Quartzsite, Ariz.: ‘A powder keg of small-town politics

Paul Winer, a nudist who runs Reader’s Oasis book store, stood inside his store in Quartzsite. ‘This has gone way too far and it has to stop,’ Mr. Winer said this summer. ‘It’s an embarrassment to our town.’ / Sandy Huffaker for The Wall Street Journal

By Tamra Audi

The Wall Street Journal

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.



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September 2012