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Secret government deals still standing after Arizona Court of Appeals decision

December 15, 2017

Phoenix—The Arizona Court of Appeals has ruled against taxpayer rights by allowing government officials to negotiate secret backroom deals with private firms.

The Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit challenging such a deal made between Pima County and luxury adventure tourism company World View Enterprises. In November 2015, Pima County voters overwhelmingly rejected $815 million in bond proposals. But Pima County supervisors flouted the will of the people, voting to borrow $15 million to fund the construction of a balloon launch pad and company headquarters for World View—even though this privately held, for-profit company has yet to transport any tourists. World View pays the County below-market rent and made a vague, unenforceable promise that the company will create jobs. In making the deal, the County violated state competitive bidding laws, shirking its duty to have its property appraised and offered at public auction before leasing it out, and to solicit competitive bids for design and construction. County staff instead negotiated with private, preselected firms behind closed doors.

In a decision issued today, the Court of Appeals says county boards should be allowed to bypass the competitive bidding process. “Competitive bidding helps guard against favoritism, fraud, and public waste, and by rejecting the necessity of this process, the Court has opened the door to greater government abuse,” said Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Jim Manley. “We plan to appeal this decision to the state Supreme Court and continue the fight against sweetheart deals that put taxpayers on the hook to subsidize private profits.”

The competitive bidding process is just one of several issues in the Goldwater Institute’s lawsuit. The agreement between World View and Pima County also violates the Arizona Constitution’s “gift clause,” which prohibits the government from giving or lending taxpayer money to private businesses.

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About the Goldwater Institute

The Goldwater Institute drives results by working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and strengthen the freedom guaranteed to all Americans in the constitutions of the United States and all 50 states. With the blessing of its namesake, the Goldwater Institute opened in 1988. Its early years focused on defending liberty in Barry Goldwater’s home state of Arizona.  Today, the Goldwater Institute is a national leader for constitutionally limited government respected by the left and right for its adherence to principle and real world impact. No less a liberal icon than the New York Times calls the Goldwater Institute a “watchdog for conservative ideals” that plays an “outsize role” in American political life.

 

 

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