By Linda Kor —
As the Navajo County Fair Board convened Feb. 2 for its second meeting since the election of new board members and the appointment of President Mike Sample, there appeared to be some uncertainty as to what matters should be discussed in a public meeting and what matters were of a private nature.
Navajo County Fair, Inc. is a private, non-profit organization, but it operates primarily on public funding. In 2011, this public funding came through an allotment from the Governor’s Fund in the amount of approximately $60,000, $80,000 from Navajo County and $40,000 provided from the City of Holbrook’s lodger’s tax.
The fair board operates its meetings under the state’s open meeting law, which allows members of the board to meet and discuss matters listed on an agenda, and to approve or disapprove motions presented for action. It also allows members of the public to attend meetings, but they do not have the right to speak, make motions or vote.
Under the open meeting law, the board is also allowed to go into executive session, or a closed meeting, meaning that everything said or done in executive session is secret or confidential, and not for public information. This usually is reserved for matters such as the discipline of employees, discussing employment contracts or consulting with an attorney.
With that knowledge, board members still appeared uncertain as to how much information they wished to present to the public. This was made clear during the Feb. 2 meeting when the 2011 financials were dispersed to members of the board for approval during regular session. Sample informed the board that he had consulted with the Navajo County Attorney’s Office and a private attorney, and was informed that the financials presented were only for those individuals who were on the board when those actions were decided upon. No items were to be viewed or commented upon by any other member of the board or the public. He added that to do so could place the board in a position for a lawsuit, and could result in the removal of that member from the board.
Further along on the agenda an item labeled as contracts was to be addressed by Sample, and he once again reiterated that he had consulted with the county attorney’s office and a private attorney, and that no monetary amounts associated with contracts were to be discussed in the public aspect of the meeting. He further informed the media present that no information regarding the contracts discussed in this aspect of the public meeting would be allowed for release to the public.
When a Tribune-News reporter informed Sample that any information divulged in a public meeting could be reported to the public, board member Melissa Buckley moved for the board to convene into executive session to discuss the contracts further.
Board member Rusty DeSpain immediately voiced his opposition to the motion, stating that while discussing the use of public funds, the board should remain in regular session. With the motion on the floor and a second presented, a hand count was taken. Of the board members present, those in opposition to convening into executive session included Rusty DeSpain, Wes DeSpain, Redgie Justman and Dale Rogers. Those in favor included Kelly Favro, Valerie Slade, Melissa Buckley, Sarah Hansen, Leah Thompson, Jake Hatch, Jimmy Crosby and Terry Nelson. Board members Trent Larson and Susan Henning-Shaw were absent from the proceedings. The board then convened into executive session, then returned to regular session.
A phone call to Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon to confirm the statement made by Sample was not returned by press time.
In business discussed in executive session, then presented in regular session, the board:
* Approved a contract with Reita Vision in the amount of $10,000 to provide a rodeo scoreboard and video to be used during the Navajo County Fair.
* Approved a contract with DeVries CPAs of Arizona, P.C. in the amount of $1,000 for one year.
* Approved a contract with barrel man Brian Potter in the amount of $2,700 for three performances during the fair.
* Approved a contract with Generation West Drill Team in the amount of $750 for performances during the fair.
* Approved a motion not to renew a contract with the Bread of Life Mission for concessions during the fair due to the anticipated removal of the building used by the mission.
In other business discussed and approved in regular session, the board:
* Approved a budget in the amount of $30,000 for entertainment contracts for the upcoming fair.
* Approved the purchase of 8,000 feet of pipe for corrals and gates, with the county to pay for at least half of the cost. No dollar amount was presented.
* Approved a contract in an amount not to exceed $600 for Show Works.
* Approved membership dues in the amount of $75 with the International Association of Fairs and Expositions.
* Approved the 2011 Expense Report.
* Approved postage reimbursement in the amount of $46.64 to Jme Baloo.
* Approved participation in the Pinetop/Lakeside Perk Up event scheduled March 2-4 at a cost of $350, with sponsorship to be sought to pay the cost.
* Approved facilities use requests made by Michael Sandoval for June 30, Beta Sigma Phi for May 12 and Albert Park’s Family Fun Circus for Feb. 18.