Joe Cobb is one of the two named plaintiffs in the recent court challenge to the City of
ordinance granting its City Manager and City Clerk the authority to enter into
a 20 year lease and arena management agreement for the Jobing.com arena. Mr. Cobb
graciously consented to an interview which has been conducted via e-mail over
the past two days. Because the interview was conducted via e-mail, follow up
questions were not posed until other series of questions were answered. With
permission from Mr. Cobb, the order of the questions has been rearranged to
accommodate a better flow in reading. Please note that the views expressed by
Mr. Cobb are his own. Puck and Gavel takes no position with regard to any of
the views expressed by Mr. Cobb. Glendale
P&G: Can you briefly tell me about yourself (where are you from, what do you do, etc.)?
JC: I am retired, age 68. Born at USMA
, 1944. See http://joecobb.com/front-page/about-2/ West Point, New
P&G: Why did you seek to have the
Council's approval of the Jobing.com lease/management agreement declared
invalid? Glendale City
JC: I believe it is fundamentally immoral to take tax money (with the tool of coercion, compulsory exaction) and give the funds to a private, for-profit organization. The Arizona Constitution, Article 9, Section 7, http://goldwaterinstitute.org/sites/default/files/Regifting%20the%20Gift%20Clause.pdf, prohibits giving tax money to corporations:
[N]either the state, nor any county, city, town, municipality, or other subdivision of the state shall ever give or loan its credit in the aid of, or make any donation or grant, by subsidy or otherwise, to any individual, association, or corporation, or become a subscriber to, or a shareholder in, any company or corporation, or become a joint owner with any person, company, or corporation, except as to such ownerships as may accrue to the state by operation or provision of law or as authorized by law solely for investment of the monies in the various funds of the state.
So, as you can see, not only is my personal sense of Right vs. Wrong at issue here, I have our Constitution on my side.
More on my attorney's track record suing local governments that violate Arizona's Constitution, Art.9, Sec.7, "Gift Clause":
We have a hammer and the smelly political insider cronyism of the Glendale government is an anvil.
P&G: It's interesting that you have cited
's Gift Clause as the basis for your
opposition, yet the complaint filed by you and Ken Jones on behalf of the
taxpayers did not list a gift clause violation as part of the reason to
invalidate the ordinance. Was there a reason that you and the Goldwater
Institute chose to focus only on the grounds of the lease not being issued by
proper ordinance or passed pursuant to the emergency clause, and the management
agreement not being subject to competitive bidding, and not to focus on the
state constitution issue that you just discussed? Arizona
JC: One files motions on the basis of the development of a case. The earlier Goldwater law suit, filed two years earlier as a Gift Clause action, is still active and in the Maricopa court, but the judge in that case was not available to hear the further – and new – arguments in this case. But this case has been joined with the older case and will next be heard in front of the original judge. The Gift Clause action will require the city “to sign” and then be ordered to defend its action; we cannot expect the court to issue a prior restraint. The Goldwater attorneys attempted a prior restraint before the city voted June 8 and the judge said he didn’t have the power to enjoin a legislative body not to vote. But everything goes back to the Gift Clause.
Judge Fink ruled (1) this is not an “emergency” law, thus it cannot take effect (the contract cannot be signed) until the period allowed by law for a Referendum petition has run, or a Referendum election has given approval; and (2) the court will not substitute its opinion/judgment over the claim by the city that “professional services” – which are exceptions to the city charter requirement for competitive bidding – does include “hockey arena management” in the same category as physician, attorney, architect, et al. services. The judge had asked the city attorneys whether a high-rise window washing company was an exempt professional service, too, but did not take that obvious play on the concept of “professional service” into his final order.
P&G: Hypothetically, if the management agreement alone, not including the lease, had been subject to competitive bidding, would you still have sought to oppose it?
JC: We would have sued after the fact on the grounds of Gift Clause violation. The city has never attempted to defend itself against the charges of gift violation, but has instead refused to release documents from the closed-door negotiations with team buyers.
P&G: While Judge Fink's opinion denied the relief you and Ken Jones sought in your complaint on behalf of the taxpayers against Glendale to invalidate the ordinance granting the City Manager and City Clerk the authority to enter into a 20 year lease agreement for the Jobing.com arena, the taxpayers were still free to collect signatures to refer the ordinance to the ballot via public referendum. How many signatures do you require, and how is that number calculated? When must you have the signatures by and how is that date calculated?
JC: 10% of the city vote for Council on November 2, 2010, which is 11,309 voters is needed as signatures on our Referendum petitions. The deadline is 30 days from (1) June 8 – city’s view; or (2) June 15 – our attorneys’ view. The later date is when we actually were allowed to obtain blank petition forms by the court order overturning the claim of “emergency” status.
P&G: Assuming the city's view is correct, the deadline would be July 8, which is a Sunday. Would the deadline be extended to Monday, July 9 as a result?
JC: That is common practice: “next possible business day.”
P&G: Do you think there will be legal action brought by
over the filing
date of your petition if it is filed after the July 9 date? Glendale
JC: Certainly. They fight hard.
P&G: I have seen
state previously that the number of signatures required would be around 1800.
Where did you get your number from, and what do you think forms the basis for
the discrepancy in those numbers? Glendale
JC: Pam Hanna, city clerk, told us we had to use the voter turnout from the 2008 mayoral election, which is the number in the media you cite. She has been corrected, as we know when the anti-sales tax initiative was turned in on July 5 by a different group of
taxpayers. The correct voter turnout
is that of November 2, 2010 = 11,309. Glendale
P&G: How many signatures do you currently have?
JC: No comment.
P&G: Timing is often the best weapon in legal challenges such as this. If you are successful in getting the referendum on the November ballot, it could likely scuttle the proposed deal to the Jamison group without it ever being voted upon. Is there any provision in
for a special election to have the
voters decide sooner? Arizona
P&G: Let's assume that you are successful in getting a referendum on the Glendale City Council ordinance on the November ballot, that the Jamison group does not pull out prior to the vote, and the vote goes in favor of Glendale. What would be your next course of action?
JC: If the contract is signed, even in mid-November after an upholding Referendum vote, we would ask the courts to apply the Gift Clause prohibition to the subsidy.
set up as a republic in 1912 with many rights retained by citizens that under
state and federal constitutions are wrapped into the hands of government. Among
them is the right not to have taxpayer’s money given to private parties as
“gifts,” even if a majority did vote for it. A majority cannot vote away
certain rights. U.S.