When the Board of Supervisors voted last May to move the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from the Assessor’s office to the Management Information Systems (MIS), a battle between various elected officials was enjoined.
Pearsall’s position was that the functions of a mapping department are required for her to complete her job duties. However, it was her plan to consolidate duties, which would mean that at least one job position was eliminated, saving taxpayers $70,000. That job position to be eliminated was currently being filled by the County Administrator’s wife, Tina Bourdon, who had worked for the county for 20 years. Pearsall maintained that a position was available for Tina Bourdon in another department.
The Board of Supervisor’s position was that GIS had been part of the MIS up until 2001, when Cartography was moved to the Assessor’s office. However, only 38% of the work done by the Cartography department was for the Assessor’s office. Law enforcement, emergency management and other first responder agencies also use the services of the Cartography department, so, in theory, the department personnel could be used more efficiently if they were part of the MIS department.
Further complicating the issue was a charge that Pearsall had hired her daughter on more than one occasion, which was against County policy. Pearsall was ultimately charged with two misdemeanors, after the case was referred to the Coconino County Attorney.
You can read a document provided by then-Chairman Supervisor Craig Brown detailing the Board’s concerns about Pearsall’s management of the Assessor’s office here.
Various legal actions were put in place as a result of the decision to move the GIS department to MIS, including:
1. Bill Williams, a citizen at large, who also claims to be a paralegal and a journalist, filed a motion to stay the Board of Supervisor’s decision, based on an alleged Open Meeting Law violation. Later on, Assessor Pearsall asked to join the Williams complaint. That complaint was ultimately dismissed by Judge Michael R. Bluff, based on Williams lack of legal standing. Pearsall was unable to join the complaint, since it was was dismissed. Judge Bluff’s decision is here.
2. Pearsall asked for an investigation and legal opinion by Arizona State Attorney General Mark Brnovich as to the legality of the Board of Supervisor’s action. In a December 21, 2015 decision, Brnovich released an opinion that the Board of Supervisors exceeded its authority when it removed personnel from the County Assessor’s office. You can read the full decision here: The Authority of a County Board of Supervisors Regarding the County Assessor’s Office.
In order to determine the answer to that question, the Yavapai Board of Supervisors has called a special meeting for today at 4 PM at the County Building on Fair Street.
According to Supervisor Tom Thurman, Assessor Pam Pearsall has threatened litigation over this matter, which could cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars and take years to settle.
“Do we go through this and fight it for the next year or two or three, or do we just put the tail between the legs and go on? That’s the decision we have to come to,” Thurman said. He explained that the Board didn’t choose to vote on the issue today, because, “…The language [in the agenda] is a little strange, and Pam really needed to be notified directly. The other is this gives us all time to think about which way we want to lean.
Supervisor Jack Smith, who took over the Chairmanship at the first of the year, agrees. “The Board is still discussing the issue, and we’re making sure everything is properly noticed, and then we’re going to discuss it within the Board.” Smith said that Pearsall will not be invited to speak or make a presentation.
When asked if he still believes the Board of Supervisors was correct to move the cartography department, Smith was definite in his answer, “This is a very sensitive subject. The Board of Supervisors, speaking specifically for myself, we act on behalf of the people and make sure things are done properly. Productivity is up, morale is part of what we do, making sure we take care of our people, making sure their needs are met. We meet their needs, as well as the public needs are going to be met… I still believe it was the best thing to do. Look at the productivity rates… Look at what they’re doing over there. They’ve made some good strides."
The agenda item reads as follows: Board of Supervisors - Consider action and direction to staff regarding the Assessors claim against the Board of Supervisors.
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