Debate over 'call to the public' highlight of candidates forum
NEIL YOUNG/The Daily News
Mohave County candidates

CANDIDATES SPEAK: Mohave County District 2 Sup. Tom Sockwell (R-Bullhead City) answers a question at Wednesday's Mohave Valley Contractors Association candidate forum. Sitting next to Sockwell, left to right, are independent candidate Larry Tunforss, Republican challenger Hildy Angius, and Kory Burgess, who dropped out of the race at the beginning of the forum and endorsed Angius. Another GOP candidate, Felix Romant, was not able to attend due to a previous commitment.

BULLHEAD CITY A debate over "call to the public" at Mohave County Board of Supervisors meetings broke out at Wednesday's candidates forum for District 2. The forum, closed to the public, was held during the Mohave Valley Contractors Association's monthly dinner meeting.

Present were Sup. Tom Sockwell (R-Bullhead City), and Republican challenger Hildy Angius. Another GOP challenger, Kory Burgess, announced he was withdrawing from the race in favor of Angius. A fourth Republican candidate, Felix Romant, was not able to attend, citing a previous commitment. Independent candidate, Larry Tunforss, also attended the forum.

It's a bone of contention that the board of supervisors does not have a call to the public, which allows citizens to speak before the board about issues not on the agenda.

In explaining why he opposes call to the public, Sockwell said, "It's not a level playing field for everybody in this county. What you're going to get is about a half a dozen people local people that will be there every week talking. What are you going to do about the people in Colorado City? What are you going to do about the people in Lake Havasu or Wikieup? Those people have to drive a long way just to use call to the public and I don't think it's fair."

Angius replied, "Sup. Sockwell: Because some people can't come, nobody can come. Is that what you're saying? That's ridiculous."

"(Call to the public) works in Bullhead City. It works in Lake Havasu City. It works in Kingman and there's no reason it shouldn't work in the county," Tunforss said. "I'm sorry, but this is a huge county and you can't make everything a level playing field. That's just the way it works. The people who live in the outlying areas choose to live there." Tunforss said he favors rotating supervisor meetings from city to city.

Sockwell said he has an open door policy in his office. "Come in, tell me your problem, we will solve the problem and 90 percent of the problems that people come to me with are not something that needs to be presented to the board of supervisors. We can take care of it right here."

Sockwell, first elected in 2000, is seeking a fourth term. Angius is president of the Colorado River Republican Women and 1st vice chairman of the Mohave County Republican Party. Tunforss, recently retired from the Bullhead City Fire Department where he served as public information officer, handles public relations for various nonprofit entities.

"I want to repair the relationship between Bullhead City and Mohave County," Tunforss said. "I feel right now that is very, very strained." He favors supervisors providing their own transportation, instead of using county vehicles. He opposed the promotion of four department heads to deputy county manager, each receiving a $20,000 a year raise. He accused County Manager Ron Walker of "frequently" speaking out of order. "He has never read the book of Robert's Rules (of Order)." Tunforss opposed Monday's action by the Board of Supervisors, freezing flood control funding for Bullhead City, Kingman, and Lake Havasu City.

In a few days it will become apparent "why we did what we did," Sockwell said in response. "We don't do anything. without a reason for doing it."

Angius said she was motivated to run for office to stem the tide of governmental over-regulation.

"I've been learning the way things work," not only in Kingman but in Phoenix, because "a lot of what we have to do is mandated by the state," Angius said.

After asking the board of supervisors to investigate why the county is spending $2,200 a month to lease a building owned by two county employees to use as a public library annex, Angius said, "I was attacked by the county manager. He came after me personally. He called me stupid, ignorant, he said I couldn't count." Walker read a 5-page letter he wrote attacking Angius into the public record. The supervisors "did nothing," Angius noted. Coconino County investigated the issue "and they did say that those county employees should have filled out those disclosure forms, they were in violation of the law." The county will now make sure every employee is notified of the law, Angius said.

Sockwell listed what he considered his various accomplishments, including support for the Vanderslice Road improvement project, and the building of new facilities for administration, sheriff's office, Bullhead City Superior Court, and the Bullhead library expansion. He also cited what he called his fiscal conservatism.

Sockwell faces Angius and Romant in the Aug. 28 Republican primary.
Originally published Friday, May 11, 2012