REPORT: Quartzsite’s Future Uncertain
By Heather Smathers
In the aftermath of declaring a state of emergency in the rural town of Quartzsite, resident are unsure what is happening in their town.
“I feel better today,” said Jennifer Jones, the woman whose behavior allegedly was “inciting riots” in the town. “Yesterday, everyone was scared. No one knew what (Police Chief Jeff) Gilbert thought the state of emergency meant.”
In an emergency meeting held Sunday afternoon, the town council, minus Mayor Ed Foster, voted to declare a state of emergency in the town. Jones said she and Foster already have delivered complaints to state Attorney General Tom Horne.
Jones disputes media accounts that Foster has been “ousted.”
“He is still the mayor. He isn’t resigning; he hasn’t been removed,” she said.
Foster does face a contentious recall election on Aug, 30. Jones said the recall effort is politically motivated.
Jones said the current council members were all appointed with the exception of Foster. A series of deaths and resignations resulted in a council of cronyism, she said.
As a part of the state of emergency, Jones said, the council has said there will be no public meetings until after the recall election.
Jones said she believes the council suffers from a combination of ignorance of the law as well as a wanton disregard for it. She said she is still unsure what she allegedly did to “incite riots.”
“I asked a few hard questions, pointed out when they were breaking the law,” she said. “I didn’t do anything.”
The town of Quartzsite has had several of its actions questioned by Jones and Foster in the past several months. Foster has a pending claim with the Arizona Ombudsman Citizen’s Aide because he says he has been unable to obtain payroll records for the town which he believes will show some employees received more than one pay check on certain weeks.
Jones has an outstanding notice of claim against the town for alleged police harassment by Gilbert.
Jones also was arrested at a public meeting last week, after she rose to speak on a tax issue. She says the arresting officer twisted her arm in such a way she suffered a severe sprain which will preclude her from working for roughly six weeks.
The Quartzsite police officers association voted in June to publicly declare their vote of no confidence in Gilbert’s authority for legal and ethical violations. The council, with the exception of Foster, walked out of that meeting and refused to accept the vote or place Gilbert on administrative leave.
Despite everything that has happened, Jones said she knows she is doing the right thing.