Wednesday we had a front row seat for a quadrennial spectacle called presidential politics – when the remaining hopefuls went after each other at the Mesa Arts Center. For as much as things change the more they remain the same. Take for example Tempe’s 1930 City Council election in which 47 people competed in the Primary.
They were divided between two parties – 20 candidates on the Citizens’ Ticket; 27 running under the Civic Progress banner. The Primary winnowed the field down to 14 – a number that has not been equaled in many years.
Back in 1930, the entire council was up for election every two years. The mayor was chosen by the council, not by popular vote. Today we elect half of the council every four years. The large field of candidates may have had something to do with a 1929 lawsuit that was wending its way through the courts.
It seems that sometime earlier a J.W. Terrell filed an action against the Town of Tempe seeking the ouster of four council members – Dilworth Baird, T. A. Bailey, Hugh E. Laird and J. L. Felton.
In the suit Terrell alleged the “…defendants had received and taken from the town of Tempe, Baird, $185, Laird, $225, Bailey, $260, and Felton, $225, as salaries, under and by virtue of a motion or resolution passed by them as members of the common council providing that the members of the council be paid thereafter salaries of $5 per meeting, not to exceed eighteen meetings per year.”
Terrell claimed that was in violation of a state statute that read in part: “No… councilman of any town…shall, during the term for which he shall have been… elected, accept, take or receive to his own use, from the town…any sum of money or other thing of value… Every person who shall violate the provisions of this section, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof…shall be fined not less than one hundred dollars, nor more than three hundred dollars, such fine to go to the school fund of the county in which such town shall be located; and he shall also cease to be a…councilman of such town.”
According to court documents, “…the motion or resolution authorizing the payment of salaries was adjudged null and void and defendants were ordered to repay said sums to the town, which they did.”
Terrell believed that, as a result of the civil action, the four offenders should, according his interpretation of statute, be removed from office. The court denied the motion. In support of Terrell assertion, the State and County appealed.
In a legal proceeding, too complex to go into here, the court ruled that although the council members inappropriately authorized pay for themselves, they were not subject to ouster from office.
In the end, of the four defendants in the suit, only Hugh Laird was reelected.