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Sun, Nov. 17

Town Council authorizes outside attorneys to deal with lawsuit over Fain

PRESCOTT VALLEY - The town government has hired outside attorneys to defend itself in a lawsuit that challenges a 10-year agreement that kicks back future sales tax revenues to a developer to cover infrastructure costs.

"We are moving quickly to respond fully" to the lawsuit, Town Attorney Ivan Legler said after the Town Council meeting Thursday.

The council voted unanimously Thursday to authorize Mayor Harvey Skoog or Vice Mayor Harold Wise in Skoog's absence to co-sign retainer letters with three law firms. Skoog was absent.

Legler recommended the action because he expects the billings from each of the three law firms to pass the $16,000 threshold under which Town Manager Larry Tarkowski may sign service contracts.

The council approved the item without discussion because it appeared with eight other items under the consent agenda.

In so doing, the council is fighting a lawsuit that Mesa attorney William Cleaveland filed June 7 in Superior Court that challenges a development agreement that the council approved on May 24, 2005, with the Fain Signature Group of Prescott Valley.

The 20-page lawsuit contends the development agreement violates a constitutional prohibition against "contracting away the taxing power, and other state laws," and seeks to void the pact. Cleaveland filed the lawsuit on behalf of two United Food and Commercial Workers members and Prescott Valley residents who work at Safeway: Stacey Fulkerson and Kenneth Edeler.

In response to the lawsuit, Tarkowski hired the Phoenix law firms of Perkins Coie Brown & Bain July 3 and Squire Sanders & Dempsey July 9. The town also is working with the Arizona Municipal Risk Retention Pool for joint retention of the law firm of Moyes Storey, also of Phoenix.

When contacted after the meeting, Legler said, "These are important (legal) issues. We are taking them seriously."

Legler said the outside attorneys have filed motions in Superior Court to dismiss the case, adding it will go before a Superior Court judge.

His memo to the council states that his office budgets outside legal costs, and notes that the town and risk pool will share costs from Moyes Storey to a cap at $18,750.

A letter dated July 3 to town officials from Paul Eckstein of Perkins Coie Brown & Bain states that his hourly rate "for this initial matter is now $505," adding that colleague Chuck Blanchard charges $400 an hour.

In other actions, the council voted 6-0 to approve contracts to widen Highway 69 on both sides from Stoneridge Drive to Prescott East Highway to the east. The town will pay Fann Contracting of Prescott as much as $1.7 million for the project and the design firm of Dava & Associates, also of Prescott, $204,620 to monitor the project.

The council also deadlocked 3-3 on a proposed ordinance amendment that would allow residents to park one small recreational vehicle in each driveway if they use the vehicle for transportation. Council members Lora Lee Nye, Mary Baker and Bob Edwards voted against the measure, expressing concerns about safety.

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