The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 18 against the political committees that sought to force referendums on the reversal at City Hall that favored a tribal casino within Glendale’s boundaries.
“This is just the latest frivolous lawsuit designed to stop the Nation from bringing jobs and economic opportunity supported by Glendale and the West Valley public,” said Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Edward Manuel in a news release that same day.
The parties that lost last year in superior court and this year in the Court of Appeals were Neighbors for a Better Glendale, No More Bad Deals for Glendale and Respect the Promise, which are committees chaired by Gary Hirsch.
The disagreement began a year ago, after the city clerk rejected 13,000-15,000 signatures from those committees. The petitions sought to place two referendums on the ballot that would have allowed voters to decide if a casino should be built within Glendale.
Those committees were represented by Mary R. O’Grady and other attorneys at the Phoenix law firm Osborn Maledon, who argued in court that Glendale citizens had a constitutional right to challenge the city’s policy on the casino.
Both courts upheld the clerk’s decision to disallow the petitions, because city’s decisions last year on the casino were made administratively, rather than legislatively. Administrative decisions cannot be overturned by voter referendums.
Starting in February, the Appeals Court considered a resolution, named in the petitions and passed by the council in August 2014, which asked officials in state government and Congress not to oppose the casino.
“Mere expressions of support, and encouraging other entities or individuals to share the same viewpoint, are not substantive measures,” wrote the judge in last week’s decision.
The judge also found there was nothing wrong with city council dropping its opposition to the casino last year and instead becoming a supporter.
“The city council’s approval of Resolution No. 4840 merely reflected its changed position as to how a majority of the council viewed the Nation’s proposed gaming project. Because the council’s approval was untethered to any legislative power, the Superior Court properly concluded the council’s approval of Resolution No. 4840 was not a legislative act,” the judge wrote.
The appellate court agreed with Hirsch that the 2014 settlement agreement between the council and the Nation, which was also cited in the petitions, was legislation, but it still ruled that the agreement was not eligible for a referendum.
The council committed in that settlement agreement to drop its lawsuits against the Nation, which in return would pay the city more than $25 million over the next 20 years.
The appellate judge ruled that allowing voters to overturn settlement agreements would undermine the city’s ability to negotiate with other parties during lawsuits and compromise the judicial system.
“Allowing a city’s voters to share the ability to control litigation with a city council would result in chaotic, if not absurd, results,” the judge wrote.