Vice Mayor John Crane successfully challenged the imposition of term limits in Carefree and won a permanent injunction against the Town. In 2011 Carefree voters approved Proposition 421 which reads, ‘No person shall be eligible to be elected or appointed to the office of Mayor for more than three consecutive two-year terms, and no person shall be eligible to be elected or appointed to the office of Mayor for more than three consecutive two-year terms. No person who serves as Councilmember or Mayor for five consecutive terms shall be eligible to hold either office until three years have elapsed. This was then made part of the Town Code by vote of the Town Council in 2016.
According to documents filed by Crane’s attorney, Timothy La Sota, Carefree as a non-chartered municipality is granted only certain powers by the legislature and the legislature, ‘has never granted municipalities such as Carefree the power to impose term limits on Councilmember.’
Town Attorney Mike Wright in his response cited the 1968 case of City of Scottsdale v. Superior Court, “The cities and towns of this state are municipal corporations created by the state and possessory of no greater powers than those delegated to them by the constitution and the general laws of the State.”
He also cited the requirements for candidacy in the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS). “A person shall not be a member of a city or town council unless, at the time of the election, the person is eighteen years old, is a qualified elector residing within the city or town at the time of the election, and has resided in the city or town for one year next preceding the election.” Further adding that requirements for candidacy do not mention terms of office.
Wright also wrote in his response that Carefree does have the authority to impose additional requirements and quotes another section of the ARS. This section authorizes, “Ordinances for the government of the corporation, its officers and persons within its corporate limits needful for the good government and order of the municipalities…”
Judge Hugh Hegyi in is decision wrote, “The legislature has, however, expressly authorized towns to determine the length of their officials’ terms of office, alternative processes for electing a mayor, and the ability to create council districts.” Further adding, “The fact that the legislature did not expressly empower towns to impose term limits implies an intent not to confer that authority.”
A permanent injunction, barring the town from imposing term limits was granted by Judge Hegyi.
Update – On June 2 Council Member Mike Farrar filed a motion to reconsider judgement and objection to judgement in favor of plaintiff, John Crane. In the filing Farrar states, ‘I strongly believe the wishes of my constituents should NOT be overturned, unless rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States are affected.’
Farrar also cites Proposition 105, the Voter Protection Act, which amended the Arizona Constitution to read in part, ‘Local, city, town or county matters. The powers of the Initiative and the Referendum are hereby further reserved to the qualified electors of every incorporated city, town, and county as to all local, city, town, or county matters on which such incorporated cities, towns, and counties are or shall be empowered by general laws to legislate. Such incorporated cities, towns, and counties may prescribe the manner of exercising said powers within the restrictions of general laws.’
Also in the filing are allegations that Mayor Les Peterson provided the funds for Crane to hire an attorney for his case. Other allegations include that Town Attorney Michael Wright, Mayor Peterson and Vice Mayor Crane agreed prior to the original complaint being filed that Mr. Wright would not object materially to the suit. Farrar also cited Wright’s working for both the Plaintiff, Crane, and the Mayor as a conflict of interest.
At press time no response or hearing date has been set.