PHOENIX – A conservative watchdog group plans to ask a judge for a temporary restraining order Friday to prevent a Glendale City Council vote on a lease agreement that would clear the way for the sale of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes.
The Goldwater Institute said Thursday that its request will be filed at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Maricopa County Superior Court. The institute bases its request on its contention that the city violated the Arizona open meetings law by failing to make public all documents related to the lease.
The seven-member council is scheduled to convene at 10:15 a.m. Friday to vote on a lease that would pay prospective owner Craig Jamison $17 million a year for arena operation costs and other items. The NHL has owned the team for three seasons after buying it in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Goldwater officials said they question the timing of the council’s vote.
“The city of Glendale plans to consider what is estimated to be a $425 million arena management deal for Jobing.com Arena,” Goldwater Institute president Darcy Olsen said in a statement. “Arizona’s Open Meetings Law and multiple court orders require the city to make public all documents related to the proposed contract at least 24 hours before a council vote is taken, which it has not done.
“The 100-page deal released on Monday refers to a number of exhibits that are central to analyzing the impact of the deal on Glendale’s finances, which the city must make public,” Olsen added.
Messages left with officials with Glendale and the Coyotes for comment on the Goldwater Institute’s planned action weren’t immediately returned Thursday night.
A proposed sale of the Coyotes last year to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer was derailed by the threat of a lawsuit by the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute.
The threat held up the city’s sale of bonds necessary to fill the requirements of the lease agreement reached with Hulsizer. The watchdog group argued that Glendale’s deal with Hulsizer violated the state’s anti-subsidy law.
The NHL bought the Coyotes out of bankruptcy in September 2009 with the intention of finding a buyer to keep the team in Arizona. The franchise never has made a profit since moving from Winnipeg in 1996.
This year, the Coyotes won the final five games of the regular season to capture their first division title in 33 years as an NHL franchise. They got past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in 25 years by beating Chicago and then defeated Nashville before losing to Los Angeles in the Western Conference finals.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced before Game 5 of Phoenix’s second-round series with Nashville that the league had reached a preliminary agreement to sell the team to a group headed by Jamison, a former San Jose Sharks CEO. But the deal hinged on working out a lease agreement with Glendale.