I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Ms. Sue Anderson for sharing her thoughts and opinions regarding my “disparaging” behavior at the recent Special Town Council meeting.
The meeting in question was a “Special Meeting” called and executed in accordance with the Town Code and Open meeting Laws. This meeting was deemed necessary by four (4) Council Members due to the fact that the land exchange legislation was introduced unexpectedly and without the Town’s prior knowledge or opportunity to review and discuss beforehand. For this type of meeting action, it is up to the Chair whether or not to allow public comment at any time during the meeting, and no public comment is required by law.
This action was the culmination of a series of events, beginning when the original Mutual Benefits Agreement was adopted and again on Dec. 16, 2010, when the Amended and Restated Mutual Benefits Agreement was approved.
First, in 2010, the former Town Attorney provided a legal opinion to one Council Member, Hank Gutierrez, and the Vice Mayor, Olga Lopez, that they clearly had conflicts of interest and should not be involved in discussion about or vote on any action with respect to Resolution Copper. Vice Mayor Lopez did recuse herself; however, Council Member Gutierrez claimed he had obtained his own legal advice, indicated he disagreed with the Town’s attorney and “voted his conscience.” Not only did he discuss this issue, he made the motion and voted on this matter.
Two years later, on Oct. 30, 2012, he was convicted of violating the Conflict of Interest provisions he swore to uphold upon taking his Oath of Office, by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, for those very actions. The conviction was based upon his decision to actively participate on this issue while employed as an independent contractor for Resolution Copper.
This act by an elected official is nothing more than arrogance and greed. It certainly was not in the best interest of our community or Resolution Copper—nor was it transparent.
In fact, this action and resulting conviction, in its purest form smacks of total disrespect for the Town’s constituents, the office and Resolution Copper.
Several weeks before this conviction, the Town government was totally transparent about its intent to renegotiate the Mutual Benefits Agreement, as it was listed on the Sept. 6, 2012 Regular Council Meeting Agenda—yes, the same date as we accepted the $100,000 advance from that Agreement.
At that meeting, Call to the Public was itemized before the action took place, and only one (1) individual spoke against the mine. No one spoke on behalf of the company or the Agreement. Thereafter, the item was unanimously tabled for future discussion and action. This was no secret. It was clearly transparent.
Based upon the conviction and prior to his sentencing, Mr. Gutierrez resigned from office as a term of his plea agreement. This conviction effectively terminated the Agreement without official action by the Town Council or Resolution Copper.
In follow-up discussions between Town officials and Resolution Copper management, there was a disagreement regarding the specific effects of that conviction. The Town sought legal advice regarding the validity of the Agreement, which brought to light several reasons for termination—which were made transparent in the Town’s letter dated Feb. 21, 2013. While the public is up in arms that they were not allowed a chance to speak, nothing that could have been said would have reversed the effects of Mr. Gutierrez’s conviction under the law.
On to the Mar. 7, 2013 meeting, wherein I presided over the Call to the Public portion of the meeting where twenty-three (23) public comments were heard—pro and con—spanning a three-hour period. At this time, I did not interrupt at the three-minute time frame per comment as prescribed by law. Instead, I allowed all who wished to speak enough time to communicate their passionate message. I allowed clapping and outbursts from the public—both of which can be construed “out of order,” “disrespectful” and just plain “rude.” Several individuals utilized profanity. In fact, before the meeting, one Council Member and the Mayor were openly threatened by pro-mine individuals. This action is truly reprehensible—especially in our tight-knit community. What we expected is that everyone could vent—positively or negatively—and be able to move forward in a professional manner. This was not the case.
So, when a crowd of individuals showed up at the Mar. 13, 2013, Special Council Meeting like a lynch mob with disapproving placards and name badges in support of Resolution Copper expecting to speak, they were misinformed. Finally, when the meeting adjourned, several of those individuals defaced the meeting hall (and the Senior Center) by removing their badges of support and affixing them to the doorway and windows. They also left their placards strategically placed. I call that disrespect, ignorance and retaliation.
Those of you who cry transparency and respect from the Town government expect and demand much less from yourselves and the company. There was no transparency in the deliberate, aggressive introduction of the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013 (H.R. 687). There was no prior discussion with Town officials or staff prior to the introduction. In fact, there has never been any discussion with town officials or staff regarding any of the legislation over the last eight plus years. We have merely been instructed to give our unconditional support of something introduced by people who are not Superior residents and, as several mine supporters commented, “should have no voice.”
We have not had the opportunity to consider and study the effect of this legislation on our community as we have not been aware of the legislation until after it is introduced. Once it is introduced, we have no opportunity to make changes. This is not transparency. Why ask more of the local governing body than of our mine partner and Federal Senators and Representatives?
I would suggest that we all check our emotions and restrain our passion, agree to disagree, and move forward in a more professional, civilized manner even though we share a difference of opinion. Let’s not forget at the end of the day when the dust settles, we as residents of Superior will still be living here as friends.
As always, I am available to anyone who would like to discuss this matter.
/s/ Soyla “Kiki” Peralta
Superior Town Council Member
Native Superior Resident