Council Elects Tim Fruth As Vice Mayor

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Councilor Tim Fruth received unanimous approval among his colleagues to serve as vice mayor for the next two years.

The action was swift and without pomp as the council, following the vote, moved on to its agenda for the evening.

Mayor Bob Edwards and the council voted to postpone most of the items on the agenda, including rezoning hearings for three controversial subdivisions, until the June 8 council meeting.

Thomas Connelly of the Phoenix-based law firm Jaburg & Wilk, representing the Terra Capital Group, approached the lectern to address the council and to present Edwards with a letter.

The letter asked the new mayor to recuse himself from voting on the zoning hearing of Forest Edge, the proposed development adjacent to his Rimview Heights neighborhood.

The state's conflict-of-interest laws prohibit public officers and employees who possess a "substantial interest in any decision of a public agency," from participating in that matter.

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Tim Fruth, left, was chosen by members of the Payson Town Council to be the vice mayor Wednesday night. Bob Edwards, right, took his seat as mayor of Payson for the first time.

"As you know, the Forest Edge project will have a substantial effect on the value of your property," the May 24 letter from Jaburg & Wilk reads. "That is, you have a ‘substantial interest' in the success or failure of the Forest Edge Project."

Connelly then walked across the council chambers and handed the letter to Edwards.

"I'm never surprised, frankly, with what's coming from Terra Capital," Edwards said after receiving the envelope.

The violation of conflict-of-interest laws, according to Arizona Revised Statutes, carries felony charges and allows the affected party to file civil lawsuits.

The legal intervention follows the uncustomary swearing-in of the new council Tuesday, May 23. In the past, elected candidates were seated the first of June.

The newly elected council members and mayor were scheduled to be sworn in June 8, but Leon Keddington, Edwards' campaign chair, presented a section of town code to Town Attorney Sam Streichman, stating that candidates must be seated at the next regularly scheduled council meeting after the election.

Attorneys speaking on behalf of the Terra Capital Group said the existing council, led by Mayor Barbara Brewer, has the right, also according to town code, to complete full terms, which started June 8 two years ago.

Under traditional practices, the outgoing council would have relinquished its seats June 8, thereby voting on Forest Edge -- a project with which the past council is familiar.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting starts at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 8, in the council chambers at Town Hall.

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