Despite concerns about a lawsuit between resident Ray Jones and the town regarding zoning issues, the council voted 4-3 Thursday night to appoint him to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Jones' appointment had originally been presented by Mayor Ken Murphy at the March 13 council meeting. Jones was nominated to fill the unexpired term of resigning Commissioner Don Wolfe. Wolfe's term ends December 2003.
Appointments are normally approved as a consent agenda item in a single action at the start of the council meeting without discussion. However, Councilor Dick Wolfe took the issue off the consent agenda, voicing objections to the appointment based on prior permit violations and a lawsuit.
When action was taken on the appointments at the March 13 meeting, Jones' name was excluded from the motion, which passed with a 6-1 vote.
Murphy put the nomination back on the March 27 agenda to provide an "opportunity for Jones to respond to accusations against him and give people who don't know him a chance to get to know him. He is an excellent candidate for the position."
The mayor cited Jones' five years' experience on the Gila County Planning and Zoning Commission and service on the Casa Grande City Council.
Wolfe said he still objected to the appointment and said since the appointment had failed with a 6-1 vote, "I can only assume the mayor has picked up the votes he needs to get it passed."
Councilor Robert Henley said the vote at the March 13 meeting was not for or against Jones, since his name had been excluded from the motion.
Jones said he felt Wolfe had assassinated his character and made him out to be a despicable character.
"I did not feel very well about it and I still don't," Jones said. "But I decided I'm not going to lower myself to Mr. Wolfe's level."
"I resent the accusation I made a character assassination. I read directly from the public record," Wolfe said.
Bob Flibotte, chairman of the planning group, told the council he felt Jones would be an asset to the commission. He said he wants people who challenge one another.
"I've known Ray Jones a long time," Flibotte said. "That problem (with the lawsuit) is over with. He paid his fees."
Speaking against the appointment, resident Gordon Metcalf said he was concerned that the disrespect for the law previously exhibited by Jones was still there.
"He followed the law. He filed a motion. He challenged the law. People challenge the laws all the time. There's nothing wrong with that. He didn't go outside the law," Murphy replied. The mayor explained his response in a later conversation with the Roundup. He said Jones applied for a permit, he was held up by delays in the Tyler Parkway improvement district, then filed an injunction against the town in order to stop it from blocking his project.
"He attempted to follow the law, or at least use the law. He tried to use the process," Murphy said. "He had inspections done all along and subsequently he was issued his permits after everything was decided."
Also speaking against the appointment, resident Don Crowley said his concern was the message the appointment would send.
"It's OK to violate the codes. Shoot first and ask questions later," Crowley said. "There's a real issue of the message it sends to the community."
Councilor Dick Reese, in support of the appointment said, "We have an experienced, seasoned veteran available to us to serve in an interim basis."
Giving approval to the appointment of Ray Jones to planning and zoning were Murphy, Henley, Reese and Siverson. Opposed to the appointment were Vice Mayor Barbara Brewer, Councilors Judy Buettner and Wolfe.