The town council in Quartzsite, Ariz., has refused to let the mayor-elect and a council seat winner take office, the latest in a years-long power struggle that has included jailings, corruption charges and a request for an FBI investigation.
Travelers passing through the desert town of 3,500 along Interstate 10 about 20 miles east of the California state line might know the area more for its truck stops and gem shows than its political intrigue.
But the town's problems came to national attention in June 2011 when a video of the arrest of blogger Jennifer "Jade" Jones at a council meeting was posted on YouTube.
In the most recent turmoil, Mayor-elect Ed Foster, recalled last year, won his seat back in a May 15 election in which Mark Orgeron and Patricia Workman won council seats, according to La Paz County election records.
On June 4, the town council declared Foster and Orgeron were not eligible to hold office; Workman was seated.
Foster owes the town money for legal fees from a failed lawsuit against it, and Orgeron is not considered a town resident, a council member told NBC station KPNX of Phoenix.
Additionally, the town is investigating 168 of the 719 ballots cast. Town Manager Alex Taft was quoted by the Desert Messenger news blog as citing problems with out-of-state license plates, registrations and mailing addresses, people who have not had their voting rights restored and people claiming to be residents but living in outlying areas rather than in town.
Quartzsite, Ariz., is about 130 miles west of Phoenix.
On Monday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, Orgeron, a 50-year-old elementary school teacher and retired Navy veteran, filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop Mayor Jose Lizarraga and Vice Mayor Barbara Cowell from running the town.
Orgeron says in the suit that he moved to town from neighboring Yuma County in 2009 and bought a house in November 2010.
Referring to the town in “The Andy Griffith Show” from '60s TV, Orgereon told msnbc.com on Tuesday, “This is my Mayberry, the people, the character, the culture – it’s just hard to explain, it’s so personal, homey.”
KPNX reported that Foster said he filed papers asking La Paz County Attorney Sam Vederman to file a writ under an obscure state law that allows a court to remove usurpers from public office and seat a legitimate candidate.
Vederman told msnbc.com that he is reviewing legal issues and asking for calm in the town. Earlier, Vederman issued a statement saying his office is studying the town council declarations.
In January, Vederman wrote to the FBI, asking for an investigation into "politically motivated" arrests by Police Chief Jeff Gilbert of Foster and others who criticize town management.
The former town prosecutor, Matthew Newman, was replaced in 2011 after 12 years on the job after he refused to prosecute cases that he described as politically motivated, Vederman charged.
On Tuesday, the FBI told msnbc.com it could neither confirm nor deny it launched an investigation.
Six police officers and an evidence technician fired last year after criticizing Gilbert have sued the town, their supporters say.
The town earlier had been cited for violations of state open-meetings and public-records laws.
Cowell, who placed third in the election and would have been replaced by Orgeron, told KPNX she and other incumbents are fighting against disruptive newcomers.
"All we're trying to do is protect the people of Quartzsite," Cowell told KPNX.
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