CAREFREE – A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled last week that the Town of Carefree violated the state constitution by imposing term limits through a voter passed initiative in 2011.
The lawsuit was brought to a judge in April by Carefree’s Vice Mayor John Crane after town officials informed him they would reject his nominating petitions that would qualify him to run in the upcoming primary election in August. Carefree cited the town’s term limit ordinance as the reason for rejecting his bid for re-election, according to a town press release.
“In April 2018, I was collecting signatures and the Town intended to enforce the ordinance,” Vice Mayor Crane stated in a letter to The Foothills Focus. “I was confident that I had standing to challenge the ordinance.”
According to Crane, informal discussions with an attorney at the League of Cities and Towns reinforced his opinion that the term limits imposed by the Carefree were unenforceable under state law.
“Those who signed my petitions were made aware of my intention and their support gave me additional confidence,” Crane stated in the letter.
Crane, who has served three terms on the town council, twice elected and once appointed, hired a lawyer at his expense and filed a suit against the town, ultimately winning his right to seek a fourth term in office.
“The Judge ordered that the Town must process John Crane’s petitions and that the County is required to print his name on the ballot,” stated a press release from Carefree spokeswoman Gina Kaegi. “His nomination petitions were submitted on time and processed.”
Carefree did defend its right to impose term limits in court, but ultimately the judge ruled that no town or municipal government under the state law has the power to impose term limits, whether by an executive act of the local municipality, or by a voter approved initiative.
Carefree voters will be able to vote for Councilman Crane in the town’s primary election on August 28, and the town can not prohibit him from continuing to run for office in future elections, according to the court ruling.
“This is why no other Town form of government within the State has a limitation on terms served by Mayor or Town Council Members and why term limits were never included in the original Town Code,” stated the town’s press release.
The town will have to remove the term limit ordinance from its town code in order to comply with state law.
“My belief in the Rule of Law and the meaning of my oath of office prompted me to engage an attorney at my expense,” Crane stated. “As the prevailing party, the judge may order the Town to pay my attorney costs. Should that occur, I will use my political contributions to pay that cost to zero.”
The Carefree primary elections are on August 28, 2018 for more information about town elections visit http://www.carefree.org/167/Elections. The deadline to register to vote in the town primary is July 30, 2018, to register to vote visit recorder.maricopa.gov.