Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Shane Doan: IT'S A TRAP! (Updated)


Star Wars fans will immediately recognize those words as the declaration of Admiral Ackbar from Return of the Jedi.  However, any false sense of confidence regarding yesterday’s “deadline” regarding the Phoenix Coyotes should elicit a similar response. 

As has been reported by many different sources, yesterday was supposed to be the deadline by which taxpayers were required to submit their petition for a referendum to be placed on the November ballot for a vote on the City of Glendale’s lease and management deal with the group led by Greg Jamison.[1]  Hanging in the balance is not only the future of the Coyotes as a franchise, but also the face of the franchise, captain Shane Doan.  Through his agent, Terry Bross, Doan had placed a deadline of July 9, 2012 before listening to offers from other teams for his services. The clear intention was to wait and see if the petition seeking a referendum was filed.  If it was, then he would probably field offers due to the uncertainty surrounding the Coyotes’ ownership.  Without it, he appears to be positioned to resign in Phoenix. Looks like the sale to Jamison’s group, which is contingent upon the lease and arena management agreement, will be able to proceed and Doan can remain with the franchise. Coyotes fans rejoice!

If that’s what you think, then you have fallen into the trap.  There is still a laundry list of reasons why the deal to Jamison could fall through.

Relying on the July 9 deadline passing? IT’S A TRAP! The referendum-seeking taxpayers, led by Ken Jones and Joe Cobb, believe that they actually have until July 15 to file their petition.  As Mr. Cobb explained in his interview with Puck and Gavel, he and his attorneys, the Goldwater Institute, believe that the deadline is July 15, because it was not until June 15 when they “actually were allowed to obtain blank petition forms by the court order overturning the claim of ‘emergency” status.’”[2] Coyotes fans should take some heart that the petition wasn’t filed yesterday. Certainly, if Cobb and Jones had sufficient signatures to file the petition, there would be no reason to gamble on the filing deadline for the sake of getting unnecessary additional signatures.  But if Cobb and Jones can get sufficient signatures before next Monday, expect the petition to be filed and cast the Coyotes’ future into doubt.

Relying on Cobb and Jones having to obtain 1,800 signatures? IT’S A TRAP!  In order for the petition to be successful, it must contain a number of signatures equal to 10% of the last vote.  The number often cited by Glendale is slightly more than 1,800, which is based on voter turnout of slightly more than 18,000 for a 2008 Mayoral election.  However, as was recently stated by Mr. Cobb in an interview with Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix Business Journal, and later confirmed to Puck and Gavel, the total number of votes he belives that is required is much lower.  According to Mr. Cobb, the most recent election was in November 2010 for two city council seats, an election which totaled only 11,309 votes, ten percent of which would be only 1,131, less than 2/3ds of the 1,800 cited by Glendale.  According to Mr. Cobb, he was informed by Connie Wilhelm, a proponent of the recently submitted petition seeking to have a referendum on a proposed sales-tax increase placed on the November ballot, that the minimum signature requirement was only 1,131.[3] If Cobb and Jones come in with under 1,800 signatures, expect further litigation.

Let’s assume the petitions aren’t filed or that Glendale is successful in challenging their validity either because they are filed late or because they have an insufficient number of signatures.  Then everything will be sorted out, right?  IT’S A TRAP!  In his interview with Puck and Gavel  “[i]f 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.” In other words, the contracts can be signed, the team can be sold, Doan can resign…only to then have the lease and management agreement overturned as against the Arizona State Constitution.  Honestly, I can’t even begin to process the chaos that would ensue from invalidating the lease and management agreement overturned.

Let’s assume everything with Cobb and Jones’ petitions goes away, never to be heard from again. Surely then, everyone can relax. IT’S A TRAP! The recent submission of petitions to have a referendum on an ordinance approving a sales-tax increase placed on the November ballot could be a further complication to the approval of the lease and management agreement. It has been stated that the sales-tax increase is required in order to help finance the lease and management agreement. In other words, if the tax increase does not go through, then the sale to the Jamison group could be in jeopardy because Glendale will be without the money to help pay for the team.

Also, be careful not to miss the forest for the trees. The key issue not whether the Goldwater Institute is successful in having the referendum placed on the November ballot. It is also not whether the ballot is successful in having the ordinance overturned. Finally, it is not whether the ordinance is overturned in court as a violation of the Arizona Gift Clause.  It is just the specter of risk over the possibility of any one of these outcomes coming to fruition that casts the future of the Coyotes in doubt. We have seen a similar threat already kill a deal for the Coyotes, and it could do so again.

With the recent report from Dave Shoalts of the Globe & Mail that if they Coyotes sale does not go through, the team may be disbanded, it would behoove Shane Doan to at least consider leaving the Coyotes, even though no petition has been filed by the July 9 deadline.  Could you imagine signing a deal in warm, contending Phoenix, where you have built your life, only to then be picked up by wintry, fledgling Edmonton in a dispersal draft? I don’t mean to pick on Edmonton, but it and Phoenix could not be more different in climate -- both weather and hockey.  

The bottom line is that if certainty of ownership is important to Shane Doan, then he simply cannot sign with the Coyotes, as their ownership situation may not even be resolved by the end of this year, depending on the ballot and any legal challenges thereto. At least for right now, Doan has the right to choose his own destiny, even if the Coyotes may not be a choice he can safely make. Perhaps it's time for him to follow Admiral Ackbar's advice and take evasive action by finding the next best situation for him and his family, even if that situation is not with the Coyotes.

On a personal note, I am disappointed that I could not post this sooner as it seemed to be the topic du jour for many publications, and I wish I could have jumped out in front of it based upon my interview with Mr. Cobb. Unfortunately, actual lawyering got in the way. I am happy though that I got to post on something that focuses on actual hockey impact as opposed to just a purely legal issue.

Unfortunately, I only had time for one post today and I wanted to get this out there before it was too late.  That said, check back tomorrow for information on the upcoming Nassau Coliseum issues, discussed in the light of Land Use Law theories, which happens to be one of my absolute favorite topics of legal discussion.

Finally, check back later this week when I will have an interview with a representative of Glendale First!, a PAC formed in opposition to the Goldwater Institute’s efforts to stop the Jamison deal, as currently constructed.  

***UPDATE*** 9:40 AM

Sarah McClellan of The Arizona Republic has posted a story regarding the passing of yesterday's Doan-imposed deadline. She notes that his agent, Terry Bross, does not feel any closer to a resolution following the passing of Monday without the filing of the petition. According to Ms. McClellan,
"Two Glendale residents have been collecting signatures in hopes of adding the lease agreement to the November ballot. The city said signatures were due Monday, 30 days after the Glendale City Council approved the lease agreement with Jamison.
But organizers said they should have until next Monday to turn in signatures, because that's a month after they received paperwork to begin their efforts.
The signatures were not submitted to the city on Monday, and one of the organizers, Ken Jones, said he plans to keep gathering signatures and won't turn them in until next Monday. If the city doesn't accept them at that time, Jones said he would consider a legal challenge.
The uncertainty that continues to surround Jamison's bid has paused the negotiation process for Doan, but that could change soon should he decide to explore other teams. Bross planned to talk with Doan on Monday night to see if Doan would like to proceed with that option."
The takeaway here is that Doan understands that this could drag out for a while. Whether that means he will field other offers or even act upon them remains to be seen.  Check back here for continuing analysis of the ongoing Coyotes ownership issues.

[1] I’m a bit of a stickler for technicalities, so I have to point out that this is a bit of a misnomer. What would go on the ballot is Glendale’s ordinance which grants the City Manager and City Clerk the authority to enter into a 20 year lease and management agreement, not the agreement itself, which has not yet officially been made with the Jamison group.
[2] There has also been mention of July 12 as the deadline, as it is 30 days after Judge Fink’s order.
[3] In the interview with the Phoenix Business Journal, Cobb states that he already had the 1,131 necessary, but would not comment on the amount of signatures collected when asked by Puck and Gavel.


  1. My feeling is that Doan and his team are well informed of most of those technical nuances, and his July 9 deadline was more a courtesy move rather than his true desire. He knows that it may linger for a long time regardless what happens with that petition. I expect him to start fielding the offers from everyone.

  2. Perhaps I wasn't entirely clear. The larger point I was trying to make was that if Doan won't sign with the Coyotes unless their is more certainty in their ownership situation, then he can't sign with them because their ownership situation will not be completely settled for a few months.

    1. You're right, the team is in very murky waters and a vision of their future is tremendously unclear. They are facing a very determined opposition which can and will create uncertainty for the team for a while. It might even be a part of their strategy. It seems that Doan is just really unsure about what to do.

      And I wonder what the NHL is thinking. They should know better than to expect any clarity until, most likely, the end of the calendar year. I suppose they're just hoping Jamison takes the risk (or scraps the deal relatively soon).

      Also, I'm really looking forward to your posts on the NYI arena situation. That mess has really piqued my interest. Feel bad for that team (I'm bet my feelings aren't shared by you as a Rangers fan though lol).

  3. the sales tax initiative is based on the changing of the current Glendale City Charter regarding city sales tax where the Arena Management contract referendum is a contract between 2 parties (Glendale and Jamison's Arena Management group)that doesnt affect the Glendale City Charter.

    1. I understand that, however, the increase in sales tax has been suggested as necessary for funding the arena management agreement with the Jamison Group. Without it, the City of Glendale is projected to operate at something like a $20 million deficit.

  4. So it looks Doan is going to base his decision on the petition of Mr. Cobb & Co. His agent said that the new deadline for when he'll start talking to other teams is July 16th (i.e. the deadline Cobb stated is the actual deadline for when the signatures are due with the city).

    1. Cobb's petition was submitted to Glendale today. Stay tuned tomorrow for my analysis of the submission.

    2. I'll be keeping an eye out for that. Not sure Doan is planning to learn. As you said, if he's looking for clarity on the team's future he won't get it for a while. I think he'll leave just like Whitney (who cited the uncertainly as one of his reasons for leaving), which is unfortunately for the Coyotes and their fan base.

    3. Then you'll be very surprised to see my analysis tomorrow. I think that the clarity is coming, and soon.