information the county provides in accordance with Arizona statutes.
“And I would suspect you have been out of compliance almost forever,” he told supervisors Peggy Judd, Ann English and Tom Borer. “Do you know what you are approving?”
He filled out a request to speak on the item, but Judd, the chairwoman of the board, overlooked his notation on the form. He did speak during Call to the Public, but it was on a different subject.
Consent agenda items are not open for discussion unless a supervisor requests it to be pulled for further dialogue, noted English.
Since the item had already been approved, Chief Civil Deputy Attorney Britt Hanson pointed out the matter was closed and not open for discussion.
Crosby left some information with the supervisors which addressed his concerns about the failure to include the bills the county pays with other agenda items.
According to the Arizona Ombudsman Citizens’ Aide office, public records are “anything created or received by a government agency or employee that relates to public business. This includes records created or received in the course of business, even if on personal computers. This includes all books, papers, maps, photographs or documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, including prints or copies of such items produced or reproduced on film or electronic media made or received by any governmental agency in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business.”
The payments are to be attached to the end of the minutes each month, as required by Arizona statute. A review of the posted minutes on the county website show the information is provided for meetings which have minutes posted.
Recently, when English was asked about the lack of transparency as far as allowing the public to see just what they were approving, she responded, “There is a folder full of each and every dollar being spent and each supervisor has the opportunity to look at it before the meeting. I just never gave it any thought about the public wanting to see all the details every meeting. All of the information is public and I assumed if anyone asked to see it, they could.”
When the Herald/Review asked for the accounts payable, Clerk of the Board Arlethe Rios promptly provided them.
English continued, “Our attorney looks over the agenda items, knows the laws and should have told us if we were not giving all the information necessary to the public. We will be apprised if there needs to be changes.”
Judd also confirmed the information was provided to the supervisors prior to the meetings for review. She was unaware the information was not available to the public through the agenda.
Borer did not respond to questions by press time.
Wednesday, Rios and finance staff met to talk about the process which will be used to present the accounting of county bills to the public.
“There was a step we weren’t taking,” said Rios. “We always made the list available to the supervisors prior to the meetings, but we didn’t attach them to the agenda. So, to make sure we’re in compliance, we’ll be attaching them to the agenda item for the public.”
When the supervisor’s agenda is posted for the June 11 meeting, the accounting information complied by finance staff will be posted, she added.
“Every once in a while, someone brings something we should be doing to our attention,” Rios noted. “It’s good because we need to be sure we’re in compliance.”