Attorney: Resolutions Against Prop 127 Illegal Use Of Public Resources

Published: Friday, October 19, 2018 - 12:44pm
Updated: Friday, October 19, 2018 - 1:51pm

A Chandler attorney says a handful of Arizona counties and towns broke the law in their effort to fight a controversial renewable energy ballot measure. Tom Ryan said the question isn’t ambiguous, either.

Passing formal resolutions against a ballot measure is an illegal use of public resources to influence an election, according to Arizona law.

“They’ve used staff resources to do it. It’s already posted on their website,” said Ryan.

At least six local governments have taken formal positions opposing the measure after elected officials deliberated in a public meeting: Greenlee, Gila and Navajo counties, as well as Holbrook, Pinetop-Lakeside and Snowflake.

Some of the resolutions came at the urging of Arizona Public Service and cite statistics from an Arizona State University study that predicted dire consequences for jobs and electric bills if the measure passes.  

Proposition 127 would require that half of Arizona’s energy comes from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030.

“This is very black and white,” said Ryan. “They’re putting their funding from the state of Arizona at risk.”

Ryan said he’s looking for a state lawmaker to send a formal request to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich asking for his office to investigate.

It appears at least one county was concerned about this issue.

In May, the Navajo County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution against Proposition 127, but then last week amended the resolution.

Instead of urging residents to vote no, the language was changed to urging them to "educate themselves.” The resolution still lists many of the negative implications of passing the ballot measure, though.

“It’s an important proposition and we felt it was important for voters of Navajo County to understand it,” said Navajo County Manager Glenn Kephart.

He called the revised resolution a “neutral statement.”

“We don’t think there’s any problem with that and, following the advice of our county attorney, I think we are good with what we did,” he said.

Another county, however, decided not to pass any resolution out of concern for the legal implications.

The Yuma County Attorney, Jon Smith, told supervisors he wasn’t comfortable doing it.

“I feel that the BOS meeting is not set up for such a forum or debate as allowed by statute, and that the allowance of APS to use the county resources otherwise would result in a violation of A.R.S. 11-410,” Smith wrote in an email provided to KJZZ.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office said earlier this week it has not yet received any complaints.

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