A woman banned from Pima County Board of Supervisors meetings for remarks made against Supervisor Matt Heinz during the call to the public is allowed to return this week.
The board, meanwhile, also voted to review the legality of the ban against Shirley Requard, a retired registered nurse who frequently speaks at the meetings.
Heinz fell under scrutiny after a man wearing a Speedo-like swimsuit appeared in the background of his video feed during a January board meeting. The supervisor, who was attending the meeting remotely during a Caribbean cruise, has said that the man in the now-viral video is a 24-year-old friend.
Following the incident, some speakers at the part of the meeting that allows for open-ended public comment have criticized Heinz over the incident.
Requard used her turn to speak at three separate board meetings in January and February to say she believed the individual in the video feed was not of a “pubescent” age. Requard went on to call for Chief Civil Deputy Samuel Brown “to look into possibly filing pedophilia charges against Matt Heinz.”
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On multiple occasions, Adelita Grijalva, who chairs the board, told Requard that her comments could have consequences. The rules state individuals who choose to speak during call to the public must maintain a level of decorum and that “any person making personal, impertinent or slanderous remarks or who becomes boisterous while addressing the Board, may be removed by the Sergeant of Arms at the direction of the Chair.”
As a result of her continued remarks, Requard received a letter from Brown, under the direction of Grijalva, for the three-month ban from county meetings.
“It is a privilege to be able to show up to these meetings and speak, and [Requard] lost that privilege for good reason . . . We need to have some basic rules. And when people don’t follow them, they have to leave,” Heinz previously told the Star.
Supervisor Steve Christy asked an outside law firm to conduct a legal review into Requard’s ban. At the board’s April 4th meeting, Christy said his office budget would cover the cost.
In a 22-page review, the firm Munger, Chadwick & Denker concluded the ban was unlawful.
Christy said at the April meeting that his main concern for seeking the review was to ensure the ban did not put the county in danger of a lawsuit for violating Requard’s free speech rights.
“We can avoid a lot of that. It’ll make the entire situation more palatable. It will restore the rights of the individual who has been sitting out in the lobby for three sessions now, and we can make it all whole by simply following what this law firm has concluded,” Christy said during the meeting.
At the same meeting, board members shared their concern in Christy consulting an independent law firm rather than the Pima County Attorney’s Office. The board then approved a motion for the county attorney to conduct a written response to the legal opinion obtained by Christy.
“This outside law firm is saying that our rules and regulations, which were adopted by the previous Board, are unconstitutional and likely to be challenged. And I think we need a response to that,” Supervisor Rex Scott said.
The board also voted to allow Requard to return to the meetings starting Tuesday, April 18.
“In order to have some sort of semblance of being able to do the people’s business during this board meeting, we need to have a real honest discussion about what is acceptable and not acceptable in a public meeting. Because the kinds of outbursts that happen here . . . would never occur at the state Legislature, that would not be allowed. So I do have some concern about being able to get through our meeting without any consequences if there is a major disruption,” Grijalva said at the April 4th meeting.
Heinz said that he hopes the board can come together to discuss, agree upon and enforce the rules of decorum to allow for meaningful comments from members of the public.
“I want people to show up and to present problems, issues, concerns and their opinions. If they’re contrary to my own, great. This is the place to have public discourse,” Heinz said.