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Judge rules AG's lawsuit against ASU about hotel deal can continue

Posted at 1:20 PM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-02 16:32:27-04

PHOENIX — Attorney General Mark Brnovich can continue with a lawsuit to scuttle a luxury hotel deal at Arizona State University, but he'll have to show he didn't wait too long to file it, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Maricopa County Superior Court judge Christopher Whitten declined to dismiss the lawsuit claiming the deal is an unconstitutional gift to the developers behind an Omni hotel, who would avoid property taxes by building on ASU-owned land.

Whitten dismissed three other legal claims made by Brnovich, siding with the Board of Regents -- the governing body of Arizona's three public universities.

But Brnovich will have to show he filed the suit no more than a year after he should have known that it may violate the gift ban in the state constitution, Whitten said. Brnovich will have a hard time with that because the deal was hotly debated for more than a year before he filed suit, Board of Regents Chair Larry Penley said in a statement.

"The board has been transparent in its discussion and approval of this project," Penley said. "The Attorney General's judgment in bringing this lawsuit after so much public discussion and review is questionable and has forced the board to spend considerable monies that could have been used on students."

Whitten rejected an argument by Brnovich that he had five years to bring the case, not one. Still, Brnovich celebrated the ruling.

"ABOR shouldn't be subsidizing out-of-state billionaires," Brnovich said in a statement. "Worst of all, ABOR is depriving K-12 schools and community colleges millions of dollars in property tax revenue that must be made up by other taxpayers by placing the hotel on property tax exempt land."