An organization in opposition to the planned private motorsports complex, Apex, filed campaign finance reports with the City of Maricopa after being threatened with nearly $13,000 in fines for failing to do so.
“I think it’s everyone’s right to do what my clients did and to circulate a petition sheet on a matter such as this.” — Tim La Sota, attorney for Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers
Attorney Tim La Sota, counsel for Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, filed the reports with the city Jan. 26, nearly three months after the organization lost a legal challenge against the proposed racetrack. (See video of Apex plans.)
Despite losing the legal battle, La Sota said his clients are pleased.
“We’re very happy with the resolution, and obviously not paying any kind of fine,” La Sota said.
The organization mounted the legal challenge last year after city council approved a conditional use permit for the racetrack to move forward with the project, saying the decision should have been brought to voters on the November ballot.
The case made it all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court, which ultimately dismissed the complaint against the City and Apex.
City Attorney Denis Fitzgibbons said this conclusion was amicable and likely the best they could have hoped for.
“They filed the reports, and that’s what we asked them to do,” Fitzgibbons said. “So, from my reading of it, I think the matter is resolved.”
Fitzgibbons added, when it comes to civil matters such as this, it’s hard to say for certain the issue is 100 percent quashed. Based on the opposition’s response, though, he feels the matter is closed.
“I don’t believe Tim La Sota ever got any of the original notices, because I don’t think [Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers] was sending those notices on to Tim,” Fitzgibbons said. “Once the City Clerk turned it over to me, then [La Sota] responded immediately, so I do think they were legitimately trying to get it resolved.”
As for those who initially filed the complaint with the city, Fitzgibbons said he did not believe they would have any sort of independent right to pursue the case further.
Lawyers from the firm Coppersmith and Brockelman, representing Private Motorsports Group, Apex’s parent company, initially filed the complaint with the city Oct. 30.
In the complaint, attorney Roopali Desai alleges the organization not only violated Arizona campaign finance laws, but also the organization “is clearly sponsored by Danrick Builders, LLC (“Danrick”), and /or its principal, Daniel Erickson.”
Erickson and his company – Danrick Builders – are seeking to build a similar, though much larger, motorsports complex in Casa Grande named Attesa. In a letter to Pinal Central, Erickson endorsed Apex’s opponents saying, “the bottom line is the future of Apex has a direct effect on the future of Attesa.”
La Sota claimed to have no knowledge of Erickson or Attesa being behind Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, saying “I don’t even know what that [Attesa] is.”
He did admit to meeting Erickson in November but again said he did not have any knowledge of his potential involvement in any Apex opposition group.
The campaign finance reports submitted by La Sota do not directly indicate Erickson was a benefactor. However, they do show the $5,204 in funds they received were paid for by Sovereign Land Assets, LLC, a company that listed as principal agent Joseph Villasenor, someone with alleged ties to both Erickson and lawyers who represent another Apex-opposition complaint filed on behalf of Maricopa resident Bonita Burks.
Though InMaricopa has not been able to uncover any direct ties between Villasenor and Erickson, it has been discovered Villasenor and Burks’ lawyer, former Arizona attorney general Grant Woods, were both involved in a legal battle involving the Phoenix Coyotes and the Scottsdale Polo Championship.
The PR firm hired by the Coyotes to assist in defeating a similar 2013 referendum attempt in Glendale is the PR firm currently representing Apex – Rose+Moser+Allyn Public & Online Relations. The firm eventually sued the Coyotes seeking $250,000 they claim was promised to the Scottsdale Polo Championship, which is run by Rose+Moser+Allyn.
Neither the chairman for Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, Robert Rebich, nor its treasurer, David Prom, live in Maricopa. The organization’s Application for Referendum Petition show their mailing addresses to be in either Phoenix or Scottsdale respectively.
When asked whether he believed it was appropriate for non-residents to attempt to participate in the political process, La Sota said his clients were in the right.
“I think it’s everyone’s right to do what my clients did and to circulate a petition sheet on a matter such as this,” La Sota said. “You don’t have to be a resident of Maricopa to engage in those activities.”
Additionally, any parties responsible for paying the legal costs accrued by Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers were not disclosed in the campaign finance report, La Sota said, citing an Arizona Law that allows for the exclusion of such details.
Both La Sota and Fitzgibbons agree to the legitimacy of the laws application, thus likely ending the city’s legal battle with the organization, which La Sota claims will soon be formally disbanded.
The Burks’ case, however, remains to be decided with the Arizona Court of Appeals.
An opening brief for that case is scheduled for Feb. 20.