Town Attorneys Friend or Foe?
On January 15th, 2020 the Council voted to dismiss the three Rim Country Educational Alliance, a Separate Legal Entity (RCEA, SLE) Board members that were supposed to be representing the Town. Because of 1.) the lack of continued communication with the members of the Town Council, 2.) the failure to provide prudent financial documents requested by the Town of Payson, and 3.) AND because of the first two reasons, the unclear and possible financial liability to the Town.  Just like any other appointed official, if the job is not being done to the satisfaction of the appointees, they are dismissed.
What would you do if a housekeeper kept coming to your house and cleaning, but you didn’t hire them? They would show up every week, but after they left you weren’t sure they cleaned. On top of this conundrum, when it was time to pay you were never given a clear price. You knew you must owe something, but you weren’t sure what it was or what they were actually doing while in your house. Would you try to figure out? Would you fire them? Would you ask questions as to what they were up to?
There were no objections or cautions expressed by our Town attorneys at the 1/15/20 Council Meeting. To the contrary when Steve Smith asked our attorney if we had the authority to take such action, without hesitation Mr. Arnson said, “yes”. They never cautioned the Council that they may have been was violating the board members civil rights by not allowing them ‘due process’.
Did our Town attorneys not know about Civil Law? Highly doubtful. On his own biography on Pierce Coleman’s website it reads, “Justin is a frequent speaker before business and employer associations, including the International Public Management Association (IPMA) – HR, and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). He recently served on the faculty of the Defense Research Institute for its 2015 national conference for Governmental Tort and Civil Rights Liability.”
Payson’s Town Attorney job description states, “He shall arrange for the prosecution and defense of all suits, actions or causes where the town is a party and shall report to the council on the condition of any suit or action to which the town is a party.”
As soon as Snell & Wilmer filed a complaint, Pierce Coleman turned everything over to their associates at the Arizona Municipal Risk Retention Pool (AMRRP) and blamed Town Council members for their reckless actions. What?
Why would Pierce Coleman advise the Council to act in a manner that would most certainly bring a law suit? When Pierce Coleman gave their opinion that the Council was justified – legally, to remove the three board members did they not know what the ramifications would be? Especially when they know who the legal representation of the RCEA, SLE is Snell & Wilmer (the biggest law firm in Arizona). There should have been some careful thought and discussion given the recent $187,000,000 claim filed by Kenny Evans and the RCEF against the Town of Payson.  One might be right to question where their loyalties lie. Has Pierce Coleman faithfully served the interests of the citizens of Payson? Are the qualified to represent the Town sufficiently with their self proclaimed lack of experience in matters of the SLE? Why did the town extend Pierce Coleman’s contract past the end of this fiscal year before the budget was complete? In this economic climate how are we sure the funds are best spent there? What was the rush? – (This link cannot be provided because Town staff has not posted minutes for March 3rd, March 26th, April 9th, April 23rd, 2020 Town Council Meetings.)
Gary Pierce, Justin’s Father, made headlines in 2018 in the Arizona Republic where it states, “Friday the bribery case against a former Arizona Corporation Commission member and his wife went to the jury, which could decide whether the couple as well as a former lobbyist and a water company owner will get jail time. At issue is whether former ACC member Gary Pierce and his wife, Sherry, along with lobbyist Jim Norton and Johnson Utilities owner George Johnson were allegedly involved in a scheme involving a failed real estate deal, a payment to Pierce’s wife and promises to hike rates for the utility, according to the Arizona Republic. 
Why were they given a new contract? They have cost the Town additional legal fees for additional legal representation on top of what we already pay them. Is that a good value?Let’s ask some more questions we the people are entitled to since we the people are paying for their contract.
1. Should we be putting our trust in a law firm that is closely affiliated with Gary Pierce, the Arizona Corporation Commissioner who was tried for bribery, corruption, and fraud in 2018?  Read the inditement here: 
2. Does Pierce Coleman in turn represent members of AMRRP?
3. Might there be a better choice for the most crucial position in our Town? One that doesn’t exhibit questionable behavior?
The Town needs to adhere to more transparent contracting and open each contract to the public. Other Cities and Towns in Arizona have a much better system for getting bids on contracts and hiring employees. Payson must raise the the quality of work that is being contracted with the Town to match the exorbitant salaries handed out without looking at the budget. ★