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Goldwater Institute Seeks Second Preliminary Injunction in Release Time Case

October 30, 2014

Phoenix, AZ — The Goldwater Institute is asking the Maricopa County Superior Court to once again grant a preliminary injunction in Cheatham v. Gordon, the Institute’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of release time provisions in the City of Phoenix’s labor contract with the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, which allow city employees to perform union work on police time.

In June, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper ruled in favor of the Goldwater Institute to enjoin the release time provisions of the previous contract between the City and PLEA. That contract expired on June 30. A new contract with essentially identical release time provisions was approved by the Phoenix City Council took effect July 1. The Goldwater Institute has amended its complaint in the lawsuit to incorporate the new contract.

“This is the next step in ridding Arizona of the awful practice of release time and returning police officers to the important jobs for which they were hired,” said Goldwater Institute Vice President of Litigation Clint Bolick.

The Goldwater Institute’s legal challenge contends that release time violates the gift clause of the Arizona state constitution. The gift clause prohibits gifts of public money to private individuals or corporations, requiring the government to prove it receives direct, tangible benefits from a subsidy it gives to a private entity.

In her June ruling granting the Institute’s initial motion for preliminary injunction, Judge Cooper affirmed that release time constitutes a subsidy because the contract “does not obligate PLEA to perform any specific service or give anything in return for the receipt of $1 million for release time.”

City of Phoenix officials declined to modify the new contract with PLEA in advance of the July 1 effect date, despite these indications from the Court that it may violate the state constitution.

A 2011 Goldwater Institute exposé discovered that Phoenix spends nearly $4 million annually to pay for 73,000 hours of release time for city workers to conduct union business at taxpayers’ expense. These union payments are standard in the city’s seven collectively bargained labor contracts.

“Release time is especially egregious in the context of public safety because it literally takes officers off the street and sends them to work for the union,” said Bolick.

Following the Court’s June ruling halting release time in the previous contract, the six full-time release time officers were required to report to a week of police academy training and then assigned to full-time patrol positions.

The Institute is representing two Phoenix taxpayers, William Cheatham and Marcus Huey, who object to the unconstitutional use of their tax money.

For more information, contact Lucy Caldwell, (602) 633-8986.

The Goldwater Institute protects America’s greatest inheritance—the liberty and economic freedom of the individual—by holding government accountable and standing up for regular taxpayers just like you. Learn more about the Goldwater Institute at Read more about our work to end the practice of release time at



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