Sedona voters spoke loud and clear, and two Sedona Fire District Governing Board members blatantly ignored them.
Following the election of three new board members, the outgoing board had the option of filling a fourth vacant seat by appointing the candidate who finished just out of reach of a four-year term.
Douglas Fitzpatrick, the candidate in the fourth slot, lost the third seat to Dave Blauert by six votes, not a landslide or even healthy margin by any means.
Outgoing board member Liza Vernet and outgoing Chairman Ralph Graves voted to adopt a new policy allowing the board to appoint Fitzpatrick. Outgoing board member Bert Berkshire and board Clerk Charles Christensen decided their agenda is more important than what the voters — the people they are supposed to represent — want for the district.
Berkshire and Christensen claimed they simply wanted to stick with current policy, which requires interested individuals to go through an entire application process, and their claim is as transparent as a clean glass window.
Sedona Red Rock News Publisher Bob Larson was outraged when he heard the news that Berkshire and Christensen chose not to vote based on the will of the people.
“This is what’s wrong with government,” Larson said.
Berkshire stated at the meeting Wednesday, Nov. 17, that the item was put on the agenda because it served the best interests of those behind it. Who is that, Mr. Berkshire? The voters who would have elected Fitzpatrick if all four seats had been available by election? If so, yes, it would have served the best interests of Sedona area voters.
In fact, Berkshire should not have even voted on the item because he has a conflict of interest. He ran for a seat on the board and came in last. By not filling it with the fourth-place finisher, Berkshire himself can apply to be reappointed to the board.
Christensen, the only board member who will remain after the election, failed the simplest test he could have been given. He’s proved he is not interested in carrying out the will of the people, but instead is more concerned with his own agenda for the district.
It’s not often a board gets to poll voters before it makes a decision. This board had that opportunity through the election and failed to follow the people’s desire.
If Christensen thinks new board members will bow down to his wishes and appoint someone from his “team” rather than the candidate voters themselves selected, I hope Ty Montgomery, Dave Blauert and Phyllis Erick stand up for the community that voted them into office.
A reversal of this vote by the three incoming members would prove they’re ready to walk the walk they’ve been talking over the last few months.
It’s not about who finished fourth — it could have been Joe Demme or Mel Rycus or Berkshire himself. It’s about representing your constituents, which Berkshire and Christensen did not do.
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