Lack of verified ballot measure mutes Scottsdale political infighting for now

A view of McDowell Mountain Preserve in northern Scottsdale. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

No further action is required at this time, the Scottsdale City Clerk’s Office told Desert EDGE Advocates and Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale, Inc., following campaign finance violations filed against the entities.

A campaign finance complaint addressed to City Clerk Carolyn Jagger on May 25 by attorney Roopali H. Desai, on behalf of the Protect Our Preserve political action committee, outlines three alleged violations surrounding practices and an alleged lack of transparency by a group called “Desert EDGE Advocates, and Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale, Inc.”

In July 2017, Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale unveiled its plans for a proposed desert-appreciation venue envisaged on less than 6 acres just south of the established Gateway trailhead within the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

The facility includes a series of structures coined “pavilions” and has an asking price of $61.2 million.

The issue of how and if a desert-appreciation venue ought to be built within Preserve limits has drawn a line in the political sand many Scottsdale residents, community members and elected leaders agree.

North Scottsdale resident Jason Alexander has founded a political action committee to try and force a public vote on the matter.

(Arianna Grainey/Independent Newspapers)

The document filed on behalf of Protect Our Preserve PAC, states their complaint is against Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale, Inc. and Desert EDGE Advocates. Specifically, Protect Our Preserve alleges that paid operatives of Desert EDGE and Desert EDGE Advocates have followed individuals circulating initiative petitions.

Following the initial complaint, the two parties involved — Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale, Inc. and Desert Edge Advocates — were given 10 days to respond to the complaint.

Letters from attorney Loren Molever of Scottsdale-based Molever Conelly Attorneys representing DDCS and attorney Thomas Basile of Scottsdale-based Statecraft Law representing Desert EDGE Advocates was received by Ms. Jagger on June 11, records show.

Ms. Jagger gave Ms. Desai until June 20 to respond, she said at the time.

On July 3, Ms. Jagger sent both Desert EDGE Advocates and DDCSI letters stating three categories that the complaint falls into: “Paid for By” disclosure; failure to register as a political action committee; and failure to file campaign finance reports. The letters are nearly identical, aside from swapping out names.

“It is my determination that no further action is required at this time,” Ms. Jagger stated as the conclusion of her findings.

For the “paid for by” disclosure, Ms. Jagger says at the time of the complaint, the petition had not been certified for inclusion on the Nov. 6 ballot, and had not been assigned a ballot measure number.

“The crux of the complaint is that Desert Edge Advocates is making expenditures for the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election by circulating material that would dissuade potential initiative signers from signing Protect Our Preserve’s petition,” Ms. Jagger writes in her letter.

“Because IT-2017-02 has not yet qualified for the ballot there is no ballot measure, therefore, there is not yet an ‘election’ under the statutory definition.”

Mr. Alexander says the Protect Our Preserve petition garnered a total of 37,608 signatures.

“Official word won’t be until end of July, early August,” Mr. Alexander says of the proposed ballot measure.

“We have so far not heard anything from the City Clerk about a challenge or updates on the timing.”

Regardless of whether a person were responsible for distributing the exhibits provided, Arizona Revised Statute was not met, Ms. Jagger says.

“Based on the evidence presented, there is nothing to indicate that any expenditure has been made that would require the ‘paid for by’ disclosure and no further action is required at this time.”

Similarly, for the complaint regarding failure to register as a PAC, Ms. Jagger states that IT-2017-02 — the Protect Our Preserve initiative petition — does not meet the definition of an “election.”

“In addition, Exhibits A and B do not contain language for or against a ballot measure,” she stated. “No evidence has been presented to show that Desert Edge Advocates is an entity organized for the primary purpose of influencing the result of an election and that it has knowingly received contributions or made expenditures, as defined in ARS 16-901, in any combination of at least $1,100.”

Ms. Jagger states neither Desert EDGE Advocates nor DDCSI meet the definition of a political action committee, and cannot be required to register as a political action committee or file campaign finance reports.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable. Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the arrow in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment