Appeals Court dismisses Goldwater Institute’s World View appeal as ‘moot;’ fourth time the county has prevailed in drawn-out legal battle

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PIMA COUNTY, ARIZONA – The Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two dismissed as moot the Goldwater Institute’s appeal challenging the legality of Pima County’s construction contracts for the headquarters building leased to World View in 2016. The Oct. 21 ruling leaves in place a Superior Court judge’s decision that the county’s contracting was proper.

This is the fourth court decision in Pima County’s favor in the nearly four-year dispute with the Goldwater Institute over World View, a near-space technology company that uses high-altitude balloons. So far, none of Goldwater’s assertions have survived judicial review.

During 2015, Pima County was one of three locations across the country that World View was considering for a headquarters and manufacturing facility for its disruptive near-space technology. The company needed to be in a facility and manufacturing balloons by the end of 2016 in order to meet contractual deadlines for its clients. The county, in the latter part of 2015, put together an incentive package to retain the growing company and its high-wage jobs.

Goldwater sued the county in 2016 over the construction of the building to be leased to World View, asserting several violations of state law. Pima County Superior Court Judge Catherine Woods in August, 2018, granted the county’s request for partial summary judgment with respect to one of the claims in Goldwater’s complaint, writing that the county did not violate any state laws when it entered into contracts with local architect and construction firms without a competitive solicitation. State law allows counties to forgo standard competition requirements in circumstances in which compliance is “impracticable, unnecessary or contrary to the public interest.” Woods ruled that the county properly exercised its discretion in finding that the circumstances involving the World View agreement met the conditions of the exception.

Goldwater appealed the decision. The Appeals Court, though, declined to rule on it because Goldwater, which is representing three county residents referred to by the court as “taxpayers,” did not pursue enjoining the county from continuing with construction while asserting that the contracting was improper. The county, of course, agrees with Judge Woods that the contracting complied with state law.

The court, Monday, wrote: “… the taxpayers could have preserved the possibility of a meaningful remedy by seeking to temporarily enjoin performance of the disputed contracts pending the outcome of the lawsuit. They did not do so, however, despite ample opportunity. The taxpayers filed suit less than three months after the contracts were entered, and more than eight months before the facility was substantially completed. Indeed, the taxpayers maintained that the design and construction contracts still had not been fully paid in June 2017—fourteen months after they filed their lawsuit. A live controversy therefore evaded review only because the taxpayers did not take appropriate legal action to attempt to preserve one. We therefore decline to decide this moot issue.”

In a memorandum to the Board of Supervisors Oct. 21, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry wrote: “It is important to remember that the County selected highly qualified consultants, who delivered a quality product on time and under budget. During the three-and-a-half years that the Goldwater Institute has spent challenging this project, the project has been completed and World View has moved in, paid the County nearly $1.9 million in rent, and maintained a payroll exceeding that required under its agreement with the County.”

Read the Appeals Court ruling.

Read the County Administrator’s memorandum.

Goldwater Lawsuit status so far:

  • Goldwater asserted the county had to seek competitive bids for the World View Lease – rejected by the state Court of Appeals in December 2017. The Arizona Supreme Court in August 2018 declined to review World View’s appeal.
  • Goldwater asserted that the county violated state and county laws governing competitive procurement of professional services (architect and construction-manager-at-risk) – rejected by Judge Woods August 2018. Appeal declared moot by Arizona Court of Appeals Oct. 21, 2019.
  • Goldwater asserted that the county violated the state gift clause – still to be decided in Superior Court.
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