I recently attended the meeting of the Board of Governors (the "Board") of the Gila County Provisional Community College District. At this meeting, the attorney for the board described several of the violations of the open meeting law and a violation of the confidentiality of the executive session that were found by the attorney general's Open Meeting Law Enforcement Team. Most of the violations were committed by one board member, Robert Ashford.
The attorney, Brian Chambers, remarked that the assistant attorney general of the state of Arizona had only mentioned six violations in her letter to Mr. Ashford, and "if she had listed all of them she would still be writing her letter."
These violations are not small matters. They are serious violations of laws, which are designed to ensure that there are no "back-room deals." Unfortunately, there was a "back-room deal" as part of these violations. Mr. Ashford brought to the board, where he know he had a majority, an unconscionable and egregious contract prepared by EAC, whereby all claims under a legitimate multi-million dollar lawsuit filed against EAC by Gila County are abandoned where the governing board gives up all authority and control of our Community College given it by statute and the voters of Gila County, and virtually gives EAC a blank check with our tax money.
It seems amazing that all the safeguards for the spending of taxpayer money failed. It shocks me how the majority of the board, much less the board's attorney, could agree to this un-negotiated contract and how the county supervisors could consent to it. And now, even the attorney general has failed us by slapping Mr. Ashford's hand with a measly $500 fine, when he could have been fined for each violation and/or removed from office.
Dr. Stephenson, a member of the board, and several members of the public present at the meeting, called for Mr. Ashford to do the moral, honorable thing and resign. Mr. Ashford ignored them.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Ashford didn't feel it was necessary to work with the whole board and present his reasons for why he thought our provider should be changed. A fair contract could have been negotiated, instead of Mr. Ashford surreptitiously and illegally colluding the EAC to give them a sweetheart deal.
And to add insult to injury, the majority of the board, the same ones who approved this contract, named Mr. Ashford chairman of the board at this meeting.
All Gila County Taxpayers: If you aren't outraged, you are not paying attention.
Christine Tilley, Payson