Print Clarkdale Council votes for secrecy
Written by {ga=staff-reporter}   
Saturday, 25 June 2011 00:00

Clarkdale promises nondisclosure in its water rights talks

Clarkdale Town Council promised by unanimous vote June 14 to protect from public disclosure information about water rights negotiations between the town, Salt River Project and the Yavapai-Apache Nation.

The nondisclosure agreement keeps secret all documents describing details of the negotiations except those which must be disclosed under the state’s public records law, a big exception favorable to the town and government transparency.

Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von GausigThe vote gave Mayor Doug Von Gausig, Town Manager Gayle Mabery and town lawyers authority to hear in secret details about water right negotiations between the Nation and SRP.

Town representatives promise to keep confidential any information they see, hear or share during closed-door meetings with Nation and SRP officials. Other conversations could be confidential based on the attorney-client privilege.

Clarkdale’s sole duty regarding public records requests involving the negotiations is to alert the Nation a request was made. The Nation, not Clarkdale, must take action to prevent disclosure, according to town records.

On Friday, June 17, Cottonwood Journal Extra made a public records request to inspect all records of water rights discussions by or between the town, SRP and/or the Nation, including all emails regarding the same authored or received by Von Gausig or Mabery.

Some disclosures of public records might require a court order as a result of the nondisclosure agreement, Mabery said.

According to Mabery, U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl [R-Ariz.] may be willing to carry the tribe’s water rights settlement forward in the U.S. Senate, where it must be approved. Nation representatives are moving quickly to conclude negotiations with SRP so Kyl has enough time to sponsor the approving legislation.

Negotiations recently accelerated in light of Kyl’s decision to retire at the end of his term, Mabery said.

Council accepted without comment staff’s recommendation in favor of the three-way nondisclosure agreement because it was required before the Nation would permit negotiations to proceed.