City officials are alleging a political action committee formed in opposition to a planned private motorsports complex in Maricopa violated Arizona campaign finance laws by failing to disclose donors, an inaction that could cost the organization nearly $13,000 in penalties.
In a Notice of Violation letter to the committee Maricopa Citizens Protecting Tax Payers dated Nov. 8, 2017, Maricopa City Attorney Denis Fitzgibbons claims the group is in violation of state law for “failing to file the requisite campaign finance reports.”
By doing so, the letter further declares, the group has incurred nearly $12,675 in penalties with the city.
According to the city, the committee should have then filed finance reports by July 15 or Oct. 15, 2017, which it did not.
Attorney Timothy La Sota, counsel for the committee, responded to the allegations in a letter dated Nov. 10, 2017, saying a change in state law no longer required a PAC to “register and report at the petition circulation stage, and now they only have to register and report if they are seeking to influence ‘an election.’”
In an initial legal confrontation, Maricopa Citizens Protecting Tax Payers failed to force the zoning change of a parcel of land on the western edge of Maricopa to a city-wide referendum. Thus, La Sota argued, the election never happened, negating any reporting requirements.
Fitzgibbons countered the argument in a Notice of Imposition of Penalty dated Jan. 18, 2018, saying Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers filed a statement of organization with the Maricopa City Clerk May 11, 2017, planning to “engage in ballot measure expenditures and is required by Arizona Revised Statues to file certain reports related to its activities.”
The argument posed by La Sota, suggesting the committee was not required to register, and subsequently not required to report, was erroneous, Fitzgibbons said.
The committee had indeed already registered, he said, thus “subjecting itself to the various rules and regulations concerning committees, including, but not limited to, the mandatory filing of campaign finance reports.”
Furthermore, Fitzgibbons said, the fact Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers sued the city and associated parties, “further reinforces the fact that the committee must comply with various rules and regulations related to political action committees.”
The city is offering to quash the $12,675 in penalties if Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers “files complete, accurate and truthful campaign finance reports” within 10 days of the issuance of the Notice of Imposition of Penalty letter.
If the reports are not filed by the Jan. 28 deadline, the city plans to seek a legal judgment to enforce any fines or penalties.
Notices of Violation and Imposition of Penalty were sent to the committee’s chairperson, Robert Rebich, and the committee’s treasurer, David Prom, neither of whom live in Maricopa.
The parcel of land that prompted this legal fight is located on the northwest corner of Ralston Road and State Route 238 and is the proposed site of a private motorsports club called Apex.
It has been alleged Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers was funded, either in part or in total, by developer Dan Erickson and partners who are planning to build an even larger motorsports complex near Casa Grande called Attesa.
In an Oct. 2017 open letter to Pinal Central, Erickson said he agreed with both the committee and a separate Maricopa resident named Bonita Burks who also attempted to mount a legal opposition.
In the letter, Erickson claimed, “my primary goal is and always has been ensuring the success of Attessa… The bottom line is the future of Apex has a direct effect on the future of Attesa.”
To ensure this, Erickson said, he believes the City of Maricopa needs to “adopt an enforceable sound ordinance with Apex agreeing to the same noise stipulations AMP [Attesa Motorsports Park] agreed to, and the development should be subject to proper zoning [sic].”
Attorneys for both Maricopa Citizens Protecting Tax Payers, and the second complainant – Burks – have denied affiliations with Erickson.
If Erickson is, in fact, the committee’s benefactor, campaign finance reports could prove the allegations.