By Linda Bentley | DECEMBER 9, 2015

MCAO sides with town over selection of Sonoran News

No impropriety appears to have been committed by the Cave Creek Town Council and this office is closing its file in this matter’

CAVE CREEK – On Dec. 1, Deputy County Attorney Bruce Preston with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office responded to George Ross’ 55-page Aug. 5 complaint claiming Cave Creek Town Council “clearly violated Arizona State Statutes in voting unanimously to make the Sonoran News the official newspaper for Cave Creek official notices.”

Preston’s three-page response opened by stating, “The Cave Creek Town Council did not violate the law. The council’s minutes establish that the council directed staff to place notices in the Sonoran News ‘and in another newspaper in accordance with state statutes.’”

Preston referred to Town Attorney Bill Sims’ explanation about Sonoran News’ contractual relationship to also place the town’s legal ads with the Gila Bend Sun, which provides the requisite affidavit of publication back to the town.

Sims also pointed out, when responding to Ross’s complaint, that this process has been in place since being upheld by Hearing Officer Richard W. Garnett III in 1997.

Preston, citing A.R.S. § 39-204(C)3, which states, “If no such newspaper is printed and published within the limits thereof, publication may be made in a newspaper printed and published in the county in which the district, city or town is located,” said Garnett’s legal analysis of the legal issues from the administrative hearing directly followed the applicable Arizona statutes.

Garnett concluded his analysis by stating “persuasive arguments may be made that the public interest is not well served by a statute that encourages the sort of indirect arrangement presented by the [Sonoran] News. Nevertheless, these considerations must be addressed to the legislature and may not operate either to expand or contract the standards established in current statutes.”

Preston acknowledged Garnett’s opinion in an administrative hearing that took place nearly 20 years ago has no legally binding precedential authority for resolving a later, similar issue, but stated, “Nonetheless, American common law is fundamentally based on careful analysis of applicable statutes as applied to a particular set of facts. Even though a particular ruling may not be relied upon as controlling authority because of where it originated, where a ruling demonstrates thoughtful review and analysis of the applicable statutes and facts, when a similar situation is later presented, the earlier analysis is at least worthy of review and consideration.”

Preston noted the applicable statutes concerning the eligibility of newspapers to publish legal advertising remain unchanged from those considered by Garnett.

He stated, as Sims pointed out, there is still no qualifying newspaper that operates in the town of Cave Creek and Sonoran News continues to have a contractual relationship with the Gila Bend Sun, which is still a qualified newspaper pursuant to statutes.

Preston said the analysis of the statutes, facts and issues here reaches the same conclusion as the analysis of the statutes, facts and issues previously considered by Garnett.

In conclusion, Preston wrote, “Indeed, based on the existing statutes, it is difficult to reach a different conclusion, up to and including the conclusion that changing the statutes to bring about a different outcome is an issue for the legislature, if any change is to be made.

“No impropriety appears to have been committed by the Cave Creek Town Council and this office is closing its file in this matter.”