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Sahuarita council member resigns over legal conflict; post may go unfilled this summer

Sahuarita Town Councilman Erik Dahl resigned Wednesday, two days after he said he became aware of an Arizona statute that bars him from holding public office as a state employee. He also has withdrawn his name from the 2020 ballot.

Dahl, who works for the state Department of Corrections, said Arizona law prohibits a state employee from holding paid elective office. He said his superiors were aware of his appointment to the council in August but were unaware of the statute. He has worked in law enforcement more than 25 years.

Dahl said he brought the issue to Town Attorney Dan Hocuhli on Monday, who researched it with Dahl's chain of command and determined he could not hold office.

Five of the council's seven seats are open this election. Dahl was running against two challengers for one seat open for a two-year term. There are six candidates, including four incumbents, competing for four four-year terms.

The decision whether to appoint somebody to the seat, and who, rests with Mayor Tom Murphy, who said Friday he's leaning toward getting through the summer with just six council members. Then he would consider appointing the winner in the August primary to the position. There are two candidates for Dahl's two-year seat, and if one receives a majority of votes in August, they would take office in November. Under Murphy's plan, the member would get a three-month head start.

In an email to the Sahuarita Sun, Dahl said he told Murphy, "I'll still be living in Sahuarita and I will continue to support the town, town government and town staff in any way I can."

Dropping out of the race means the council will see at least one new face after the election.

The two candidates in the race are Ryan Huber and Deborah Morales. Write-in candidates have until June 25 to file. As of Thursday, none had filed.

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Huber and Morales were among 24 people who applied to be appointed to two council vacancies last summer. Dahl and Simon Davis were appointed.

This report was first published by the Sahuarita Sun.

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