Tags Articles tagged with "Superior Court"

Superior Court

Apex Motor Club, owned by Private Motorsports Group, wants to open a private track in Maricopa.

Players in a high-profile case against the City of Maricopa presented arguments Monday in a Pinal County courtroom, during which it was alleged by the defense that the plaintiff was paid to file the complaint.

The suit, filed by attorneys Grant Woods and Michael Riikola on behalf of Rancho El Dorado resident Bonita Burks, argues the city improperly granted a conditional use permit to Private Motorsports Group, a company wanting to build a private racetrack on the outskirts of the city under the name Apex Motor Club.

During the hearing Evan Bolick, counsel for the defense, alleged Burks was “being paid” by an unnamed entity to be the plaintiff in this case.

Burks is the owner of Sign Here Petitions, a signature-gathering company Bolick said was enlisted by another organization – Maricopa Citizens Protecting Tax Payers –  to gather signatures for a petition seeking a referendum on the same permit. Bolick provided no proof of his allegation.

Presiding Judge Robert Olson struck the comments from the official record based on what Woods argued was “defamation, per se.”

Burks’ suit is the second filed against the city over the Apex permit. Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers was first to sue the city and Private Motorsports Group, regarding the permit, after city officials declined to forward their petition for referendum to the Pinal County Recorder’s Office.

In August, a Pinal County judge ruled in favor of the organization, forcing the city to forward the signatures. The city, while simultaneously filing to initiate the referendum, also filed an appeal. And, on Sept. 6, an Arizona appellate court overturned the Pinal County ruling.

The Court of Appeals has yet to release its full formal opinion on the appeal.

Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers fired back by filing motions with the Arizona Supreme Court. A ruling is expected in that case before Sept. 14, the final day the referendum can be canceled.

Burks’ suit specifically alleges the city improperly interpreted zoning codes in granting the permit to the track, which her suit alleges will “result in, among other things, significantly increased noise, odors, dust, gas and smoke emanating from the property, all of which uniquely and negatively affect Plaintiff’s [Burks] use and enjoyment of her property.”

To the idea of the track “uniquely” affecting her, the defense argued there needed to be evidence of “special damages or peculiar harm” done against Burks specifically. If they did indeed exist, these types of effects – noise, odors, gas, smoke – they argued, are “generalized,” affecting the entire community and not just her.

Burks lives more than five miles from the proposed private track.

The defense further argued these “general damages” were already assessed by the city during the permit application process with sound, traffic and engineering studies that claim the effects would be negligible.

The suit further argues the city had no right to sign an emergency ordinance that pushed the issue to the soonest possible election, hence the accelerated timeline with appeals.

“Let’s just call it what it is, it’s not an emergency,” Woods argued, saying they simply didn’t want to stifle development.

The defense argued in response that the city, according to legal precedent, had every right to create an emergency ordinance.

Olson anticipates filing his decision by Sept. 13, one day before the Arizona Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling on the first case. It is also one day before the city will have its last chance to cancel the referendum.

Photo by Mason Cajellas

A Pinal County judge has ruled against the City of Maricopa in a lawsuit filed recently regarding the City’s issuing of conditional use permit to Private Motorsports Group for the proposed APEX Motor Club.

The decision could force a special election in November. Read the ruling

Judge Robert Olson issued the decision Wednesday siding with the plaintiff — Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers — and ordering the city to forward signatures gathered by the plaintiff for a referendum seeking to force the permit issue to a public vote.

The city previously denied the petition and refused to forward the signatures to the Pinal County Recorder, arguing the matter was “administrative” rather than “legislative.” If signatures are verified by the recorder’s office, Maricopa residents will vote on the issue in 90 days.

“Whether the new code preserved the right to apply for an industrial use permit or if the City Council made a policy decision to restore that right, the court finds the grant of the use permit is a legislative action and, therefore, subject to referendum,” Olson wrote in his decision.

Citing the direct power vested in the City Council by the former code, Olson declared the action legislative.

“The old code empowers the City Council to exercise its authority to approve such a permit directly, as it did, while relegating the Planning and Zoning Commission to an advisory role,” Olson wrote. “The Court observes that the effect of this exercise of discretion is similar in magnitude and character to a zoning decision.”

The Maricopa City Clerk’s office has been ordered to forward all signatures to the county recorder for verification.

The City of Maricopa and Apex President Jason Plotke are in a court battle with a political action committee over the proposed motorsports facility's zoning.

Arguments for or against a private motor facility in Maricopa are due by 5 p.m. tomorrow, pending a judge’s ruling.

In a statement Tuesday, the city said it will refer the Maricopa City Council’s approval of a conditional use permit (CUP 17-01) for Apex Motor Club to the November election. City Clerk Vanessa Bueras said it is only a contingency, and Superior Court Presiding Judge Stephen F. McCarville has not yet ruled. His decision is expected shortly.

However, arguments on the potential ballot issue must be submitted 90 days before the election. That puts the deadline at 5 p.m. Aug. 9.

Bueras said the City opted to post the call today, “so folks have at least 24 hours” to submit for and against arguments if it does go to a special election.

The CUP granted to Private Motorsports Group for the construction of a private motorsports facility called Apex, was challenged in June by an organization called Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, which filed a lawsuit against the city.

The organization’s stated goal is to force the CUP decision to a public vote.

“Referendum 17-01 seeks to refer Maricopa City Council’s approval of Conditional Use Permit case number CUP 17-01, approving a motorsports facility at a 280-acre site at the northwest corner of Ralston Road and State Route 238,” the city’s statement says.

The city is awaiting the judge’s decision after a Pinal County Superior Court hearing Friday, during which MCPT presented arguments against the city’s decision to deny their petition for referendum.

Unhappy with the city’s decision to grant the permit, MCPT petitioned the city for a referendum and was denied on the basis that the decision was an “administrative and not legislative” act.

“Any arguments related to this item will be included inside an informational pamphlet, which will be mailed to each household containing a registered voter,” the statement says.

The arguments must be submitted to the Maricopa City Clerk’s Office at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza.

Pinal County Clerk of the Superior Court will open a satellite office at the Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Court on April 7.

The location will be open Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. except on recognized holidays. The Justice Court, which also houses Maricopa Municipal Court, is at 19955 N. Wilson Ave.

The Maricopa location will offer a full range of services to include the acceptance of court-ordered payments, issuance of marriage licenses, and the filing of adoption, probate, guardianship, divorce and civil cases. The satellite facility is set up to accept debit/credit card transactions only and will not accept cash or checks at this time.

Clerk of the Court Amanda Stanford said she was fulfilling a campaign pledge to provide more access to county residents.

“I am excited to extend court services to the outlying communities within Pinal County,” she said.

“We hope the citizens of Pinal County are pleased as we continue our efforts to enhance and extend services across Pinal County,” said Betty Finney, Director of Court Operations for the Pinal County Clerk of the Superior Court’s Office.

More satellite offices are expected in Oracle and San Tan Valley.

Maricopa Chamber of Commerce

By Yvonne Gonzalez

A business owner is suing to force transparency from the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber member Kimberly Diedrich, whose husband Carl competed to lead the chamber before Sara Troyer was hired, filed the lawsuit May 20 in Pinal County Superior Court.

Diedrich says she and other chamber members were met with resistance from the board when they asked for documents related to hiring Troyer, who is a 2013 Maricopa High School graduate and former marketing and programs development director at the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship.

The chamber, according to Diedrich, listed a bachelor’s degree or five years of executive experience among the advertised job requirements. She said her husband fits those requirements and, according to the lawsuit, was one of two people to interview with the board for the executive directorship.

“I want to see votes, I want to see meeting minutes, I want to see notices of meetings,” she said. “I don’t think a lot of that is happening.”

The board said in an emailed statement Monday it kept the membership informed throughout the process, but that “to allay any unfounded concerns about the selection of (Troyer), the board is taking this opportunity to remind the members about the selection process.”

The executive director was chosen using “generally accepted human resources practices … and also complied with confidential hiring requirements,” according to the statement.

“We notified the community about the open position through an e-blast to the members and a press release to the general public.”

The board stated a five-member search committee chose people to interview from a pool of 27 applicants.

“Once (Troyer) applied for the position, (Troyer) was excluded from any and all discussions and communications involving the executive director position,” the statement said. “She was among the final candidates the search committee referred to the board. Had she not been in this group, the board would not have interviewed her.”

According to Diedrich’s lawsuit, the search committee members were “a subordinate employee of a board member, a former board president, a chamber committee chairperson, and an ex-officio board member.”

The lawsuit is asking the court to order the chamber to open records to inspection and “allow copying of the records demanded at the corporation’s expense.”

Diedrich also wants the chamber to pay “costs, including reasonable attorney fees, incurred to obtain the order,” according to a copy of the filing she provided.

She said if she’s able to review the documents she’s been unable to see so far, and they show the chamber has been acting inappropriately, then it might be time to make changes to the board’s members.

“My questions originally came about because of (Troyer’s) hiring,” she said.

Diedrich emphasized she does not want a position on the board, and that the issue isn’t about her husband not being hired.

“When I was stonewalled,” she said, “that’s when more questions arose.”

[socialpoll id=”2361982″]

A Medical Examiner's report showed meth in the systems of Michael and Tina Careccia. (Instagram photo) Jose Valenzuela is charged with their murders. (PCSO photo)

A coroner’s report on Michael and Tina Careccia indicates the presence of methamphatamine and amphetamines in their systems.

The autopsy report was released by the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Though the cause of death in both cases was a penetrating gunshot wound to the head, the apparent presence of meth may play into the defense case being put together for the man charged with their killing, Jose Valenzuela Jr.

Valenzuela, 38, faces two counts of first-degree murder. According to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, the Careccias were killed June 21 at Valenzuela’s home on Papago Road and then buried sometime the next day next to the house with a borrowed backhoe.

When first taken into custody on July 1, Valenzuela reportedly told detectives he had been high on meth at the time. He said the Careccias and his roommate Felix Nunez were also doing meth.

Exactly what led up to the shootings is still not clear. According to PCSO, Valenzuela had been at the Careccias’ home two streets away that day for a Father’s Day celebration. The Careccias then went to Valenzuela’s home that night.

The only witnesses to the crime, Nunez and Valenzuela told investigators there was some kind of fight. Nunez, 38, told detectives Michael Careccia, 44, was shot first.

The men’s stories differ on some points, however, which may also be important in future court proceedings.

The weapon used in the shootings is believed to be Valenzuela’s .22 caliber Magnum.

The autopsy showed the Careccias had consumed alcohol and Tina Careccia, 42, also had traces of tranquilizers in her system.

Valenzuela’s next hearing date is set for Oct. 5 in Florence. He is represented by Pinal County Public Defender James Mannato, who is mulling a challenge to the grand jury proceedings that led to Valenzuela’s indictment.