The county is dodging its
duty to evaluate the building codes
recently imposed on rural areas.
Cochise County's 3-phase
rural building code isn't delivering what the Planning
Department promised it would. That's the only
conclusion to be drawn from a Department report issued on Tuesday,
August 14, 2007.
3-phase code was approved by the county Board Of
Supervisors in December 2004. Phase
1 imposes codes on the west part of the county (including the area
around Sierra Vista), Phase 2 covers mid-county, and Phase 3 covers the
county's east edge. Phases 1, 2, and 3 were to
April 1, 2005, 2006, and 2007 respectively, but Phase 2 was delayed two
months, and the Board later created some exceptions.
Board passed the 3-phase code, the Board required a "review
process before the implementation of Phases 2 and 3," to be conducted
by "Supervisors, Planning
& Zoning staff, County Attorney staff,
experts in the field of building codes, builders and developers, and
interested members of the public."
head Vlahovich said "he would be more comfortable with nine months" to
prepare for the evaluation. Yet, on March 28, 2006,
three days before Phase 2 was to begin, Vlahovich told the Board that
"he did not realize the motion required an evaluation prior to the
implementation of the second phase." The Board, without
Vlahovich about his self-contradiction, delayed Phase 2, accepted a
quickie in-house Department report saying the plan was paying for
itself, and put off a
real evaluation for a year.
On June 6, 2006,
voted to have a real evaluation by July 6, 2007. That date
without an evaluation. August 14, 2007, was the date
finally set for the evaluation.
On that date, supervisor Newman objected to
program without the required evaluation.
acknowledged Newman's point, but would not discuss its legal
The Department then presented NOT the required evaluation,
merely another in-house report. The Board wouldn't
acknowledge that when employees investigate whether their own
and salaries are
justified, the answer tends to be "Yes!"
In 2004, the Department
promised that the plant would cost the taxpayers nothing, because user
fees would cover all costs.
James Vlahovich (then Department head, now Deputy County
Administrator) told the Board "the plan would pay for itself in about 3
years and only be subsidized by the General Fund for the start-up
period." The August 14, 2007, report, however, shows plan
$216,000 for fiscal year 2004/5, $64,000 for 2005/6, and $252,000 for
a total of $532,000, and increasing fast, far away from paying for
itself. In 2006, the
quickie in-house report said the program was
enough fees to pay the cost of collection. That doesn't match
deficits that the the August 2007 report revealed.
In 2004, Vlahovich also
the Board that the program "would be encouraging, rather than
discouraging, alternative construction methods like straw bale
construction and rammed earth construction." The August 14
said nothing about this.
In 2004, Vlahovich told
Board that "the purpose of building codes is to establish the minimum
acceptable requirements necessary for protecting the public health,
safety and welfare ...." The August 14 report counted every
or safety" item the program has found, without regard to
seriousness. Without data on whether the frequency
of actual fires, deaths, etc. has dropped
since the program began, the report is of no use in
program's effect, if any, on public safety.
the same time, Department employee
Ron Durgin (gone for a while after this, now maybe back again) told the
Board that the program "will also
have a positive impact on property insurance rates. The
Services Offices (ISO) has shown a direct relationship between building
failures, the codes adopted and the resources directed toward
implementation and enforcement. Cochise County currently has
worst insurance rating given by the ISO." Yet on August
14, Department head Judy Anderson said the Department hadn't
to contact insurance companies about the program. Will the
Department ever begin testing its promises against reality?
head Anderson was given a draft of this article,
but never responded.
* * * * *
Non-research And the Pod
study with a preset agenda stops short of analyzing the data,
the guy who set the agenda misrepresents criticism of his work,
& Supervisor Call gears up to turn rural folks into
report delivered to the county on May 6, a grad student
(probably just carrying out her advisor's orders) collected
bits of data about housing values, and drew a
map of the bits, with lines around some of them.
work was worthy of an "A" in any 4th grade in the country.
gave the impression that homes in house tracts tend to be more
expensive than homes tend to be built by individuals. But no numbers
were provided, there was no mathematical analysis of the
correlation between a property's assessed value and its builder, the
report did not look at other factors which might affect the
relationship between assessment and builder, and the report did
not consider that
some items that increase
assessed value also require county maintenance and run up county costs,
so that higher assessments
may well correlate with a net drain on county finances.
comments are intended to prevent any use, by the county
supervisors or the Planning Department, of the May 6 report. The report
is worthless scientifically, so should be worthless for
of the May 6 meeting was spent on another item. Other
students, told to prepare plans for clustered "green"
housing, came up with "pods" of about ten houses, with shared
walls, and front doors facing each other across central courts no more
than 100' wide, and often much closer. Such improvements over college
dorms might appeal to college students, but most residents of Cochise
County may have different ideas, involving NOT having to listen to your
neighbors' television sets, and NOT having your neighbors' children
play near your front door.
formerly with the Planning Department, talked
features of the pods, though he also liked lots of roads, which
conflicts with "green" development, though Mark did not
Patrick Call was very receptive to clustering, and hoped that the
county would give incentives for such developments. His ideas
appeal to big real estate developers, but to few others.
Call's comments near the end of the Board meeting two weeks later, on
May 20, Call is planning a major push to turn the county "green" and
impose the graduate students' vision on the county's people.
naive of Call.
For more on this story, including details about misrepresentations by
Apel, go to
The county's "Envisioning"
A survey that wasted
$10,000 and lots of work
On July 17, 2007, the
Sierra Vista Herald printed an article about the "Envisioning"
survey. The article is online here:
survey sample was very biased. It would be a good profile of
Cochise County only IF --
-- IF we all had phones and lived on the grid;
-- IF we had about 50,000 men and 80,000 women, instead of 65,000 of
-- IF we had about 40,000 people under 50, instead of 80,000;
-- IF we had about 40,000 people over 65, instead of 20,000;
-- IF half of our people over 18 were retired; and
-- IF about 7500 of our families rented their homes, instead of 15,000.
survey questioned 406 heads of household -- 1/3 of 1% of the
people in the county. In the report, Table I-2 says that it
reports, for all 406 people, the city they live in or 'identify
with.' However, the percentages only add up to 83%.
interviews were conducted by phone; this excluded people who
no phone, or live off the grid -- a large part of the people who
give the county its unique flavor.
survey's sample did not accurately reflect the
county. It included too few --
-- men. Cochise County is
50.4% men, but the sample was only 40%.
-- young working people. About
50% of the
county is under 38 years, but 70% of the sample was 50 years or more,
and 48% was retired.
-- renters. 33% of county
homes are rented, but only 16% in the sample.
The unrepresentative sample makes a survey's results
the results, if taken at face value despite the survey's
defects, show that county government is far out of touch with the
concerns of county residents. For instance, survey Table 9
what kind of development the 406 people would prefer:
On a Scale Of 1-5
though "residential subdivisions" are last on that list,
employees spend huge amounts of
time promoting housing developments.
Table 10 said that 84% of people wanted a separate house. Of
people who specified lot size, only 11% wanted under 1 acre, while 36%
wanted 1 or more acres. Only 7% of people wanted to live in
apartments, townhouses, or condos, and only
4% -- one in 12 people -- wanted any kind of planned housing
development -- but catering to that 4% is what county government has
* * * * *
A few Open Meeting Law violations
February 22, 2005, the Supervisors discussed Miracle Valley's providing
lodging to Minutemen. The minutes say the Board went "into
executive session to obtain legal advice regarding the expected large
gathering in the Palominas area for an estimated 30 days...."
However, the minutes list the attendees as all three supervisors, the
Board clerk, the Board attorney, two members of the sheriff's
department, and three Planning and Zoning employees. Unless
were all essential to receiving the legal advice, their presence
violated the OML, and the executive session was just an illegal way to
keep the public from
hearing what officials were planning.
For more, see http://littlebigdog.net/minutemen.htm
On April 26, 2005, the Supervisors
adopted a rule
that lets two supervisors prevent the third from discussing any issue
they don't want him to. That meeting violated the OML in
ways: the agenda didn't comply with the OML; after an
session, supervisor Searle quoted advice that a county
gave in the executive session; and Searle's leak revealed that
rule was discussed in executive session even though it wasn't on
the agenda. For a letter the Board about
this, see http://littlebigdog.net/gagruleemail.htm
At the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting in
January 2006, after a tie vote about imposing county building
in rural areas, the chair told the public that "a tie is being
forwarded to the Board of Supervisors
...." Actually, under the bylaws, a tie vote meant
item "dies at this level and is not
[to] be forwarded to the Board." The chair soon called a
and all the public left. When the meeting resumed, the
chair picked the dead item off the floor and put it back on the agenda
without any notice to the public. Planning &
Zoning Department head Judy Anderson noted the situation in a letter on
January 25, 2006, but did nothing to get into
compliance with the OML. For more, see
At its October 2006
meeting, the P&Z
Commission defeated the proposed Sierra Vista
Subwatershed Overlay District. Department head Judy
made a new application, and put it on the Commission's November agenda
with the same docket number. However, in November, the
did not consider Anderson's new application; the
Commission reconsidered the item that had been defeated in October --
which was not on the agenda. Discussing an item not on the
violated the OML, so the vote passing the Sierra Vista Subwatershed
Overlay District is null and void. For more, see http://littlebigdog.net/PNZNovember2006.htm
On October 9, 2007, the Board Of
Adjustment for District 3 held a meeting
without proper notice. That violated the Open
On October 30, the BOA held a meeting to ratify the results
the October 9 meeting. However, the notice for October 30
itself violated the OML by leaving
out a detailed description of the prior meeting, as required by Arizona Revised Statute
the long original post on this subject, with the correspondence on both
sides, go to http://littlebigdog.net/BoardOfAdjustment3.htm .
On June 23, 2008, all
three county supervisors met with a few insiders to yak about local
business. The county government website posted notice of a
meeting, but no agenda. That violated Arizona's Open Meeting Law.
Then the supervisors further broke the law by discussing public
business with a few specially invited friends -- including Judy Gignac,
who's a contributor to supervisor Call, and is also his campaign
manager. How nice that the supervisors could talk to these people
without the public knowing about it beforehand.
Notice of a Work Session on 10 a.m. Monday, August 25, 2008, wasn't posted on
the county website until midafternoon Saturday, August 23. The notice
wasn't posted by noon, but appeared about 4 p.m. on Saturday.
That was about 6 hours too late, according to Arizona law.
A particular statute in the OML, ARS 38-431.02, controls the notices of public
meetings. Subsection C of the statute says "meetings shall not be held
without at least twenty-four hours' notice to the members of the public
body and to the general public."
Exceptions are allowed in actual emergencies, or if a meeting is
recessed and resumed, or if a "technological problem or failure" either
"prevents the posting of public notices on a city or town web site" or
"prevents the usage of all or part of the web site." But none of them
Under the law, when you must act within a certain time, "the time [is]
computed by excluding the first day and including the last day, unless
the last day is a holiday, and then it is also excluded" -- and every
Sunday is a holiday (ARS 1-243.A & 1-301.A.1).
So to give 24 hours' notice of a meeting at 10 a.m. Monday, you could
give notice by 10 a.m. the Sunday before -- except that because Sunday
is a holiday, you must act by 10 a.m. Saturday.
At least that's what the statute appears to say. If the county
disagrees, explaining shouldn't take long, because CCIPA's campaign to
get the county to follow the law has been going on for years.
The county did disagree. An email from the BOS clerk to me said
some county attorney opined that posting notice on Saturday, for a
Sunday meeting, was okay, because Sunday isn't a holiday
The anonymous staff attorney's posture is ridiculous,
because it gives ridiculous results. Yes, 4 p.m. Saturday is over 24
hours before 10 a.m. Monday, IF you count the holiday between Saturday
and Monday -- every Sunday being a legal holiday in Arizona. But if you
count Sunday hours toward the 24-hour requirement, then the county can meet the 24 hour requirement
even if it posts notices on Sunday itself. The county could set a
meeting for 4 p.m. Monday, and post notice as late as 3:59 p.m. Sunday,
and that would be fine -- under our county's ridiculous interpretation.
has already been posting notices of meetings as late as possible.
Typically, the agendas for BOS and P&Z meetings are finalized weeks
in advance, but only posted on a Friday (for BOS Tuesday meetings) or a
Monday (for P&Z Wednesday meetings). The incumbent
supervisors clearly want to keep citizens ignorant as long as possible.
people can't even trust what's posted on the county website, even
after county offices shut down on Friday. To discover
meetings set for Monday, people must check the county website all day
The fact that our county supervisors want to play this ridiculous game
is proof that we can't trust them. Trustworthy supervisors wouldn't
work hard to keep us ignorant of what they're up t
notice of the meeting was posted by noon -- not necessarily by 10 a.m.
-- on Saturday morning on the county BOS webpage by a link called
"Public Notice and Current Agenda." However, the link called
"Calendar/Agendas/Minutes," in larger type, did NOT have notice of the
meeting. This kind of problem with the county website has been
brought to the Supervisors' attention before. After this latest
mess, Supervisor Searle says "It makes perfect sense that the two should be linked. I will ask staff to
follow up on this change to the web page." We'll see if the
non-informative links are fixed, or if the county website continues to
Planning Department plagiarism and censorship
Department Goes Totally Wacko Near McNeal
posted June 7, 2008, after this article.]
Once a Cochise County couple kept a few animals on 40 acres on Waya
Road. Our couple stored water for the animals in a large
stored animal feed in an old trailer, and an assortment of items --
call it junk -- in a couple more old trailers. A lot of stuff
scattered around on the ground too, the way things tend to be on even a
tiny spread. On hot days, when tending the animals got pretty
the couple took shelter from the sun in one of the trailers.
couple didn't use any of the trailers as a residence, though.
Most people don't know where Waya Road is. Here's how you get
Go to McNeal, an unincorporated burg on US 191 a little over 20 miles
north of Mexico. Davis Road, which crosses 191, defines the
of McNeal. Go east on Davis Road until the pavement runs out,
another mile or so. You'll come to EE Ranch Road.
From Davis, you can
turn south onto EE Ranch in two ways. The "official" EE Ranch
a cattle guard in it, with bars so far apart that small car tires might
fall between them, so unless you're driving a pickup with big tires,
take the "unofficial" turnoff a few feet west of the cattle
Take the home-made road to the right of the official road, too; it's a
lot smoother. About a mile and a half south, turn east onto
which is more a trail than a road. After almost a mile, turn
onto the path to the 40 acres we're talking about.
All the lots in the area are 40 acres or more, and only a few lots have
ever sold. If you don't have a friend there, you probably
the area exists. The people who settle here want very much to
they please. They are 21st century pioneers of the
desert. They have
electricity -- but from their own generators, windmills, or solar
cells. They have phones -- cell phones. They have
water -- but from
their own wells, or hauled in. Everybody works hard and lives
much the same way, and homes tend to be thousands of feet apart, so
almost nobody complains about a neighbor's mess.
But one person had a problem with the couple's use of the
Conrad Green, who sometimes uses the name of "Jose Verde." He
EE Ranch Road, a mile or so away from our couple as the crow
clear days, he can see the couple's trailers off in the distance.
On January 2, Green went to the county Planning Department and filed a
complaint about our couple. He listed "No permit to use R.V.
for dwelling," "No permitted septic system," "No primary residence,"
and "Being used for storage No primary residence."
The Planning Department is run by Judy Anderson, who every now and then
reminds the public that the Department has a big backlog of
However, Green's complaint was handled without much delay, by the
On February 2, a Department employee inspected the property, and on
February 11, a letter signed by Pat Hoefer, Planning Technician, listed
two violations: "Outdoor storage without principal permitted
"No permit for occupancy of RV'S." The alleged septic system
A second inspection took place on March 3, and a third on April
April 24, a letter signed by Chris Saylor, Zoning Inspector II, said
that "a COMPLAINT has been filed with the Hearing Officer for a hearing
on July 17, 2008." However, Saylor didn't send our couple a
the complaint itself, nor say where or at what time the hearing would
be held, nor say what the couple's rights would be at the hearing, nor
if they would have to pay merely for having a hearing (the cost can be
$150 or $300, depending on the kind of hearing).
Saylor ordered our couple to "Remove all outdoor storage in a legal
manner or Apply for a permit to establish a principle [so spelled in
the original] residence," and said that if they didn't obey his order,
they would be liable for fines up to $750 a day (though he didn't say
when the fines would start), and that if they DID do as he said it was
their responsibility "to notify us immediately AND to request a
The Department's letters of February 2 and April 24 do not entirely
reflect what the couple says happened when inspectors came
what the couple wrote:
"1st visit. County vehicle
pulled up to our 5th wheel. He said
that someone had complained that someone was living on the property. We
stated that we are not living on the property and pointed out where we
do live and we told him that ther RV was a self contained unit and the
others were for storage. He said that we couldn't stay there
than 7 days at a hit. We stated that we can stay
here for 14 days
consecutive. He said that he is not up on all the laws.... We
RV's. One bumper pull is storage only. No bathroom,
and no kitchen.
1 small 5th wheel is stored in property. 1 large 5th wheel is for our
"Visit #2. County vehicle
pulled up. He said that he was there
regarding the last visit. He said he was there about clean up
area. I asked him about that particular item 'clean
up'. What clean
up? He asked me if I received the letter. I said
yes, I received a
letter but there was nothing about clean up on it. And the
inspector had not said anything about clean up. Then Jack
came out. I
told him about what the inspector had said. Jack said same
'what clean up?'. [Reminder: the first letter from
listed "Outdoor storage without principal permitted use" and "No permit
for occupancy of RV'S." Nothing there says that the outdoor
messy or must be cleaned up, only that permits must be
Continuing with visit #2:]
"The inspector said 'let's look around
to see what we can
find'.... [Comment: isn't that a fine example of
tyranny?--snooping around to see what an inspector can find.
Continuing with visit #2:]
"He found the trash in the back of a the
pick up truck. Jack
showedg him that the bags were taped and sealed and that the bags are
not going anywhere. I said that is where it is kept until
of. He said that the wind could blow it away. Jack
said 'show me
where it has'. He couldn't. The he stated that he
was going to keep
coming back every month until we take care of the problem. At
time Jack asked him. What Problem? Then he took
pictures of our dog
kennels, (3 pens) horses in corrals, water trailer and left."
It was hard for the couple to know what to do. Eventually,
decided not to risk the $750 a day fine, and they moved all outdoor
storage off the lot beginning on Friday, May 23. Only the
left on the property in their pens; the Department didn't complain
The Department spent a lot of money and time on this. If
employees drove Department trucks from Bisbee to Waya Road, that's
three 70-mile round trips on some pretty rough terrain. Add
the time that Department employees spent looking around to see what
they could find, and all the papers to be filled out back in the
air-conditioned county offices -- all told, this may have taken 12
hours of time plus 12 to 20 gallons of gas. All this, while
is having a budget crisis and the Planning Department keeps saying it
has a backlog of work.
What did the Department accomplish?
The harm done by the Department is easy to see. Our couple
haul in feed and water to the animals every day. The couple's
will increase, and their life will be a little more difficult, and
there'll be a little more air pollution and dust in this remote part of
the Sulphur Springs Valley.
No benefit is apparent. There's no reduction in net land use
use. Joseph Conrad Green doesn't get any measurable benefit;
trailers are still visible to him, only a few hundred feet further
away, which isn't much since they were a about a mile away to begin
Maybe there are intangible benefits. Maybe Joseph Conrad
more confidence in County government. Maybe Department
good because even an employee who "is not up on all the laws" can issue
orders that people eventually obey. Maybe some people have
putting rural people in their place.
Well, Joseph Conrad Green is a private citizen, and he's not
responsible for how the county acted with his complaint.
Green is running for county supervisor, and it may not help his
campaign when his neighbors, the people who know him best, speak up.
The individual Department inspectors merely do as they told.
better bosses, the inspectors will either do better work, or find a new
As to the bosses, Judy Anderson is retiring in June. James
who preceded Anderson as Planning Department head, is now Deputy County
Administrator, and turns up at a lot of policy meetings.
Richard Searle, Patrick Call, and Paul Newman are the three county
supervisors. They've seen the Department act improperly time
time, and they've let the Department get away with it. Newman
running for re-election, but Searle and Call are.
So Vlahovich, Searle, and Call are the problems that the voters must
fix. To them, a paraphrase of words once spoken to a British
Parliament that, like our County government, diddled as good government
collapsed: You have sat in office far too long for any good
Update, June 7: Kelly Savage of CCIPRA sent her own email to
the county supervisors. Here it is, slightly edited:
"... a recent escapade by the county's
Zoning Department has many county taxpayers furious.... I am referring
to the ... 'Double E Fiasco' ... about two people living in a RV way
out on 40 acres of dirt on the sparsely settled EE Ranch estates, the
P&Z Dept. sent an inspector 70 miles round-trip to
"Then the inspector made another 70-mile
[and] spent a good amount of time searching for violations –
direct contradiction of the Dept's public claim it doesn't have the
staff to do more than check out actual complaints - and told them they
had to get rid of the bagged trash in their pickup truck bed....
"The Dept. then ... sent out two
... telling them if they didn't move the RV and travel trailers, they
would be fined $750/day....
"Then the inspector made a third
round-trip visit ....
"A few years back the salaries for
... approximately $75,000/yr. The annual salary of the Dept.'s director
is also high so ... this little fiasco cost the taxpayers approximately
$696 in salaries .... The .... gasoline cost was
$50 .... The dirt road is rough so there was plenty of wear-and-tear on
'our' vehicle, too. The certified letters cost about $5.00. The
taxpayers estimate the cost of this one adventure at approximately
"This episode is typical of how this
consistently wastes our tax money ... when ... they go off half-cocked
to track down someone who owes a $15 or $50 fee for something minor.
After spending too much time and ... tax money, they get their violator
and he or she pays the small fee – and maybe a small
too. Or maybe they have to take it to a hearing (paid for by the
alleged violator) and it might go on to court so we have extra legal
fees for our county attornies and, of course, more P&Z staff
hours added in.
"The taxpayers in this county are not
going to stand
for this wastefulness much longer. We would like to see you, as the
departmental Supervisors, intervene and place an item on your agenda to
make the following changes to this broken system:
"1.) Eliminate the recent practice of
taking ... 'grudge' complaints and
"2.) Restrict complaint violation
abutters unless there is an urgent, serious public health/safety issue
at stake.... And ... unless a serious health and safety issue
found, any costs over the actual fees collected by the Department will
be paid by them, not the taxpayers. This should eliminate people
[using] the long arm of the county to harass other residents.
"3.) Unless the issue is urgent, when a
received, the Dept. should use common, fiscal sense and send out an
initial non-certified letter stating they received a complaint of
such-and-such and a reply is needed within 14 days. They could include
a blank permit, if ... needed. Cost of typing, salaries and stamp:
under $5.00. If the letter is not responded to within 14 days, a
certified letter with new dates should be sent giving 7 days to reply.
Cost of re-printing the letter with a change of dates and postage:
about $5.00. Only after the Department has tried politely to elicit the
cooperation of the alleged violator, should they resort to the
heavy-handed, EXPENSIVE tactic of sending an inspector out....
"... By instituting the above changes,
you would be
saving us a HUGE amount of ... tax money that could perhaps go towards
fixing some of our roads and infrastructure or to sponsor events that
might attract clean energy employers to the county."
Cochise County Planning Department has a pattern of abusing and
betraying the public. The most recent example involves
plagiarism, and an attempted coverup.
here's a May
16 article about plagiarism by the sheriff of Pinal County.
plagiarism is admitted; as noted in the article, "experts say plagiarism ... raises
questions of integrity and credibility
especially for an elected law enforcement officer" -- but the sheriff's
buddies in the good ol' boy network don't care, any more than the
Cochise County supervisors seem to care:
month, Department head Anderson disseminates a column
named "The Planning Zone." For October 2007, it supposedly
was written by Don Spiva, a new employee. The column was almost 100%
plagiarism, with no credit given to any source.
The plagiarism is often word-for-word. Here's a site which,
for every passage in the column, provides an original source:
Plagiarism is theft and fraud.
Plagiarism is theft from the original author, and fraud on
readers. It's a crime, too, if a copyright is
violated. Here's a link to Wikipedia's discussion:
A plagiarist, by committing
theft, fraud, and perhaps crime, has no claim to readers'
trust. So does a person who commits censorship to try to
cover up plagiarism.
in order to email county Planning & Zoning Commissioners,
citizens had to route emails through Judy Anderson. (After this coverup scandal,
that was finally changed so that each Commissioner
now has a private email address.) On November
14, a Commission meeting was set for 4 p.m. At 8:46 a.m., I
sent the Commissioners an email via Anderson. It included the
p.m., Anderson answered that she had not forwarded my email,
but instead had emailed the Commissioners a description of my
email, and asked them if they wanted my email as she described
it. So I printed out the material and
gave a copy to each Commissioner at the 4 p.m. meeting.
day, Anderson's censorship had ended (probably thanks
supervisor or two), and I obtained a copy of her coverup
email: "Mr. Jackson has sent me a request to forward an email
alleging plagiarism in the most recent Planning Zone Column that I have
been writing since about 1996. The column was related to the Building
Code and used information provided by Don Spiva our Building Official
and not related to the type of actions that are reviewed by the
Commission. We have consulted with the County Attorney and while they
agreed that we could have done a better job of attribution the
information was extracted from the Insurance Service Organization site
and the International Building Code site and thus most likely not a
legal issue. Please let me know if you are interested in having Mr.
Jackson's email forwarded to you. Thanks".
email makes it clear that she censored email and tried a coverup.
admits "extracting" material ("from the Insurance
Service Organization site and the International Building Code site"),
but slides over the fact that the material was almost 100% plagiarized,
with no credit given to any of the sources.
says "the County Attorney ... agreed that we could have done a better
job of attribution" -- which covers up the fact that there was no
attribution at all.
says the column "used information provided by Don Spiva."
That muddies the authorship of the column, whose credit line says
"Guest Columnist Don Spiva, Building Official," and whose first
paragraph states "Meet Don Spiva ... this column provides his
perspective ...." Coverup.
says "the information was extracted from [trade organizations] and thus
most likely not a legal issue." But "information" wasn't
just "extracted," text was 100% plagiarized -- and
that's morally, ethically and legally wrong. And
the trade organization websites include copyright
notices, at least one of them specifically prohibiting
use. No attorney could conclude that
websites would likely not create a legal issue. Coverup.
says the column "was related to the Building Code and used information
... not related to the type of actions that are reviewed by the
Commission." However, anything related to the Building Code
is subject to review by the Commission, and the column was about
extending building codes -- an issue which is always before the
Commission. It's not Anderson's job to pass on only what she
November 22, I emailed Anderson the following:
"The plagiarism recently published in your column was reprinted on at
least the following websites: Beickerinsulation.com [and]
Inform.com and it appears as by Don Spiva only at http://www.willcoxrangenews.com/articles/2007/11/20/news/news12.txt#blogcomments
[.] Will you be informing those sites that the article was
plagiarized, and that the official Cochise County website published it
without knowing that it was plagiarized -- or will the county give the
appearance that it endorses the publication of plagiarized material?"
November 26, Anderson answered "I did talk to Keith Allen at the Sierra
Vista Herald/ Bisbee Review about this." I replied
that her answer "does not address the spreading of the plagiarism by
websites which Mr. Allen does not control, such as the
Beickerinsulation.com and Inform.com sites.... In my personal
opinion, and I acknowledge your right to have a different opinion, it
is unwise for Cochise County government to be seen as a source of
information which cannot be trusted, while on the other hand, public
trust in local government would increase a great deal if the government
were to be seen as following high standards in communicating with the
has not responded.
the Department soon set up individual email
addresses for each P&Z Commissioner. For a complete
list, see Make
the Planning Department failed to post a Planning & Zoning
Commission meeting's agenda, so the Commission had to
the meeting. The Department's official excuse was that an
employee forgot -- but several citizens
reminded the county to post the agenda well ahead
of the deadline, so forgetting was impossible.
One person phoned the county on Thursday, October 4, and followed up
at 1:43 p.m. next Monday with an email. At 7:46 a.m. on
Tuesday, October 9, in plenty of time for the agenda to be
posted, another person emailed Judy
Anderson and others. But Tuesday
passed with no agenda posted. On Wednesday
morning, a citizen email to the county attorney was
not answered, but an agenda was
posted on the county website.
At 9:12 a.m., a citizen emailed
attorney that "the Open Meeting Law requires posting an agenda 24
hours before the meeting -- not earlier the same day. Therefore ... any
action taken by the P&Z Commission tonight will be null and
Again no answer, but at 1:28 p.m. another email went to Anderson and
Again no answer, but about
an hour later, P&Z cancelled the meeting.
Yet the newspaper merely quoted Department head Anderson as saying "an
employee forgot to post the meeting notice." Anderson's Department was
incompetent at its job, but great at ducking facts, law,
And the newspaper let it pass.
The whole mess recalls a November 23, 2006, New
York Times article on "Blunders," by
Stephanie Rosenbloom. The article says that after you make a
blunder, "The worst thing that can happen 'is when people
feel you're not learning, you're not open, you're not admitting
mistakes and you're blaming other people' . . ."
-- that's the Cochise County Planning Department!
It avoids answering emails or explaining its actions
to the public, it blocks and evades discussion of issues at meetings,
it communicates privately with P&Z Commissioners before
to set up "dirty tricks" (whose cleverness is often illegal), and so
on. The Department acts like a private club.
The Department doesn't admit
The Department hounds citizens in private vendettas,
and when caught, gives obviously phony
answers. The Department violates the law in obvious ways, yet
when a citizen points this out, the Department abandons its illegal
comment, rather than defend them. The Department never admits
so the Department never learns. (Update,
1/11/08: a new Department employee, Susanna Montana,
forthright, and has actually admitted making some mistakes in her
presentations to the Board. What a breath of fresh air!)
The Department blames other
people for its own failures.
For instance, consider the
proposed Sierra Vista Subwatershed Overlay District. Some
citizens studied the proposal hard and long, and weren't convinced
that it should be adopted. The Department's main response
was that anyone who didn't like it was ignorant.
officials treat government like their private property?
petty power so important to them that they will invite the
public to sue in order to
challenge their decision. Don't
they understand that if there are good grounds for a suit, the county
will end up paying both sets of
Planning Department made fools of the county supervisors
Perhaps the Board can make a regime change at the Department. If the
Board doesn't like being fooled by the Department, now's a good time to make some changes, or
impose direct, daily, hands-on supervision of some Department employees.
Department head Judy Anderson didn't answer an email about this
On an item which the county Supervisors expected the Planning Department to
take to the Planning & Zoning Commission, for normal processing including a public
hearing, but the Department tricked the Supervisors.
In May 2007, the Board considered an application to transfer a liquor
license for a bar that shut down years ago in Pirtleville. About
40 neighbors protested, because of street races, fights, public
urination, trash, noise, and so on. The Department told the
Board the protests weren't allowable because they were against
the bar, not the owner. It's unusual that the Department would ignore
people in such a public way.
The bar violates local zoning, but it opened before the zoning was
passed, so it was "grandfathered."
During the Board meeting, the applicant told the Board that the
bar had shut down two years before -- i.e., May 2005. Usually grandfathering is lost when a business closes for so
long. But the Department didn't bring this up to the Board.
Later, a Department employee told a reporter that the Department
"assumed" the tavern was still in operation. No one who actually
looked at the building could have thought so. Why didn't the Department do its job?
Deputy County Administrator Vlahovich, after a
break in the meeting, told the Board that
the property "probably lost grandfather status ... the department would
need to do research as to the grandfather status ... the applicant
could petition the Planning & Zoning Commission ... to reestablish
the restaurant." A dead-tree reporter wrote that "Community
members still will have the
opportunity to voice their concerns at a more appropriate time."
The Board did transfer the liquor license, on the understanding
that the business was not grandfathered, that the Commission would
have a public hearing, and that the Board
would review the result. None of that
Instead, the Department internally grandfathered the bar on
the basis that it had been actively marketed. The Department used
documents provided by someone other than the applicant, and composed
after the Board hearing, stating that the bar both closed, and was
listed with a realtor, on the same day in 2005 -- which, oddly, was about four months after the closing date that the
applicant told the Board in person. None of the documents
provided by the Department shows any investigation of this discrepancy.
The Department didn't tell the
Board that the Commission had been bypassed, and the public didn't find
out until the time to appeal had run out. The question is,
how to work with a Department that can't be trusted?
Perhaps the Board can inform the state liquor department of the unusual
situation in transferring the liquor license.
Perhaps the Board can undo the Department's internal decision
to grandfather. Do the 30 days allowed for appeal start before the Department gives proper notice of
its action?--because several citizens from Pirtleville have said they did
get official notice of the Department's action.
Even if the Board can't undo the Department's oversly stealth, the
Board can make sure the Department isn't so sneaky again. If
the Board finds that Department employees did not act in good faith,
the employees might lose their governmental immunity from personal
consequences. For a list of possible legal sanctions, see
The Mahan Story
Kay and L.S. Mahan, who
live up around San Simon, have been struggling for almost a year to put
up a sign on their property. The property is alongside I-10, and
the Mahans want to put up a sign, at their own expense (approaching
$1000 just for permits), promoting tourism in Cochise County.
Putting up the sign required
first rezoning the property, then getting a permit for a sign.
This sounds easy, but so far the Mahans have had to deal extensively
with county Planning & Zoning -- "P&Z" -- Department head Judy
Anderson, plus employees Mark Apel, Rick Corley, Britt Dveris, Darlyne
Hathaway, and several others.
The Mahans say that when they
first asked the P&Z Department, the answer amounted to "We don't
want billboards and won't approve any!" The Mahans spoke at
length with Department employee Mark Apel. They noted that "Clear
Channel Outdoor," a large company, appears to have placed billboards
all around the county in violation of ordinances that Apel said the
Mahans must follow. There was some discussion of the county's
letting big companies violate county ordinances, but strictly applying
the ordinances to ordinary citizens.
After that, the P&Z
Department stonewalled, diddled, and nitpicked. For instance, a
county employee refused to provide reports filed by Clear Channel
Outdoor, citing "Arizona Statute #42-15053" -- though Arizona has no
statute "42-15053." The Mahans had to submit some information
over and over. And, say the Mahans, P&Z employees Britt
Dveris and Rick Corley, and another employee whose name the Mahans
forget, toured the property, making notes and taking pictures, for 3 to
Finally, in October 2006, the
Mahans' request got to the P&Z Commission. The Commission
approved the rezoning, but not the sign. However, the county
Board Of Supervisors had the last word. On November 7, the Board
approved the rezoning. On November 21, over P&Z Department
opposition, the Board approved the sign.
After losing the Board vote,
the P&Z Department still diddled and picked its nits.
Finally, on March 26, 2007, the Mahans emailed a Department employee
that "I just wonder if there are many more stumbling blocks that you
people can throw in our path. It does seem that planning and zoning
would have better things to devote so much time to. . . . It is
really too bad that you can't devote more time to people that are
really trying to circumvent the system than to people that are trying
very diligently to conform to the regulations." The employee's
answer included "I am a 'Buy the Book' kinda of person," and about a
month later, she emailed the Mahans that "This is the deminsion that
our accessor's office has come up with for parcel 005A." Let's
see: a "Buy the Book" P&Z employee writes "deminsion" for
"dimension," and "accessor" for "assessor." Obviously, the
Department's job training missed some basic knowledge.
The P&Z Department's recent
diddling and nitpicking includes stringing out new requirements, and
claiming not to know the boundaries of the Mahan's property. But
on November 21, when Department employee Britt Dveris argued against
the permit, the minutes say he "showed photos of views in all
directions from the property. . . . He also displayed a location
map of the parcels and a drawing showing the proposed location of the
billboard." Clearly, the Department knew in November what it
claims not to know the following April.
Is Judy Anderson's P&Z
Department ruled by malice? Ignorance? Apathy? A fair
answer is "I don't know and I don't care." Americans have a right
to honest and responsive government. The Mahans' horror story is
just one of many about the P&Z Department. When will the
Board Of Supervisors hose out this public trough?
* * * * *
The Bill Jakobek Story
Chapter 1: The Shining On