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Phoenix Being Sued Over Downtown Arena Negotiations

Jon Riches (left) with the Goldwater Institute and Alexander Kolodin, a Phoenix attorney, joined forces to file a lawsuit on behalf of a Phoenix resident over a public records request.
Christina Estes/KJZZ
editorial | staff
Jon Riches (left) with the Goldwater Institute and Alexander Kolodin, a Phoenix attorney, joined forces to file a lawsuit on behalf of a Phoenix resident over a public records request.

A Phoenix resident who owns property downtown is suing the city for not releasing records involving the home of the Phoenix Suns.

Attorney Alexander Kolodin filed the suit on behalf of a man whose public records request was rejected. He wants to see all reports and studies between the city and the Phoenix Suns relating to renovations of the Talking Stick Resort Arena. The city said negotiations are confidential under state statute and disclosing them now could prevent Phoenix from getting the best price for work outlined in the documents.

Kolodin worries it’s an argument other government entities will try. “I don’t know if you see the Internet advertisements saying the one weird trick to do this or that, but this is the proverbial one weird trick to get around all of Arizona public records law,” he said.

He hopes to have a court hearing this month. KJZZ News previously filed similar public records requests and was told documents would be released after negotiations are completed.

Kolodin is representing Bramley Paulin, a Phoenix resident, who first approached the Goldwater Institute after the city denied his request. Jon Riches, director of national litigation with the Goldwater Institute, contacted the city on Paulin’s behalf before Kolodin filed suit.

“It’s not in the best interest of city residents, it’s not in the best interest of city taxpayers to wait until the 11th hour to see details of a deal that’s going to cost taxpayers what we believe to be an enormous amount of money,” Riches said. “They should have an opportunity to review that deal prior to the city taking any action on it.”

Here is the city’s full statement relating to the lawsuit:

“The city temporarily has withheld the Suns’ conceptual design and construction documents regarding a renovation of Talking Stick Resort Arena (TSRA). As reported in the media previously, the city of Phoenix and the Suns have had discussions about renovating the city-owned TSRA. And as the city’s contractually-designated operator of TSRA, the Suns have shared confidential documents with the city that describe the conceptual scope of proposed renovations and cost estimates. At least for now, disclosing these documents could prevent the city from receiving the best price for the work outlined in those documents. Arizona state laws (ARS 34-603(H)(1), 38-431.03(A)(4), (7)) support the city’s position. Generally, state law protects the procurement and negotiation process of public works projects—like renovations of the city-owned TSRA—against public records requests until a final contract has been awarded. When negotiations conclude, the procurement/negotiation file would be available as a public record.” -Julie Watters, spokeswoman for City of Phoenix

Here is the complaint filed by Alexander Kolodin and the Goldwater Institute with the Maricopa County Superior Court:

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.