Apache Junction City Council meetings will be guarded in the wake of comments from a councilman who is also reported to no longer live in the city.
Joe Severs, a source of residents’ concerns over where he lives since his house is for sale, also raised eyebrows recently when he cited a shooting in another state in which a disgruntled resident killed five people in city hall.
A uniformed police officer is now a fixture in City Council meetings after Severs’ remarks to the mayor that he listen to residents’ concerns.
In two weeks, the council will discuss whether or not Severs lives within the city limits, required of council members.
Amid speculation that Severs and his family have moved to Gilbert, some residents urged the council earlier this week to hire an outside investigative lawyer. Mayor John Insalaco has scheduled the issue to be discussed officially in a work session March 17.
City Attorney Joel Stern said as far as he knows, Severs lives inside the city.
If proven in a court of law and if a judge is convinced that Severs does not live within city limits, the judge could declare his council seat vacant, Stern said.
Insalaco said the council will discuss the matter, and determine whether or not to hire an investigative attorney. The council would have to pass a motion calling for that action.
Severs, one of six council members including the mayor facing recall petitions, was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.
Returning from a trip to California, Severs said Thursday in a phone interview the speculation arose because his house is for sale. But he said even if the house were sold “tomorrow,” he would live in an apartment until he finds a new home in Apache Junction.
“Right now, I am absolutely within the legal purview,” he said.
Nancy Rank, a real estate broker and one of the residents raising the residency question, said despite Severs’ assertion that he continues to occupy the house, the fact that his residency is being questioned is cause for worry.
“I’m concerned because he’s helping to make decisions about the city,” Rank told the council Tuesday. Another resident urged the council to let the local courts decide the matter.
Vice Mayor R.E. Eck agreed that hiring an outside investigator would be a good idea.
“Let’s put it to rest one way or the other,” he said.
But Insalaco said in a phone interview Thursday he preferred to put the matter on a work-session agenda because Severs was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.
Severs said his wife, Brenda, and his daughter moved into his mother-in-law’s house in Gilbert because they did not want their daughter to attend the “messed-up” Apache Junction High School.
“And as far as I know, my wife and daughter are not subject to council member rules,” Severs said.
Brenda Severs also earlier quashed rumors of the two getting a divorce, saying the only reason the family is living apart is for their daughter’s education.
“The law says he needs to sleep there in Apache Junction, and he does,” Brenda Severs said.
Denying rumors that he couldn’t possibly be living there without any furniture, Joe Severs said that proves nothing.
“How much does it take for a single person to live in a house? A bed? A TV, a stereo and a microwave? I still have all that,” he said.
Severs, a councilman since 2005 whose term ends in June 2009, isn’t exactly friends with his colleagues, especially the mayor. He recently charged Insalaco with being obstinate and not listening to the public.
In a dramatic move, Severs went to the podium to address the council. He referred to a shooting at a City Council meeting Feb. 7 in Kirkwood, Mo., that left several people dead, and said:
“This council needs to start thinking a little bit more before making its decisions. ... We need to start being more compassionate to the needs of this community and stop being cold, heartless rulers.”
That riled Insalaco and other members, including Councilman Jeff Serdy, who felt it was an immature act. It drove the mayor to request that a uniformed police officer be present at the City Council work sessions and meetings in response to several audience members saying they were scared.
City officials confirmed an officer is now at the meetings.
“He was putting an idea into a crazy person’s head,” Insalaco said.