City of Scottsdale beefs-up legal stipend in Stuart case

An additional $75,000 has been approved to go to legal fees and costs in an ongoing litigation case, Stuart v. city of Scottsdale.

Mark Stuart

On Oct. 17, Scottsdale City Council approved a resolution to authorize legal fees to be incurred in the contract with law firm, Dickinson Wright PLLC, in an amount not to exceed $125,000. The council previously approved a contract with the law firm, which the city would be represented in matters including the Stuart case, not to exceed $50,000.

The resolution was approved on consent with a 7-0 vote at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

In July, Scottsdale resident Mark Stuart — on behalf of his political action committee, Save Our Preserve — filed an extensive claim that accuses the city of violating his First Amendment rights, among other civil liberties.

The 91-page lawsuit filed in the United States District Court accuses the entire city council and all charter officers of suppressing Mr. Stuart’s free speech rights by using public money to promote the Desert Discovery Center, interfering with his ability to secure petition signatures and most recently, arresting him for trying to speak at a city council meeting, Independent records show.

Mr. Stuart’s organization opposes the Desert EDGE proposal and has been pushing for a public vote on the matter.

Plaintiffs in the case allege the city and its officers and employees have engaged in a conspiracy to violate plaintiffs’ civil rights by preventing the individuals from advocating in favor of an initiative to petition development in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief against the defendants, as well as unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees and costs, according to a city staff report.

The city has filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ amended complaint, and if the case is not dismissed on the city’s motion, the case will proceed, the staff report stated.

“Given the intensity of the work required to proceed in discovery, the previous contract amount will be exceeded with the additional work that is necessary to protect the interests of the city and its officers and employees,” the city staff report states.

The original complaint contained 220 paragraphs and alleged a total of 19 claims against the city, the mayor and city council and their spouses, and 10 other city officers and employees and their spouses, including a claim for immediate emergency relief that required significant research and briefing by multiple attorneys over a single weekend, the report detailed.

“Plaintiffs have since filed an amended complaint containing 556 paragraphs and alleging 21 claims against the same city defendants,” the staff report states. “At the same time, the City Attorney’s Office is engaged in two other contested litigation matters involving the same or similar plaintiffs, both of which require significant in-house resources.”

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

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