State finds repeated violations of government transparency laws
The Goldwater Institute Watchdog Report is a periodic publication intended to identify government corruption and waste and to hold politicians and public agencies accountable to taxpayers.
A handful of taxpayers in a small community north of Wickenburg, Arizona are being targeted by the local school district in a lawsuit that asks a judge to declare they have no right to request public records, sue the district, or complain to outside agencies.
The Congress Elementary School District claims that past efforts by these residents to obtain documents such as minutes of board meetings and spending reports amount to harassment that should not have to be tolerated.
But Jean Warren, one of the four defendants named in the lawsuit filed January 28, 2010, said the complaint is an illegal attempt to silence citizens who have questioned the district’s policies and spending practices.
“The whole thing is based on trying to shut us down so that nobody has any rights,” Warren said. “Just because you live in a small area does not mean you don’t have rights. Everything I believe about the Constitution and what it means to be a citizen of the USA is being shot down.”
The school district has a history of violating state laws mandating government transparency, according to investigations dating to 2002 done by the Arizona attorney general and state ombudsman. In 2002 and again in 2007, the district was found to be in violation of the state’s open meeting law by the Attorney General’s Office. In June 2009, the state ombudsman’s office admonished the district for its slow response to public records requests.