….And You Thought Damascus and Oakridge Had Problems

Small-Town Politics, All-Out War

Infighting Among Town Officials Has Engulfed Quartzsite, Ariz.; ‘You Just Feel It’s a Powder Keg’

By TAMARA AUDI, Wall Street Journal

QUARTZSITE, Ariz.—This tiny desert outpost is known for 70-degree winters, an annual gem show that draws thousands of visitors, and a nudist bookstore owner who conducts business in little more than flip-flops and a straw hat.

But these days, the town’s most extraordinary feature is its politics.

For months, officials in Quartzsite—which lies about halfway between Phoenix and Palm Springs, Calif., on Interstate 10—have so far refused to allow the mayor-elect to take office because he owes the town $2,200 in attorney’s fees.

In late August, the town manager put the police chief on paid administrative leave pending an investigation over allegations involving a time sheet. A few days later, the town council suspended the town manager for undisclosed reasons—after the town’s attorney filed a restraining order against the town council to stop it meeting.

The town manager said she couldn’t comment on her suspension because “no one gave me a reason.”

In September, the assistant town manager fired the police chief without consulting the town council, according to other town officials. Days later, the interim town manager reversed the chief’s firing, and suspended the assistant town manager pending an investigation into an undisclosed matter. The assistant manager couldn’t be reached for comment. On Tuesday, the town council voted to put the police chief back on the job.

“We’re calling this the Twilight Zone in Quartzsite,” said Ed Foster, the elected, but so far unseated, mayor who has filed a complaint in superior court to force the town to install him. Mr. Foster, 70 years old, began humming the music from the television show, and said, “Every day we get up and ask, ‘What’s going to happen today?'”

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