In the exchanges, Hendrix accused Peterson of repeated ethical lapses, and Peterson accused Hendrix of grandstanding and orchestrating attacks on her.
The acrimony broke out during the item on the open meeting law violations, which the Arizona Attorney General’s Office required the council to agendize as a remedy for the violations.
The violations occurred when Peterson emailed council members last May seeking their thoughts on the town logo being placed on the town’s Public Safety Training Facility and whether that was a proper use of town funds. The attorney general’s office deemed Peterson’s email and Council Member Scott Anderson’s reply to all council members a violation of the law.
In a brief statement at the council meeting, Peterson acknowledged the violation and said she took full responsibility for it. Anderson previously had done the same.
Vice Mayor Aimee Yentes, Council Member Kathy Tilque and Peterson all said the law could use some reform but acknowledged that was an issue for the Legislature and they needed to follow the law as it is.
But as the council appeared ready to move on to the next agenda item, Hendrix spoke up and said that while he had previously thought he would not comment on it, he had changed his mind.
Then he recounted the events and tied them to last year’s ethics violations investigations into Peterson. He accused Town Manager Patrick Banger and attorney Christopher Payne of seeking to cover up wrongdoing and moving into damage control when that did not work.
At one point after the ethics violations came into discussion, Council Member Scott September asked for a point of order on whether it was proper to discuss the item. Payne said that it was because the discussion on the open meeting law violation was on the agenda.
Hendrix also said he was ashamed of the council for not holding itself accountable and criticized it for changing the rules on ethics complaints so it would not have to deal with them. He said the council probably would not be in this position if it had held Peterson accountable during the ethics probe last year.
Peterson replied by calling Hendrix’s statement “rich,” noting she was cleared of the ethics charges, and that Hendrix, after a 38-minute “diatribe,” voted to clear her on the ethics charges and that it was Hendrix himself who brought the changes in dealing with ethics violations to council.
“I’m not sitting back and taking this anymore from you,” she said.
Peterson said other council members do not want to speak with Hendrix at the table because they were concerned how he used video to make attacks on social media.
“I am done with you,” she said. “I am done with your behavior on council.”
Peterson tried to then move the meeting to the next agenda item, but Hendrix demanded the chance to defend himself. He accused the mayor of lying to the ethics investigator and said he brought the changes in dealing with ethics violations to council because he did not want to spend time dealing with her conduct breaches instead of serving the town.
The clash came shortly after the two skirmished over the town’s property tax levy, which council passed on a 5-2 vote after Hendrix accused the town of using its $0.99 tax rate to gaslight voters on town needs.